There has never been — and will never be — anyone in the NBA quite like Rasheed Wallace, who abruptly retired in late April at the age of 38. 'Sheed came up with Washington when the franchise was still called the Bullets and was a leader on the notorious Trail Blazer teams of the late '90s and early '00s before earning redemption (and a ring) with the 2004 Detroit Pistons. He finished out his career with the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, never quite making it back to the promised land, but always contributing. Not many seven-footers had his touch — or his temper.
But aside from his incredibly fundamentally sound game (and the technical fouls which he earned by the dozen), Rasheed will be remembered for being the last NBA player to regularly wear Nike Air Force 1s. Always the hightops, usually with the strap hanging off the back. The other night, Rasheed made an appearance at NYC's 21 Mercer to introduce a store-exclusive 'Sheed version of the Lunar Force 1. After a typically candid interview with MC-for-the-night Eddie Huang ('Sheed on the Lunars: "This is a good shoe as well, it’s light as I don’t know what...") , we managed to get in some questions about the originals. Check it out.
I want to take it all the way back. Do you remember the first time you even saw a pair of Air Force 1s?
It was summertime and my oldest brother had a pair, white on whites, that he bought off the avenue, back home in Philly, Germantown Avenue. That was where we went get all the fresh kicks at. First time, that was like uhh..’83.
The Moses era!
Yeaaahh… "Fo', fo', fo'!"
So did you end up getting a pair off your brother, or was it the case when you saw him have a pair and was like....
Nah, I actually lucked up and got my pair around like ’84, ’85, on the avenue. Like I said, they were a little cheaper so…. one of those days my mom was like “look you can go and get one of the ones you want” and of course I pick the Airs tryna be like my brother. And BOOM… I was in the game.
So you were in junior high at that time probably?
Let me see [pauses] Yep! Somewhere around there. Early junior high.
I’m old fashioned. If the refrigerator ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
'Cause you mixed it up a little bit later, right? I know you wore Maxes at Carolina…
Well…yeah that wasn’t by choice. We wore Maxes, Jordans, uhmm, Delta’s, wore a few kicks at Carolina. But once I came to the league, I had to get that Air. Because growing up, that was a lot of the sneakers I wore too. Uhm…I always wore natural high tops. I don’t know if you remember… the David Robinsons that pumped up? I used to play in ‘em 'cause they had ankle protection. That was always my biggest thing.
You tried a few different things in the League, too. Did Nike try and get you like “Yo man, this is the new stuff, try this out”
Yeah [laughing], they did. But me, I’m old fashioned. If the refrigerator ain’t broke, don’t fix it. To me it was all some shoes, it was nothing wrong with it. Uh….so why fix it? They came with the Air Force 2, where the strap was on the shoe and I was like “nah, nah, nah, I can’t rock ‘em. Then they tried coming with some other ones and I was like “nah, I can’t rock them”. I always kept it with the number 1s from the beginning.
Did you play with the strap on for awhile? Or did you always have the strap hanging off the back?
Any type of material with the strap like that [points to his, which have a nylon strap], I always played with that [hanging off]. But sometimes depending on the material of the shoe. It might have been a leather strap and of course, they were too hard to hang off the back.
How many pairs do you think you have now?
Uh..I don’t know man. I gave a lot of my shoes away. It was just so many. Now? Pssshhh…personally that I own, as far as Airs? I say I prolly got about 50 pairs of Airs. I had to give a lot away, or else they would have filled my house up. So…I was just giving them away left and right. Like "yo, what size you wear?”