10 years ago, I interviewed then-SLAM Editor-in-Chief Russ Bengtson (@russbengtson) on what it was like putting together the annual KICKS magazine which was just getting started. Now, as KICKS enters issue 13 (on sale now), we take a look back at some insights to the early years of the all-sneaker-blowout with Russ Bengtson in an interview that was never officially published anywhere in the past decade – until now. Continue reading for an Interview With Russ Bengtson On KICKS – 10 Years Ago.
Russ Bengtson is the Editor-in-Chief at SLAM basketball magazine. Not only that, but more importantly, he puts together the (for-now) annual print-up of KICKS magazine…..
John Brilliant: Whose idea was it to expand “KICKS” from a few pages in the back of SLAM, to dedicating an all-out magazine on them?
Russ Bengtson: I believe that was a joint effort between Dennis Page (the publisher) and the people at Nike. They wanted a retrospective of their basketball shoe history, and who better to do that than us?
JB: Any doubts if it would even sell?
Bengtson: Nope. Well, not many. There was no need to worry anyway-it killed.
JB: Considering the fact that you guys have put out three issues so far, is it safe to say that the response to an all-sneaker magazine has been good?
Bengtson: So far, so good. Maybe, just maybe, KICKS will at least go 2x a year. You heard that here first.
JB: Can we expect a full “catalog” of say, Reebok or adidas sneakers like you have done with Nike?
Bengtson: Good question. Obviously, Nike and Reebok wouldn’t want to advertise in an all-adidas issue, so it would have to be a single-sponsorship thing like the first KICKS. And advertising isn’t my thing. I don’t know-ask me again in a year.
JB: Given your status, how often do you find yourself asking basketball players for their shoes?
Bengtson: Haven’t done it yet. I occasionally pick up player’s shoes on eBay, or get player-only models from the shoe companies, but with the players themselves I prefer not to act too much like a fan. I’ll talk to Tim Hardaway about his custom Shox (Heat colors, they’re kinda foul), but I won’t ask him for them. I want to stay on an equal level, and you can’t do that if you’re asking for their jersey, or an autograph…or their shoes.
JB: How many game-worn/player shoes do you own and which of them means the most to you?
Bengtson: Only have three pairs right now-a pair of Dale Ellis’s Air Force II lows (Seattle), a pair of Dominique Wilkins’ Brooks (Atlanta) and a pair of Lloyd Daniels’ British Knights (Spurs). Oh, and a pair of Harold Miner’s game-worn Nikes (Heat) are on the way. But my most meaningful pair of game-worn shoes are the New Balance cross trainers I wore while playing 21 with the OBF in Kevin Garnett’s driveway.
JB: Do you know of any NBA players big on sneaks?
Bengtson: Tim Hardaway always flips straight to the Kicks section whenever I give him a new issue. And Eddie Jones is down (seeing that he’s Jordan Brand and all). Bonzi Wells and Kenyon Martin gave me props the other night for wearing the Air Force Max Retros (which drop 5/1). But the biggest shoe Dog in the L has to be KG-we had a good long convo about shoes the last time I saw him. And the designers at Nike say he’s the most involved. I don’t know what he has off the court, but I give Shammond Williams major love for ballin’ in the Reebok Pump re-issues (respect to Dee Brown). And Chucky Atkins is real in tune, too.
JB: Have you read or looked at any of the shoe magazines from Asia?
Bengtson: Yeah-I’ve got copies of Boon! and the Jordan Encyclopedia. The photos are pretty amazing-all the Jordan 1 variations! If anyone wanted to translate either for me, I’d appreciate it.
JB: Do you get a lot of samples and prototypes sent to your office?
Bengtson: Yes. Whenever something new is ready, it comes here. Like I said earlier-we get plenty of player-only models, too. I’ve got the Steve Francis red All-Star models sitting on my stereo, and they supposedly only made two pairs of those.
JB: Favorite sneaker?
Bengtson: Tough question. Too hard to narrow it down. I’ll give you five- Air Force II high, Air Max Uptempo, New Balance Worthy, Air Jordan XI high, Air Flight ’89 high. And that’s only off the top of my head.
JB: NBA players you enjoy interviewing the most and why?
Bengtson: Stephon Marbury’s probably my favorite right now, because you can just sit down and talk to him for an hour without worrying about getting stock answers. He actually is genuinely interested and interesting. And there’s no “I’m way above you” attitude. There are tons of guys, though – Timmy Hardaway, KG, Kobe, Eddie Jones, Paul Pierce, Chris Webber, Steve Francis, Dale Davis, Jerry Stackhouse, Johnny Newman, John Wallace- I could go on forever.
JB: Between SLAM and KICKS, which is more fun to work on?
Bengtson: SLAM, ’cause it’s what makes it all possible.
JB: Any last words and things we can look forward to
Bengtson: Thanks for reading, y’all-without you, blah blah blah. Feel free to e-mail me with any suggestions you have (use firstname.lastname@example.org) to make this stuff better. I can tell you that there will be more designer-based stuff in KICKS 4 (hopefully a Tinker Hatfield/Bruce Kilgore sit-down, or better, a designer’s roundtable of sorts), and the old school stuff will keep flowing. Oh, and check out www.slamonline.com I’m checking the “crash the boards” message board at least once or twice a day, so you can hit me there, too.