In case you missed it, 5-star center Bol Bol became the latest teen hoops sensation to announce his commitment on The Player’s Tribune, the Jeter-founded player publishing platform on which athletes write first-person missives.
And Bol Bol’s missive committed him to Oregon in a very particular way: With a bunch of loosely connected anecdotes about sneakers. That’s a very interesting decision making point to determine where a teenager attends college.
First things first: Oregon is a terrific basketball program. It just reached its first Final Four and there’s no reason to doubt Dana Altman can guide the team back there soon. Oregon has great fans and it’s a unique and beautiful campus at the other end of the coast where Bol is currently plying his trade at Findlay Prep.
Still, Oregon is no Kentucky. Or Kansas, where Bol Bol is actually from. It doesn’t have the college hoops heritage of plenty of other programs, but it does have the one thing that Bol Bol apparently cares about as much or more than anything else: fly kicks.
If you think too much is being made of this sneaker obsession, consider these passages from Bol’s Player’s Tribune diary:
During my official visit — it was on a recent weekend — we got to go into a room someone said was known as the Phil Knight room. It was this special room where they showcase all the new Oregon gear Nike is working on.
What I saw in there blew me away.
Shoes lined up on chairs. Custom Oregon colorway Jordans. Like 13 different jersey combinations. Nike stuff that hasn’t come out yet. Those Jordan 4 Oregon retros that LeBron was wearing recently — they had those in there. Rare ones. I was going crazy in there, man. For a kid obsessed with shoes, that was like heaven.
That’s pretty straight forward, isn’t it? Yes, Oregon’s recruiting pitch resonated with Bol, but so did the shoes (and the Nike gear, to be fair).
If there’s any question that Bol is brand aware and geared toward the Swoosh, consider the other reason he was drawn to Oregon:
The last thing I loved about Oregon was that the university has one of the biggest social media brands in college sports. And if you follow me on IG, maybe you know that I’m really active on social media. I like to connect with people, have fun. It’s allowed me to meet so many new people and create so many experiences that have made my life more interesting — and also made the world feel smaller. I loved that Oregon and the athletics program want to have their own style and their own identity. I feel the same way.
OK, so: Shoes? Check. Branding? Check. Or, in Bol’s words: “What school would provide opportunities around my sport that tapped into my passions? And what school would give me the opportunity to reach the most people?”
Look, if Bol’s true passion is in shoes, bless him. There truly are few better places for a sneakerhead to take steps toward working in the industry than Oregon, in the veritable backyard of Nike headquarters. If his ultimate goal is to be a legitimate NBA star, however, one might have thought Kentucky or Kansas provided a better launching pad.
We’ll all get to see if Bol Bol was right. No matter what happens, everyone should keep an eye on his feet.