words & images_Nick DePaula
While sitting around the house earlier this evening, I stumbled upon an article about Jonathan Bender and his desire to make a return to the NBA. His main motivation seems to be his hope to “fight off the demons inside [his] head” after reading articles claiming he was the “top bust.” That got me thinking about the tons of disappointing players that came and went during the late 90′s and right at the turn of the millennium. I also happened to be cracking open a Corona at the time, and thumbing through the very first KICKS Magazine, checking out a piece on the first wave of Jordan Brand athletes.
Then, it hit me.
Not only was Vin the first of the first crew to be politely dismissed from the close knit group that was the Jordan Brand Class of ’97, but he also saw his career spiral downward upon his arrival in Seattle, facing several personal battles as he soon bounced around the league. It’s tough to imagine the team that got Terrell Brandon in a 3-team trade also involving Shawn Kemp and Vin Baker got the best of the deal. Though he may not have had quite the illustrious career that people expected out of him, and his post-ball life has turned into yet another sad case of an athlete in deep financial trouble, with his restaurant and home both facing foreclosure, we can look back on some of the brighter times that Vin saw.
The Jumpman Vindicate would be Baker’s second signature shoe with Jordan Brand, as the Jumpman Pro Strong came just before it, and they retailed for $115. With an unconventionally double-lasted heel, the shoe was certainly a departure from the more flowing and technologically visual shoes of the era, keeping things understated and modest, like Baker’s low-key demeanor. With heel and forefoot Zoom Air units and a plush mesh liner, all the tech was to be found under the hood, but the story with the Vindicate was certainly it’s half/half appearance, as Jordan Brand even introduced the world to color shifting laces that would complement the toe cap and heel quarters.