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Why You Should Care About the Return of This Basketball Shoe

Stephon Marbury’s basketball sneakers are cool—and affordable for almost everyone.

A photo posted by Stephon X. Marbury (@starburymarbury) on Sep 27, 2015 at 3:56pm PDT

“Anybody who grew up in a household with a lot of brothers and sisters, they know how it is as far as, you know, everybody wearing the same sneakers—hand-me-downs,” the New York Knick Stephon Marbury told the Today show in 2007. The basketball player was in the midst of a PR push for his own sneaker—the “Starbury,” a sleek-ish basketball shoe that also came with the cachet of a professional player’s endorsement. But the Starbury was a bit different. Unlike many of the pricey basketball shoes for sale at the time, which could cost more than $150 a pop, Marbury’s sneakers went for just $15.

Eight years later, Marbury no longer plays for the NBA, having departed in 2010 for a lucrative (and successful) career in the Chinese Basketball Association. His shoes went out of production in 2009, after the clothing chain that created and carried them closed. But Starburys, Marbury announced on Instagram this week, are about to make a comeback.

#starburyFlavors COMING SOON A photo posted by Stephon X. Marbury (@starburymarbury) on Sep 27, 2015 at 4:03pm PDT

The return of the affordable basketball shoe is great news for basketball fiends with few funds. But as Francie Diep notes in Pacific Standard, the move is particularly exciting for teenagers, for whom sportswear carries important social capital. She cites work by the marketing specialist Jens Niebuhr that finds that teens’ preferences for sweet shoes is no accident. In fact, lifestyle companies target black American teens in the marketing of their high-end sports products. Writes Niebuhr:

Much of the [branded sportswear] manufacturers’ marketing efforts is assigned to the teenager segment that is worth more than $65 billion a year. The dominant players, Nike, Reebok and Adidas, share similar marketing propositions, trying to position their products as being “cool.” In order to meet their target group’s ideas, they frequently poll teens, or even hire psychologists to “tap teens’ psyches” in order to create “seductive” communication.

Marbury knows all about being a teenager who can’t afford the latest thing in “cool.” The basketball player grew up in a housing development in Coney Island, Brooklyn, a place he once called “the ghetto.”

“I grew up on food stamps,” he told the New York Daily News in 2006. “I know what it's like not to have money. I understand how kids feel when they walk into a store and see a pair of shoes they can't afford."

It’s unclear whether the shoe line will retain its $15 price point. But given how important the affordability angle was to the original Starburys, and Marbury’s own commitment to creating a great, inexpensive shoe, it’s a good bet they’ll be more budget friendly than your average sportswear. Can Stephon Marbury make affordable cool again?

Haha! They forgot how we I bring it. We took a break for a min but we're coming back stronger then ever! #starbury COMING SOON A photo posted by Stephon X. Marbury (@starburymarbury) on Sep 29, 2015 at 1:58pm PDT

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