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  • My obsession with Allen Iverson had a lot to do with his sneakers. Whichever NBA players were selling the most sneakers were the ones I liked the best. In 7th grade, being cool had a lot to do with feeling cool, and how could I feel cool if I didn't have the same sneakers as the guys in the NBA? At least, that's the mentality that seemed to be the key to coolness for the new Italian kids in my class who transferred from the public school into our class at the the Catholic school, which hadn't really experienced much of a change in lineup since the kindergarten.

    Besides inspiring new sneaker-buying habits, these guys also brought to light the wonders of puberty for pretty much the entire class. Soon, it wasn't just about having cool shoes like Allen Iverson, but suddenly it became important to act like him too, in spite of the fact that we were 14 and at an entirely white suburban private school outside of Philadelphia. You know, he was a gangsta who played ball in the pros, got arrested, made womanizing remarks, wore enough sweat bands for the whole team, used curse words at press conferences.. now that was cool.

    Yeah, we should make our AOL Screennames represent that.

    Yeah, that's it. Just like Iverson. Too bad we can't have cornrows.

    My friendship with these kids stemmed from the fact that I understood how to study. I tutored them, gave them answers. Some of their parents even paid me. In exchange, they hooked me up with older girlfriends, my first kiss, and other sexual understandings that otherwise would have taken me years to figure out on my own. Occasionally, they would turn on me. Make fun of my bug eyes, or my sweet, sober parents. Within a couple weeks, they would remember that I was too quick-witted to take their bullying and that they actually benefited by having a smart guy in the group. So we'd go back to imitating Iverson, shopping at the mall, and instant messaging forbidden girls from other schools.

    If only I had stayed on that path... maybe I'd own a Hollywood Tans and be able to buy all the cool sneakers I wanted.
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