Shoesplosions on the court


The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs have suffered from injury after injury, from fractured metacarpals to calf contusions to hamstring strains and back spasms. It’s been that kind of season. Now, it’s gone beyond the players themselves and extended to the equipment they don.

Late in the second quarter of the Spurs’ 120-110 win over the Detroit Pistons, Manu Ginobili’s sneakers suffered a coming apart the likes of which we’ve never really seen in the NBA.

“No, neither have the players,” Gregg Popovich said after the game. “Shoes come off and that sort of thing, but to get it blown out like that, they’d never seen it.”

Manu was defending Rodney Stuckey with less than a minute left in the first half, when Ginobili took a step back and to his left. The shoe planted on the hardwood floor, its rubber sole getting traction on the court, while Ginobili’s foot continued on its backward trajectory. The structural integrity of Manu’s Nike was compromised and all hope was lost for one sneaker.


“Shoes come off and that sort of thing, but to get it blown out like that, they’d never seen it.” — Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (Courtesy SB Nation)

“I don’t know what happened,” Ginobili said. “I stopped and my foot kept going. So, it just happened.

“First time that happened in my career. Very weird, but no big deal.”

Despite Ginobili’s footwear problems, the play wasn’t over. The Pistons missed two shot attempts on the play and then San Antonio broke the other way, with Patty Mills missing a pull-up 3 in transition and Tim Duncan cleaning up the miss. Fortunately for Ginobili, the Pistons called a timeout after the bucket.

Seeing the sneaker malfunction occur, Spurs head trainer Will Sevening sent equipment manager Travis Wade to the locker room in a hurry to retrieve a spare shoe for Ginobili.

“Will Sevening, he’s the best,” Pop said. “He’s always prepared no matter what’s going on.”

In the span of that 20-second timeout, Ginobili was able to swap out the shoe—one that looked like it had been run over by a lawnmower—with a fresh model. The swiftness would make even the quickest of NASCAR pit crews proud.

Spurs forward Matt Bonner encountered a related situation a couple of years ago, having one of his beloved New Balance basketball shoes suffer a similar, albeit different, fate.

“Mine was just the heel, his was the entire length of his shoe,” Bonner said.

“When my New Balances blew out, it was because the shoe I was wearing was a prototype. I wasn’t supposed to wear it in a game, but I didn’t know that.”

Bonner, though, wasn’t as fortunate as Ginobili to have the opposing team call a timeout so a footwear switch could be made. No, the Red Rocket had to take matters into his own hands.

“I subbed myself out. I tackled whoever I was guarding and Coach Pop—I had never seen that look on his face, like ‘What are you doing?‘ He didn’t realize I had a shoe blowout. If someone could’ve caught a picture of that face, it was priceless. And once I’d shown him the shoes, it was ‘oh, okay.’”

So what came of Ginobili’s lost shoe? Frankly, we’ll never know. Word around the Spurs locker room after the game was that Ginobili didn’t want anyone to see the damaged kick, getting it out of sight before reporters were around.

It’s too bad, it would’ve made for a helluva a piece of memorabilia.

Having been through the trauma of losing a piece of footwear in the line of battle, Bonner had words of encouragement for Ginobili, likely spurring him on to a second half in which Manu produced 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting and six assists on the new wheel.

“I told him just put it behind him, keep staying positive and look ahead to the future.”


“I told him to switch to Adidas.”