It’s more than just Jordans. eBay’s strongest tie to basketball is not documented footwear, but an infinite inventory of NBA junk, official and otherwise, wearable or not. If it’s old and NBA, it’s worth watching. Keep checking back for the best in vintage NBA memorabilia around. This week, we have a random Bob Sura card and unidentified Houston Rockets Air Force Ones.
Live Auction: BOB SURA ’05-’06 Topps Chrome Card # 88 (Rockets)
Buy It Now: $1
It’s easy to forget the frightening talent it takes to reach the NBA. Obvious entries — physical wonders like Allen Iverson or David Robinson, born scorers like Carmelo Anthony, or really tall guys like Chuck Nevitt — are gaugeable. But the men they practice against or replace are similarly world class. A good example is Bob Sura, onetime Cavaliers starter and 1997 Dunk Contest entrant.
Never an All-Star or important NBA player, he was a first-round pick who didn’t flame out, starting off and on and sticking around the League for a decade. An incredibly well-rounded player at Florida State — 18.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game as a senior, not to mention the school’s all-time scoring mark — both his gross and rate stats dropped once he reached the NBA. Why wouldn’t they? But he was deceptively well-rounded, putting up two (nearly three) triple-doubles in a row, and useful until injury. He was never a stud, but was good, and was only forced into retirement thanks to injury.
For someone who didn’t have a hell of a career, he had a hell of a career. The Scranton-Wilkes-Barre metroplex, where he is from, has never seen a better basketball player. That’s not a small city. They have a Triple-A team. They’re the home of HBO. About half a million people live there, and in the nearly 20 years since he left to go to college, there has been none better. For some, he’s a once-in-a-generation talent.
Of course, this talent had limits. His two amateur jerseys are retired, and he earned about $45 million in a not-distinct career. But there are even worse limits outside the game. Bob Sura, legend of Northeast Pennsylvania, is but a figment on eBay, having not seen his jersey for sale on the secondary market in more than a year. His name does not flatter unrelated auctions. Nothing which bears his likeness sells for more than $8. He is but a card-level player.
If you want to pay tribute to the man who is the greatest at a very legitimate something from a very real somewhere, the best you can do is a piece of paper. Some might say a jersey of the man traded for both Pepe Sanchez and Rasheed Wallace can never be appreciated with a straight face. They might be right. But he was better than I, or almost anyone else, will ever be, and no matter the ceiling, injury history or decision to Ricky Davis a triple-double, a once-in-a-generation talent deserves better.
Dead Auction: NIKE AIR NEW BASKETBALL SHOES 15.5 HOUSTON ROCKETS 1990
Like eight-hole Dr. Martens, Club sandwiches and Tangerine Dream full-length records, Air Force 1s are not what they used to be. Bad leather and bulky toeboxes has led to a sad state of affairs and a devaluation of a once-proud and subtly tasteful shoe.
Things have gotten so bad that these size 15 Air Forces, owned by an indiscriminate Rockets player — the seller does not divulge who, or even give any hints — so hideous in the way that large, large sneakers are, look positively radiant compared to what’s on the shelf.
There’s a little too much white here, but it’s a pretty shoe. They’re from 1990, if you believe the auction title, and Rockets colors, a.k.a. Indiana colors, a.k.a. Canada colors — not exactly distinct, but believable and hue-perfect. They look pretty good, and I don’t remember too many guys playing in lows — even Rasheed Wallace stuck to the highs on the court — so it’s enough to knock game-worn out of the realm of possibility.
The listing notes that the shoes, of which further photos have since become transitory, are the final player pair which he is selling. A quick feedback search shows it’s been over a year since his previous pair sold — also Air Forces — though that is all the info that’s available. The seller, who is from the Sugarland area, outside Houston, has been selling mostly trains and old Budweiser signs between then, and it’s safe to assume that the earlier pairs were more of what’s here.
Now, as much as we’d like to assume the shoes belonged to Adrian Caldwell, we can’t, though we can speculate on the seller. How’d he end up with the (limited) sneaker collection of an NBA forward? Did the retired player stay in the area? How and why did they meet, and how’d this arrangement come up? Is the player selling the shoes? If so, what’s with all the trains? We can ask where he got them — I’ve tried — but sourcing is a secretive affair. I don’t expect an answer.
While this isn’t as outrageous as a 2002 auction of used (and beat) Air Jordan XIIs allegedly belonging to CC Sabathia, it’s still pretty weird. There’s a big dichotomy between playing basketball for millions of dollars and selling used sneakers for $30. One can wonder whether the mystery player was the best to come from his town or if his association would have helped the auction, but why isn’t he named? I’m sure he was still pretty good, and some players have fans who want more than mere playing cards.
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