Fifteen years ago when the Arizona Wildcats won the National Championship, two trends were set that would lay dormant for over a decade but have now become more popular than ever, of late.
First, there was the floater.
Derrick Rose added it to his repertoire a couple of years ago and it's become his signature shot these days. He can get it off from virtually any angle and he famously used it to take out the Lakers on opening day of the NBA season this past Christmas. Now, more and more players – on all levels – are using the shot and it's highly unlikely most of them even know that Miles Simon was one of the first people to introduce the world to it. Even more unlikely, they know who Simon is or remember his college playing days.
Simon dropped floater after floater on the Wildcats unsuspecting victims in their unlikely run through the NCAA Tournament back in '97. At the end of it all, that shot put Miles all over that year's “One Shining Moment” piece and landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
“In high school, I was never that athletic,” says Simon who chopped it up with myself and Ed by phone recently. “My athleticism came around more into my senior year [of high school] and on into my first couple of years of college. So it was a shot that I'd used pretty much since high school that I could get off against bigger, more athletic defenders as I got into the lane. I just had a touch for it.”
Now, everyone from Kevin Durant to LeBron James has used the shot this season and you can expect its popularity to continue to grow. It's a dangerous weapon if utilized properly.
The second trend is seen more on the streets than on the court.
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When Mike Bibby rocked the Nike Foamposites 15 years ago, they were an instant hit. Originally made for Penny Hardaway when he played for the Orlando Magic, they never really caught on. That's probably because of the price point - they may have been Nike's first $200 sneakers.
Nowadays, Foams are a staple in any sneakerhead's collection. The price point is still high, especially with the limited edition and hard-as-hell to get Galaxy Foams that dropped not too long ago. Worn most recently by Rajon Rondo in the All-Star game, collectors are still scrambling to get their hands on a pair, no matter the cost.
“We actually wore the Foamposites before Penny ever wore them,” recalls Simon. “Nike sent them to us during the Sweet 16, but I didn't like them. I put them on in practice the day before and they were too slippery and I wouldn't wear them. Mike Bibby said, 'I don't care. These look too sweet and I'm gonna play in them. I don't care if I slip every time down the floor,' but we did all have them.”
Bibby, who's playing point guard for the New York Knicks these days, remembers the Foams fondly.
“I remember the Nike guy – we were sponsored by Nike – I remember him saying, 'We have a special shoe that we'd like you to wear in the games.' But then he said, 'They might not be the team colors, so I don't know if you'll want to wear them,'” recalled Bibby before a recent game against the Chicago Bulls.
“I told him that if they hadn't come out yet, I'd definitely wear them no matter what color they are. So when he showed me, you couldn't turn them down. They weren't out yet and he tried to put them on my feet to show people that's where they'd seen them first. I've been a shoe guy my whole life – I'm still a shoe collector – so it was a big deal for me.”
It was a big deal for Penny Hardaway, too, according to Simon.
“I played for the Orlando Magic two years later and Penny Hardaway told me that we [Arizona] helped the sale of his shoe even though I never even wore them.”
The game of basketball has always been involved with trends. Most times, it's a slave to them, but sometimes, it creates them.
Special thanks to the good people at Powerade for giving us the opportunity to touch base with Miles' story of the Wildcats overcoming the odds in 1997 to take the championship is exactly the type of underdog story that inspired POWERADE'S "Power Through" campaign. Be sure to check out Powerade on Facebook and Twitter as well.
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