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Wallace signs on to endorse affordable Marbury shoes

MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill. -- Stephon Marbury started it. Now, Ben Wallace is joining the cause.

Wallace is lending his name to the Starbury Movement, endorsing
an affordable line of sneakers and apparel started by the New York
Knicks' star. Wallace will begin wearing the Starbury II basketball
shoe Thursday when the Chicago Bulls play his former team, the
Detroit Pistons. And his own sneaker -- Big Ben -- is expected to hit
the market in late August or the fall.

"Kids don't really understand what it takes to go out and buy a
pair of $300 pair of shoes," Wallace said at a news conference on
Tuesday. "We don't understand the pressure we put on our parents
when we're growing up. This is one of the things where I think the
parents will appreciate it a lot more than the kids right now
because it eliminates so much stress from the parents. All parents
want to see their kids have nice things."

"Once parents and their kids begin to see that other pro athletes are getting down with this, then it just makes a world of difference."
-- Stephon Marbury

Launched a year ago, the Starbury line is expanding from 50
products to 200 -- nearly all available for $14.98 or less at Steve
& Barry's University Sportswear. It includes a joggers shoe, skater
shoe, casual shoe, gym shoe, woven shirts, jackets, jeans,
T-shirts, shorts, hats and other accessories.

At a time when youngsters feel pressure to wear expensive brands
of shoes and clothing and are even being killed for what's on their
feet, Marbury and Wallace are trying to provide an alternative.

"Once parents and their kids begin to see that other pro
athletes are getting down with this, then it just makes a world of
difference," Marbury said in a phone interview. "It's not just
one person doing it. Other people are wearing the shoes. Other
people are putting their feet inside of shoes that they're saying
are cheap."

Marbury and Wallace are not paid to endorse the products.
Instead, they earn royalties on sales.

Marbury and representatives from Steve & Barry's started
developing the line after discussing it over dinner about a
year-and-a-half ago, while Wallace joined in about four months ago.

Marbury said adding the four-time defensive player of the year
"gives the brand some credibility," and he plans to get more
players involved. He hopes that, in turn, will help spread the word
to children and their parents -- that there are good, cheaper
alternatives. Alternatives he wishes were available when he was
younger.

Growing up on Coney Island in Brooklyn, Marbury couldn't afford
the top brands. So he wore "everything. No specific shoe."

For Wallace, it was a steady flow of hand-me-downs.

The 10th of 11 children and the youngest of eight boys, he grew
up poor in White Hall, Ala. He knows he had shoes, but which
brands? He couldn't say.

"I had to wait in line," said Wallace, who was wearing a White
Sox cap, jeans, a striped short sleeve shirt and a pair of white
Starbury low-top sneakers. "It's tough at times because you see
everybody else getting new shoes. You want to be a part of that
crowd. Sometimes, you're just not able."

But with the Starbury line and the Big Ben sneaker coming out,
there are more opportunities.

Although the shoes are inexpensive, Marbury and Wallace said
they're as durable as the more expensive brands.

"If you were to cut this in half, there's absolutely no
difference between this and the most expensive sneakers on the
market," Steve & Barry's spokesman Howard Schacter said, holding a
red, white and blue Starbury II. "This provides arch support, a
reinforced heal. It really is the same deal, and what Ben and Steph
are wearing on court is exactly the same shoe."

Marbury said: "It's not that they're cheap; they're just
affordable. Now, as we begin to sign more players, kids won't feel
that burden."

Wallace acknowledged he had doubts, but they went away once he
tried a few pairs.

"They last just as long as any other pair," he said. "I hope
people do realize that regardless of how much you do pay for a pair
of sneakers, eventually they are going to wear [out] somewhere."