Basketball News

Meeting with these “sneaker” hunters serving professional players

In the middle of the signing session, a strange young man appears holding out… his very colorful business card. “ Let me know if you need anything “, he repeats to Jaren Jackson Jr, Mikal Bridges and the other members of “Team USA”, including Steve Kerr, who walk away with the card. The scene takes place last summer and the man in question, who came to meet the players preparing in Las Vegas for the World Cup and followed by more than 300,000 people on TikTok, presents himself as a “shoe plug” .

In short, it is a specialist in the “sneaker” market offering his services to a player to find pairs that the player is not able to find himself. “ I would say that it is someone who has taste, access and availability to acquire the latest or rarest shoes for important clients », defines in his words Yuanrun Zheng, contacted by BasketUSA.

Better known as “ 23Penny », this enthusiast based in Tennessee, where he has a store, is a reference in the field. In addition to American football players, he has worked for nearly 15 years with current or retired NBA players: Tyrese Haliburton, DeMar DeRozan, Herbert Jones… Not forgetting the NBA reference in shoe collections, PJ Tucker.

VIP service provision

Players with whom he is rarely in direct contact. “ There are several intermediaries », Notes the man, originally from China, who relies on a hyper-developed network, the main quality required in this environment, to reach his customers. And above all to find rare shoes, released in a few copies around the world.

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No need to go through a platform, saving time, easier logistics… “ For me, it's VIP service provision », defines Réda Ouahbi, aka Rookicksa French content creator who is very knowledgeable on the subject, who adds: “ Responsiveness is queen. If you manage to obtain Kobe in the first 15 days, you avoid inflation in the months that follow. »

NBA players are really good at playing basketball, but may not know all the shoes in the world. So the 'plug' is also there to educate and present the rarity to them “, continues 23Penny, which emphasizes the importance of the style sought by certain players, including when arriving in theaters.

The market is exported to Europe

23Penny, who believes he is one of the pioneers of the practice, understood the potential of buying and reselling very early on by observing… his mother trading iPads at the start of the tablet craze. He spent a lot of time thinking about the possibility of getting into the sneaker resale business, back when he worked part-time at KFC. “ I really wanted to get a cool, rare pair for myself, then I realized that when you buy four or five at a time, and manage to resell four, you get one for free », recalls 23Penny which mentions a resale margin of around 20% to 25%.

According to him, about half of NBA players use a “plug”. A practice widespread in the United States which is beginning to be exported to Europe, notably due to the increase in the contingent of former NBA players on the Old Continent. “ It's happening little by little because American players will naturally go looking for them to obtain original products. This sneaker culture is growing, I feel it. So the market is buoyant », Confirms Rookicks, who sometimes does resale.

Sasha Serrano, he is one of the few in France, perhaps the only one, to play this card to the fullest. This 26-year-old young man working at BounceWear, whom we had already talked about when he was community manager of one of the best American high schools, has built an impressive network with players from the French championship. “ They come to me because I can get them items that are not available in stores, usually because they are rare, limited or sold out », Describes the Lyonnais, who will, for example, go searching in online forums.

Personalized words

We see him posing, during a “delivery”, with ex-Celtics player Semi Olejeye, former Great League players Damien Inglis and Jared Harper, or the French Sylvain Francisco and Mathias Lessort. “ As soon as you get your hands on some Kobes or others, let me know », even asks Dwayne Bacon directly by message, where Bilal Coulibaly is enthusiastic after receiving a pair.

A good way to increase the good reputation of a “plug”. The Frenchman also did business with Kemba Walker, who arrived in Monaco last summer, looking for Jordan to match his size (one of the main challenges of the activity). His teammate Jaron Blossomgame, to whom the Frenchman is close, acted as intermediary.

He gave me the D pass », formulates Sacha who, as with every sending of pairs, took care of the service with a little personalized note to the former Hornets player: “ Thank you for your trust, welcome to France and have a good season. »

The kind of “ small details that can make the difference. Some people don't care, others don't. It's really like you're ordering with your friend, something family-friendly, fluid. The goal is to have a VIP experience. » A relationship of trust which thus allows unpleasant surprises to be avoided. “ There is a huge counterfeit market for Kobe Bryant style shoes and many players are being ripped off by sellers and buying fake pairs at the prices of the real ones, which are of lower quality, so the risk of injury is much higher . I'm doing prevention on this », says the “French Plug” which has already sold hundreds of pairs in a few months.

He always has a little pang in his heart when he sees a player put out a great performance with the pair he provided. “ It's always a pleasure. Indirectly you are in the 'game', I participate in the match in my own way. »

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