September 14, 2011
As a prolonged lockout becomes more likely with each passing day, most NBA players have recognized that they need to curb their lavish lifestyles and start saving some money. However, that's not quite the case for the league's best-paid employees, all of whom have already made enough money to last them several lifetimes. They can still purchase some totally ridiculous items and have no qualms about how it will affect their bank accounts.
Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson(notes), a max-level player typically considered one of the most overpaid men in the league, is one of these players. If you don't believe that statement, just read about his new shoe closet, which is really more like a bank vault. From Stacey Pressman for ESPN the Magazine (via Dime and SB Nation):
"I wanted to display all of my shoes, so I had this 500-square-foot closet made. I just thought this would be a cool idea, and it would almost look like a museum. I had a fingerprint sensor put on the door to make sure I'm the only one who can get in here. I mostly wear Air Jordans. All of the Jordan guys are selected by Michael Jordan himself. It's kind of hard to tell MJ no. I have 436 pairs of sneakers in here, and they're mostly unworn. I'll wear all of them eventually."
I'm pretty sure "I wanted to display all my shoes" and "I had a fingerprint sensor put on the door" are contradictory statements, but no one ever said logic was JJ's strong suit. That's the thing about being very wealthy -- you don't have to answer to the same sort of rules and concerns that dominant the life of the common man.
While Johnson's shoe palace is by all possible metrics a silly expenditure, it's not quite accurate to say that he makes it tough to identify with the NBA's labor fight. Sure, professional basketball players make several times more in salary than coal miners or teachers, but they're also not striking -- it's a lockout, after all -- and seem willing to make concessions to make the league a more sustainable business. Johnson is an outlier, not the norm, and stating that his ridiculous shoe closet is a sign that all NBA players should have their salaries drastically cut is akin to saying that the staff writers on "Parks and Recreation" are overpaid because Larry David is a very rich man. There are often varying degrees of wealth within the same profession.
Still, Joe Johnson's personal preferences are fair game for jokes. Because, honestly, anything with a fingerprint sensor needs to involve CIA secrets or the Batcave.
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