When the New York Knicks acquired Rasheed Wallace this season, I got goosebumps. For years, I longed for the return of the era when real bruisers played for the Knicks. I’m talking like the real bad boys of the NBA I grew up liking: Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, Latrell Sprewell, Marcus Camby. These are the types that made the games chippy between their opponents. Add a rivalry to the equation, and you’ve got yourself a boiler maker. Wallace helped bring along his “take-no-shit” attitude, which is what the Knicks needed this season to bully their way beyond the regular season. Right now, with New York basketball bogarting the spotlight from that other transplant team, of course, it would have to be reflected in its players, namely Rasheed Abdul Wallace.
Sheed is versatile; able to bang in the paint, post up, and make critical three-point shots. His reputation exceeds him as being vocal and brash with other players and referees, but he’s as physical too. His career reached its apex when he won a championship as a Detroit Piston in 2004. This year, when Sheed played against his former team as a Knick, he hung his warmup jacket on his chair in the locker room. It was a reminder of his achievement. For other players who had yet to taste the ecstasy of victory, this was a glimmer of the promised land he still would pursue now in the twilight of his career.
Aside from the tender moment of the jacket, Sheed’s loyalty to the Nike Air Force 1 High has underscored his fashion sense on the court. The Air Force 1, it’s the shoe that’s woven into the culture of sneakers in the Mecca of basketball. To see Wallace retire yesterday in the city that called the Air Force 1 “Uptowns” was a storybook ending the way I hoped it would. He’s come full circle with the 1982 classic sneaker he has become synonymous with. The only other player I could compare Sheed to is Penny Hardaway who came to the Knicks in ’04, also past his prime. All editions of the Penny were timeless, the same way Sheed’s AF1′s were. Although Sheed would see more player exclusives with more teams than Penny, that actually gives him the advantage. Although versions of the Air Penny would become fashionable on and off the court, the Nike Air Force 1 one of Nike’s silhouettes has universal appeal that has crossed over into mainstream, like a pair of Converse All-Star, shell toe adidas, or Reebok pumps. Sheed soldiered this season in his player exclusives. Nicekicks.com highlighted his three pairs of Player Exclusives he wore this season. He’s now hanging up those AF1′s for the second time, since retiring as a Celtic in 2010. You gotta give him credit though, the dude actually came back and gave it a go for one game ahead of schedule. Derrick Rose hasn’t even done that much. Sorry, I won’t touch that one. But, real talk, ball don’t lie.