Rip Hamilton has cemented his rightful spot in the annals of Detroit sports history. During his tenure in the Motor City from 2002 to 2011, he was a three-time NBA All-Star who helped the Pistons hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy in 2005 and compete in another Finals the following year. And who could forget his signature face mask that he wore like a piece of battle armor long after a face injury had healed? It wasn’t just the mask though. Rip’s on-court footwear rotation was also always on point, thanks to his status as a Team Jordan member, and consisted of numerous player exclusive colorways of Air Jordan models like the 2, 5, 12, and beyond.
Given his fan-favorite status in Detroit and his impressive sneaker résumé, it’s no surprise that Hamilton was tapped by eBay to help open up their Hard to Find Gift Shop on Michigan Avenue this past weekend. The two-day pop-up experience was meant to give local shoppers an easier go at purchasing coveted and limited sneakers this holiday season. Popular models like Air Jordan 1s, Nike Dunks, and Adidas Yeezys were all up for grabs. More rare releases such as “Freddy Krueger” Nike SB Dunk Lows or Kanye West Bapestas were also on the shelves for sale. There was even a display of all 50 Off-White x Nike Dunk Lows. The curation was aided by sneaker store Urban Necessities founder Jaysse Lopez.
“I think with all the supply chain disruptions we are having in the holiday season, it’s just getting tougher and tougher for people to find the gifts that they want to give” says eBay GM of sneakers Garry Thaniel. Future pop-ups are also set for Houston and Miami in December. Thaniel hints at these holiday season activations being the beginning of many more community-building experiences that eBay will roll out around the country in the coming months. “We wanted to do the Hard to Find Gift Shop to give people an opportunity to find these really rare and unique gifts.”
Both Lopez and Hamilton were in attendance for the grand opening of the shop on Nov. 19. Hamilton, a veteran in the sneaker game, says it was the perfect initiative to align himself with in the city. After all, sneakers are atop many young kids’ wishlists during the holidays these days. He acknowledges that he isn’t surprised that sneakers have become as big of a commodity with increasingly younger crowds as they have, though.
“As kids, everything was about what you had on your feet, right,” says Hamilton. “I just think that the access is way different than ever before. You know, all the secondhand sites, the consignment market, and people making a business out of it more than anything else. But I like it. I enjoy it.”
We got a chance to catch up with Hamilton over Zoom while he was at eBay’s Hard to Find Sneaker Shop in Detroit on Friday afternoon. The Pistons legend discussed scouring eBay to find his grail sneakers, told us which one of his Air Jordan PEs he would want to see release, his opinion on whether the 2004-2005 Pistons could stack up against today’s NBA, and more.
One of the big releases coming up in a few weeks for the holidays is the “Cool Grey” Air Jordan 11s. A lot of people are looking forward to those. Do you have any memories related to the “Cool Grey” 11s?
Oh, absolutely. I mean, the black and white [11s] have always been one of my favorite shoes. But when the Cool Greys came out, I was with the Washington Wizards at the time. I’m a strong believer in, if you look good, you play good. I was always the guy that made sure that I had the freshest shoes on my feet. That was the year that I used to beg MJ for his shoes because he used to walk around the locker room with all the samples. So that was one of the luxuries of playing with him. He would come in the locker room every day with a different sample shoe, a sample shirt, or whatever. He would get the response of all the young kids. Because you got to remember, Michael Jordan was a little older at the time. We were 20, 21. So he was able to get real opinions off of kids that were 20, 21 years old that had a huge impact on the sneaker culture.
And then I think as the story goes, around that time, he tells you that you’ll eventually get your Jordans and everything once you’re an All-Star and everything. Obviously, that happens for you and you end up having all these great PEs throughout your career. If you could pick one of your Jordan PEs to be able to release to the public for fans to purchase, which one would you pick and why would you pick that one?
Hmm, the Jordan 14s they kinda put out, the ones I wore in college, the candy cane ones, which was dope. I thought that that was very relatable for the fans. But for me, I think it’s the Jordan 2s, man. I was a fan of them shoes. They were probably my favorite Jordan to play in, very underrated shoe that people don’t talk about as much. If it was one shoe, I would say the Jordan 2s. And they just came out with the Off-White ones too. I was super proud that they did that one.
You’ve been able to build a legacy for yourself in Detroit. Do you have a sneaker memory specifically related to your time as a Piston?
The Jordan 5s, that’s another PE that I think that they should do in Detroit colors. That was a dope one, too. And the reason why they’re so memorable to me especially in my career is because they’re the shoes that I wore in Madison Square Garden and dropped 51 points. So that was probably one of my most memorable ones because MJ would always tell me how Madison Square Garden was the Mecca of basketball. You heard about them stories from afar as a kid, reading all the books and watching all the videos, but being in a locker room with him and him telling you that, and then getting the opportunity to go there and remember when he dropped the double nickel there...To have a great game like that, I think that that would probably be one of my most memorable moments for sure, the Jordan 5s for 50.