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Marble: Iowa basketball sneakerhead

BY RYAN PROBASCO | DECEMBER 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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By nature, basketball can create a ruthless, competitive atmosphere because of its never-ending cycle of one-on-one battles. Until recently, fans of the sport weren’t always fortunate enough to marvel at the battles not limited to the time in between the officials’ whistles.

But now, fashion and design provide an alternative avenue for fans to admire competition between the game’s biggest stars, highlighted most notably by NBA household names such as Russell Westbrook, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James.

On the Iowa men’s basketball team, that culture has been embodied most by senior guard Devyn Marble, whose shoe collection and expertise could rival even the most devout “sneaker head.”

“When people walk in his [Marble’s] house for the first time, they just look at his collection and are just like, ‘Wow,’ because he has all of these shoe boxes up to his ceiling,” Iowa guard Anthony Clemmons said. “You look at his shoes, and you’re like, ‘Wow, what do you do with all these shoes?’ ”

Clemmons doesn’t describe Marble’s collection using even the slightest bit of hyperbole. In Marble’s apartment, two walls of his room are devoted to stacks of shoe boxes that stretch from the floor to the ceiling.

In his estimation, Marble has accumulated approximately 70 pairs of shoes, making him the footwear king of the No. 25 ranked Hawkeyes. 

“It’s an impressive collection,” said Melsahn Basabe, a roommate of Marble’s. “He’s just got a good batch of different kicks. Everybody thinks it’s kind of crazy, because most of the guys on our team are conservative.

“But Dev’s got flavor. When I see him throw some kicks out, I know he’s trying to bring flavor to the court. His game has flavor, so it’s a complete 360.”

Marble’s shoe habit isn’t realistically rivaled by anyone on Iowa’s roster, but such teammates as Basabe and Clemmons admit Marble’s collection has rubbed off on them, creating an atmosphere that promotes players’ creativity and personal style.

“My shoe game is pretty much idolized by him,” Clemmons said. “I have a lot of shoes, too, but not so close to as many as him. He’s a ‘sneaker head.’ I try to keep up with the shoes and updates. But he has a lot of shoes that I want.

“Whenever I can’t find a pair, I can go to him and ask where he can get them. But he’s always on top of it. His collection is crazy, probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. But I have a few pairs that he wants, too, so we just go back and forth with each other.”

Marble’s shoe collection has continued to grow in popularity, prompting the senior to catch up with The Daily Iowan to discuss his habit and mastery.

DI: So, what started the shoe obsession?

Marble: I’ve always liked shoes; it’s just now, I can afford them.

Growing up, my mom couldn’t really just get me shoes the way I would have liked to have them. Now that I’m in a position where I can actually spend my money on what I want, shoes are just one of the things I’ve put it toward.

DI: Aside from being a basketball player and being able to put the shoes to use all the time, what is it about a shoe that attracts you to it?

Marble: It’s just something I enjoy having. I wouldn’t say I’m a collector; I just like to wear them. I know there are some people who don’t want dust or anything on them, I keep them clean and stuff like that, but other than that, I just like having a variety of choices when I go out and do stuff.

DI: Do you have some that hold higher value to you than others?

Marble: Most definitely. I have Jordans, LeBrons, Kobes, Durants, all those guys, and boots from Timberlands to Nike. I have a lot of different stuff. Some shoes definitely have more value to me than others, though.

DI: What is your game-day ritual with the shoes?

Marble: Well, we’re sponsored by Nike, so it has to be a Nike product. I have some Adidas, but they’re all walk-around shoes, not basketball shoes. Before a game, right before I leave, it kind of just hits me. I don’t really think about it too much, I just let it come to me. I know some people have their own opinions, like what they want me to wear. I do listen to them also sometimes, so it just depends.

But it will depend on the uniform a lot. Sometimes I don’t like wearing certain shoes with the gold uniforms. And there are certain shoes that go better with the white and black ones. It matters what uniform we’re wearing.

DI: What’s your favorite pair?

Marble: That’s tough. I would have to go back and look. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head. I have so many, and I like so many. Well, I can give you three. I love the Jordan 10s, 4s, and the 11s.

DI: What do your teammates and coaches think of the shoe habit?

Marble: They definitely keep up with me. They tease me about it. The coaches, they don’t really mind me doing it, seeing as we do have a team shoe. They don’t mind me wearing my own shoe as long as the colors match. My AAU team was white, black, and gold, so I have a lot of whites and blacks and different things I can put together.

DI: What about your Dad? Is he into shoes as much as you are?

Marble: I think back in the day, he was into shoes. But now, he’ll take whatever I give him, really. He’ll take some stuff that I don’t have any need for anymore. He’ll wear those, but sometimes he doesn’t like the style. I’m younger, and he’s getting older, so sometimes I have to find some things that are more for him.

DI: Do you find that some pairs are more effective on the court for you than others?

Marble: Yeah, some are a little heavier than others, and I like to be light on my feet when I’m playing. Some of the Jordans I don’t wear, because of their bulkiness and how heavy they can become. But most of the shoes I have are pretty good court shoes.

DI: You’re studying sports business. So if basketball ends up not working out, or possibly post-career, is the shoe business something you may look into?

Marble: Shoe design, not really. I don’t think I’m creative in that aspect. But I know a good shoe when I see it. If they paid me to do that, I definitely could do that.

DI: Any plans for a new purchase any time soon?

Marble: I just got the Retro Jordan 10s this past Saturday [Oct. 12]. You can look forward to seeing those sometime soon. But lately I haven’t been getting a lot. I haven’t liked the stuff coming out, but if I had to pick, maybe one or two a month.

DI: So it’s fair to say your favorite pair changes quite often?

Marble: Yeah, it can. It really can. I went through a phase where LeBrons were real heavy. And then this time around, I don’t really like the style of the LeBron 11s, so I haven’t bought any of those. But when he released the 10s and the 9s, I got almost every possible color that I could.

DI: Do any of your teammates have anywhere near the number that you have?

Marble: If I had to guess, I’d say Mel [Basabe] and Anthony Clemmons. They both have their fair number of shoes and share very similar interests in the styles that I like, too.

DI: If you have a good game in a pair, do you become superstitious at all?

Marble: I’m not superstitious at all when it comes to the shoes. I don’t really believe in all that. You’re going to play well regardless or poorly regardless. It depends on how you perform and not necessarily what shoe you’re wearing.

DI: Say the team goes on a road trip, whether it’s for one game or for a couple, what do you bring?

Marble: When we went to the Bahamas, I didn’t bring anything exclusive there, because we play so many games and the uniforms may change. I just take my team shoe and some Durants that I know go with all three uniforms. I don’t really take anything on those trips, like the Bahamas or the Big Ten Tournament, because you don’t know how many games you’re going to play. But a normal road trip, say to Minnesota, I might bring something out.

But it also may matter if it’s a big game. Is it televised, ESPN or not? That always plays into effect. During nonconference, I don’t really wear that stuff, because most of those games are against teams we should beat. And they’re not televised nationally. All of that plays a factor.

DI: What would you like people to know about your shoe obsession?

Marble: Just tell people to stay tuned. I have some stuff for them this year. I have to get some IDs done, and some more stuff will drop throughout the season as we keep going, so there always will be something.

There’s no doubt Marble’s collection has become a distinct aspect of his personality. The shoes reflect a unique style and competitiveness that continues to grow with his skills on the basketball court.

At 10-2, Marble’s Hawkeyes have impressed those who didn’t believe in the team’s preseason hype.

After an extremely successful junior campaign in 2012, Marble’s performance as Iowa’s leader has continued this season. The senior is averaging career highs in points (15.9), assists (3.8), and steals (2.3), and he is unquestionably the player teammates, coaches, and fans of the team would want to have the ball if Iowa were in dire need of a basket.

The team’s depth will most likely take the squad further than any that Fran McCaffery has coached at Iowa. And the contributions of Marble’s game are possibly the biggest reason that has come to fruition.

How Iowa fares in the NCAA Tournament, if it gets there, will serve as the biggest factor in how Marble’s legacy as a Hawkeye will be remembered. But his prowess on the court makes this team more fun to watch than its entertaining cohesion already makes it.

And the shoe selection is just a small portion of the lively mark Marble will undoubtedly leave on the Iowa program when his college time is up.

“I think his collection is part of him and his personality,” Basabe said. “It shows his personality. I think the collection is part of his whole aura about himself. It’s becoming legendary. And it’s always an ‘ill’ thing if you can become legendary.”


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