Basketball shoes becoming big business at Deerfield

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DEERFIELD — As a two-time state-qualifying wrestler for Deerfield, junior Andrew Mehrholz spends most of his time dominating opponents on the mat.

But when he’s not in the gym training, one of his hobbies is buying and selling shoes from a different sport: basketball.

“It’s another way I can make money on the side. I enjoy it,” Mehrholz said. “It’s nice to have something to think about besides wrestling all the time.”

It was the beginning of his sophomore year when Mehrholz said he first got interested in the shoe trade. At school, one of his friends was wearing a pair of shiny black and white sneakers.

“I asked him, ‘What are those?’” Mehrholz said. “He said, ‘[Air Jordan] Concords.’ I asked, ‘Are they hard to find?’ ”

Mehrholz was directed to a Facebook group called K.R.E.A.M., where fans converge to post photos and chat about shoes. He said he started buying and selling pairs, at one point owning as many as a dozen.

Mehrholz said his interest is more diversionary than obsessive.

“There are other kids on the [wrestling team] that collect them. It’s probably more popular in basketball,” Mehrholz said. “Whenever I’m home or not doing anything, I’m in K.R.E.A.M. or telling a friend about it. We talk about shoes quite a bit.”

Mehrholz is far from alone. Recent Deerfield graduate Eric Porter has a collection of his own. So does Isaac Jolcover, a Deerfield junior ice hockey player. He was a student manager of the boys basketball last year and said he knows close to 40 classmates who buy and sell shoes on the Internet.

“There’s a market for these shoes,” Jolcover said. “It seems like everyone walks around with nice shoes, Jordans or LeBrons. Everyone is interested in those little toys.”

Most transactions start on K.R.E.A.M., Jolcover said, although he knows of kids who have bought and sold on Craigslist. He once spent $325 for a pair of Bred 1 Jordans, a brand that typically fetches the highest ransom. The reason is grounded in both style and status — hip-hop artists like Drake and Kanye West frequently wear slick-colored Jordans during live performances.

“When you see those guys wearing them, you are like, ‘Wow, there’s a market for this,’ ”Jolcover said.

There’s another reason for the appeal of Jordans.

It has now been 16 years since Michael Jordan retired from the Chicago Bulls for the second time in June of 1998. Jolcover was three months old, much too young to have seen Jordan play live. But Jordan’s legend lives on in YouTube videos, forging a mythological ethos around his name, and shoes.

Jolcover recently paid $220 for a pair of Jordan Concord 11’s. The price was fueled partly by the sneaker’s glossy black and white appearance. But what also drove demand was its historical narrative.

“He wore that [style of] shoe when he scored 42 points against Charlotte in the 1995-96 season,” Jolcover said. “My generation never got to see MJ play. I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s the weirdest thing.”

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