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Unlocked and Loaded in Cleveland

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Thursday, May 4, 2006

A near riot of squealing girls broke out at Cleveland's Tower City Center yesterday afternoon when Cavs part-owner and R&B star Usher showed up to buy sneakers.

We understand Abe Pollin faces the same problem whenever he shops at Florsheim.

Anyhow, we arrived on the scene seconds after Usher departed Unlocked, a high-end sneaker boutique in the downtown mall. This Pollin wannabe had picked up a custom-made pair of LeBron James Nike sneaks, onto which had been painted James's image from the "We Are All Witnesses" advertising campaign. Approximate asking price for the one-of-a-kind footwear? Somewhere north of a G.

More importantly, it turns out Team Wizard has also discovered Unlocked. Andray Blatche wandered into the store late in the regular season, briefly left, and then returned to order three pairs of shoes. He came back the next day and ordered three more, with his purchases including an homage to the Wizards, an homage to the New York Yankees, an homage to Nestle Crunch candy bars and an homage to M&M's, complete with the phrase "Melts in your mouth, not in your hands."

"It draws a lot of attention," Blatche said. "You can create something that nobody else can have, so it's basically a priceless shoe."

(For more images, see http://www.pimpmyforces.com/ . Really.)

By this point, nearly all of the Wizards' Largely Inconsequential But Unfailingly Polite Six have visited the store. Billy Thomas custom-ordered a Kansas Jayhawks model. Awvee Storey and Donell Taylor have stopped by. Peter John Ramos is considering a salute to the Puerto Rican flag. Portland Trail Blazers guard Sebastian Telfair is also a customer, having ordered a pair of white Adidas low-tops custom-painted with green dollar signs, and a matching dollar-signed hooded sweatshirt.

Why so many ballplayers?

"They know they have big feet and they want to be seen," said A.J. Ballard, aka "Locksmith," Unlocked's head artist. "There's a big difference walking into a place, showing the confidence, knowing that you have your own shoes, your own style."

Rumor has it Pollin is considering a pair of one-of-a-kind candy-inspired kicks, possibly featuring Mallo Cups.

LEBRON FOR SALE: We counted at least 46 LeBron James items for sale in the Cavaliers team store, including;

ยท A necktie with small stripes that read "23 LeBron" (perfect for your dad, if your dad's named Craig Sager);


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