Nike is like a kingpin fresh out of “The Wire,” the hit HBO series from a few years back that chronicled the life of drug dealers on the streets of Baltimore. But what the billion dollar shoe company hustles isn’t drugs or even sneakers. It trades in cool.
Nike moves cool by the key. It markets cool in pounds. According to a recent study done by the Oregonian, Nike commands 89 to 95 percent of the basketball shoe trade, proving that Nike has cool locked down the way Stringer Bell, the show’s infamous don, ran his organization. But the shoe company needs to own a bit of the coldness that cool brings.
You see, trading in cool comes at a cost. The price is the financial well being of those who line Nike’s soles and those who keep Nike paid and those who are willing to rob and steal just to be the king. The economy continues to fall apart, unemployment rates are through the roof and Nike knows that the kids are strung out. So they just keep mass marketing high-priced cool to those who can’t afford it.
Here is the dope: According to The Wall Street Journal, Nike is set to release two versions of the Lebron X’s, the latest shoe named after Miami Heat superstar LeBron James. The regular un-hyped version would retail around $185. The spruced up Lebron X Plus joints would include gadgetry like motion sensors that measure how high a player can jump and would retail somewhere in the neighborhood of $300
For years now, sneaker fiends have been getting beaten and robbed for their coveted dope. Recently the release of the Nike Foamposite Galaxy’s caused riots from Florida to Maryland. Sneakerheads were rumbling to get their hands on the newest fix, but does Nike increase supply? Nope. Do they drop the prices to make the shoes more accessible? Nope.
In fact, Nike tells the stores to keep their corner in check and beef up security to make sure they keep things civil. They do exactly what Stringer Bell would have done if things got hot in the Pit, the name his crew called the street where they sold rock. He would have told his faithful lieutenants, Bodie and D’Angelo, to get it under control, just like Nike is telling their distributor to safeguard its product. Think Stringer Bell would have dropped his prices? Of course not. That’s not good business.
This is the price of doing high-profile high dollar business. Don’t believe that the folks are hooked on kicks? Last week, police in Houston snagged one adult and a teenager after they dug a hole through the mall roof so they could get into a Foot Action. They were caught with 16 pairs of Air Jordans that retailed for $175.
It’s that real in the high stakes game of sneaker trading where the product can fetch thousands per pair and the high only last until the next batch is released.
This Lebron X sneaker frenzy is the corporate version of the two of the more likeable low-level drug dealers on the show: Bodie telling Wallace how to work the Pit. The sneaker hype is the dope tester, you tease the addict by showing the shoe and then telling them it is limited edition. Watch as the sneaker fiends stand in line for days waiting for their fix. Nike is rumored to be releasing 200,000 Lebron X’s and only 50,000 Leborn X plus. And then when there are no more left, Nike re-ups and releases another pair and the cycle starts all over again.
Even Stringer Bell tried to get out of the game. He tried to turn it around and go legit. He was in it too long; done too much and hurt too many people. At some point Nike has got to have a call to conscious and realize that the product they put on the market is dope and like dope it’s hurting the kids. Either that or sneakerheads have to put their deadstock-fresh-out-of-the-box foot down and go get clean, cold turkey because with or without you, “the king stay the king.”
Steven A. Crockett Jr. is a regular contributor to The RootDC. Follow him on Twitter @SACrockettJr