Chris McCord wandered into the House of Hoops at Penn Square Mall with no intentions of purchasing anything. And he didn’t.
But during that random trip two Junes ago, McCord entered his name in one of those one-in-a-no-chance mall raffles, holding about as much hope of winning as he had of scoring a new Lexus at one of the nearby kiosks.
“I just put my name on the paper,” he remembered. “Didn’t really know what was going on.”
Two days later, McCord got a call. Surprise: he had been selected. His prize? McCord had earned the right to purchase a pair of shoes at retail price.
On the surface, doesn’t sound like much of a reward. But these were the KD VI Preheats, the first colorway release of Kevin Durant’s latest Nike shoe. McCord returned to the store and, for $130, bought a pair of flashy neon green and black-and-white striped shoes that he has never worn.
But he doesn’t regret the purchase. Just the opposite. It’s one of his favorites in a collection that’s now 25 deep. McCord owns every available colorway (or color scheme) of the KD VI line.
“This is the one that kind of set it on fire,” McCord said, fondly pointing through his sea of shoes toward that initial pair. “Which is kinda funny, because they call it the Preheat.”
Kevin Durant is a rich man who got a whole lot richer this week. Under Armour shocked the apparel industry last month with a monstrous offer for Durant’s services as a shoe endorser. After some debate, Nike matched. And now, counting all the incentives, Durant will be making around $30 million a year endorsing the Swoosh. That’s nearly $10 million more than the Thunder will pay him on average the next two seasons.
The shoe game is big business, and Durant is one of the hottest names. His sneaker sales jumped from $35 million to $175 million last year alone. Kids want all his gear. Casual basketball players idolize him. His low-tops are widely considered some of the most comfortable on the market. All play in his favor.
But some of the biggest consumers of Durant merchandise — and main reasons he just cashed in so big — are the Sneaker Heads. The Sole Collectors. The guys that Chris McCord had to digitally battle at 7 a.m. during a number of Saturdays the past year.
Once McCord cashed in that raffle ticket for his first pair, he did more research. He’d always liked basketball sneakers, dating back to when his dad got him his first Nikes. And the OKC native loves Durant, watching Thunder games “religiously”.
So when he found out there were some more unique KD VI colorways on the way, he figured “wouldn’t it be cool to have the full collection?”
“But I thought there’d maybe be 10,” McCord admits. “At the most.”
“I thought it’d be one or two,” his wife, Celena, joked. “But he just kept buying them.”
McCord started regularly checking sneaker websites, mapping out the release dates and figuring out shoe collection strategies.
Some of the early ones, the mass-produced pairs, were easier to get. But many of the special occasion sneakers — the Christmas edition, the All-Star Game pair — were much tougher, often selling out within an hour of their release.
McCord, though, was always prepared: Up by 6:30 a.m. on those Saturday release dates and online, with multiple windows and computers going, by the time it went live. Typically, he never had an issue.
But then the Aunt Pearls came around. The light blue and pink flowery sneakers — an ode to his aunt who died of lung cancer in 2000 — were hyped online for more than a month before the release. The demand was high and the supply was limited.
So McCord enlisted his wife and various coworkers to help snag a pair. Everybody was at a computer, windows open at 7 a.m.
Didn’t matter. Not against the bots.
“People have what they call bots,” McCord explained. “They pay high-dollar money to get a computer program that’ll help them get it in their cart and paid for before anyone else can even click it.”
That morning, he never had a chance. But another lucky break: Durant was set to make an appearance at the House of Hoops in OKC. A limited number of Aunt Pearls would be available.
McCord’s wife was able to rush out of work and get in line. It extended five stores down. She waited for two-and-a-half hours. “I was six people from the front when they sold out,” Celena said.
Dejected, she left the mall. But on her way down the escalator, she ran into a guy with a pair in his bag. He liked the shoes, so he decided to wait in line. But he didn’t have a special connection to them. He bought them for $150. He sold them to Celena for $300. The full collection remained intact.
“I told him not to tell anyone how much we paid for them,” Celena joked.
In all, McCord says he spent around $4,500 on the collection. He tried on a pair once, but other than that he’s never worn them. “In the shoe world, that means they’re ‘on ice.’ If I put them on eBay, I’d say I have the KD VI collection ‘on ice.’”
If he decided to sell them, McCord would likely get a good haul. Online, many of the shoes are now going for far more than their original retail price. McCord’s first pair — the Preheats — starts at around $600 on eBay.
And as the 41-year-old plans to eventually move his family into a new house — McCord has two boys — the money would help. But that would mean giving up his proud collection.
“Part of me wants to keep it for maybe a display with bright lights on the shoe (at the new house),” he said.
To McCord, it’s about more than just the shoe. Each pair is unique and many come with a background story about the athlete he adores. McCord can rattle them off.
The starry-looking Meteorology pair is an ode to young Durant’s “aspiration to work as a weatherman.” The Washington Redskin colored PB&J’s because “his (Aunt Pearl) used to always make him PB&J’s.” The bright orange NYC 66’s to pay tribute to his legendary 66-point showing at Rucker Park. “Being an OU fan, this is surprisingly one of my favorites.”
“Nike does a great job of marketing,” McCord continued. “Just the way they released them, the stories kind of sold me.”
The brilliance and financial backing of Nike. A pitchman like Durant. Fans and consumers like Chris McCord. It’s no wonder the Thunder superstar just received this most recent payday.
But for McCord, there will be no KD VII collection. The newest line, which recently released its first few colorways, comes with a rule. This one, from his wife.
“She told me I could only get one pair,” McCord said.
“One shoe collection is enough,” Celena chimed in. “He’s got a bigger shoe collection than I do.”