We interrupt our daily fawning over Michael Jordan and the Road to the Air Jordan 30 with a story about Ken Griffey Jr., specifically my story about the time I ran into him on a Christmas Eve.
With Ken Griffey Jr. set to be named to the Baseball Hall of Fame later today (although not unanimously apparently because baseball is weird), sports journalists, bloggers (see what I did there?) and fans all over the world are posting stories and tributes about Griffey’s greatness, his magnificent swing, his swagger (before that term last all meaning and relevance) and his mind-boggling numbers. And then there are those putting together more personal pieces about Griffey and how he influenced them and touched their lives in ways that we don’t always see. Since I don’t have that much baseball knowledge, we’re going to talk about the latter and that time I met Griffey at a NikeTown in Beverly Hills on Christmas Eve. Oh, and LeBron James was there, but who cares?
For reasons that I still can’t remember to this day (meeting a legend like Griffey will cause you to blackout I guess), I was in Beverly Hills with my family just killing time on Christmas Eve 2009. We stopped by the NikeTown just to hang around without really having any plans to buy stuff. After about several minutes, we hear a buzz from the employees that LeBron James and a few of his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates were making their way from whatever hotel they were in to check out the store.
Now keep in mind that this was in 2009; I thought LeBron James was a fantastic player and arguably the best in the league already, but he was no Kobe. I wasn’t going to tell LeBron that if the opportunity ever presented itself, but seeing him in person wasn’t going to be a big deal. And when he did show up, it wasn’t a big deal, even though he looked like biggest dude on the planet and quite possibly not human. LeBron went about his business and I went about mine, although there was a hilarious moment in between when I heard a fan ask Jamario Moon – who was carrying a kid – if he was babysitting for LeBron. The look on Moon’s face was something like this.
But as we were about to head out, in the corner of my eye I see LeBron give somebody dap and who was it? Ken freaking Griffey Jr. That’s when the fanboy (again, I still wasn’t involved in sneakers or sports writing at that point) in me lit up. That was the guy who essentially introduced me to how baseball can be fun and exciting and not the most boring sport in the world not named soccer. When he was in his prime in Seattle, I would watch Sportscenter highlights of him crushing the ball or making one spectacular catch after another. I never became a baseball die-hard, but I became aware of the sport (and its inherent goofiness with guys like Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez) thanks to Griffey.
It was more than just the highlights though. He ran for President in those amazing Nike commercials during the mid-90s. The Kid – his nickname back in the days, which was weird because somebody like me calling Griffey “Kid” didn’t make much sense – even had a good run for Nintendo baseball video games. I stopped in my tracks and couldn’t leave just yet. What made the scene even more surreal was that while everybody was trying to get a picture of LeBron, the only two people who were happy to see Griffey was LeBron and myself.
As a rule, I don’t take pictures with athletes (although there was this one time a few weeks ago when I saw Marshall Faulk in Oregon wearing the exact same Nike tech fleece hoodie and random jeans that I had on but was rebuffed because Faulk was told he couldn’t take pics, but whatever, I though it would be funny to post that and play the Wayans Brothers theme alongside it). It’s not professional and it’s not like we don’t get time to talk to them directly anyways, but that wasn’t a concern for me back in 2009. I was seeing a childhood idol and I had to do something.
After LeBron and Griffey finished chatting it up, I see Griffey make his way upstairs. As everybody wanted a piece of LeBron (for the record, LeBron was cool and signed stuff for fans), I made the trek as well to see Griffey just hanging out and looking at Nike gear. I made the introduction, congratulated him on his return to Seattle and asked for a picture. He was very gracious and took the pic and thanked me for being a fan. It’s a thing I’m sure he’s done thousands of times with other fans in cities and countries all across the world, but it meant a lot to this future sneaker blogger. So congrats, Kid, and tell Nike to retro your Nike Air Max Griffeys in the OG colorways so I can finally get around to buying a pair. The only Griffey I’ve ever owned were a pair of the white and silver Nike Air Griffey Max 2 GD.