SLAM: Tell us a little about your hometown.
Kendall Marshall: I grew up in northern Virginia, in Dumfries, about 20 minutes from DC. A lot of where I grew up is influenced by the DMV culture. I’m from the suburbs—I went to private school and everything, but I love where I’m from.
SLAM: Did you spend a lot of time in DC as a kid?
KM: Well, in high school, I played in a DC Catholic league. In my area, when you’re good at basketball you go play in the WCAC. My school was in Arlington, Virginia, but we played against DeMatha, Gonzaga, St. John’s—they were all in our conference.
SLAM: What are your earliest basketball memories?
KM: My earliest are playing in the Dale City Rec Center. They told my dad that I could play for free because they needed a coach, so he threw me out there and he always kept me in the freshest Jordans, the wristbands and everything. It kinda just took off from there.
SLAM: What was your dad like as a coach?
KM: My dad, when I was younger, it was more just for fun. When he realized I had a knack for passing the ball, he got a little more intense after that.
SLAM: What was the basketball scene like where you grew up?
KM: The kids [that were into basketball] were few and far between but it was me and my best friends that were all the best kids in the area when it came to basketball. We all went up to Maryland to play, because the DC-Maryland area, they’re known for having hoopers. We wanted to play with and against the best, so from the age of 10 and up we went up there to play for AAU teams and for high school.
SLAM: Who did you grow up watching and wanting to play like?
KM: The guys I would watch were Cliff Hawkins, who played at Kentucky, Nigel Munson, who played at DeMatha—and I know he started at Virginia Tech—guys like Tywon Lawson, who started at [Bishop] McNamara [High School] and then went to Oak Hill, Chris Wright, who went to St. John’s and then went to Georgetown. These were all point guards and guys who I looked up to who were the real deal where I was coming from.
SLAM: What about NBA guys?
KM: I was a huge, huge Dirk fan, so Dallas was always my team. I was a big Jason Williams fan, so I loved the Kings while they were going through their little stretch. Those were really my two favorite players and teams growing up.
SLAM: What about your earliest sneaker memories?
KM: I can go back to those Dale City Rec Center days, the first time when I really started playing basketball. I can remember the low-top black-and-navy XIIIs—my dad got them for me and my friend had them as well. I remember my first AAU team, we wore the Nike Air Garnett IIIs, I believe—the black-and-royal blue and the white-and-royal blue. We had both colors for home and away.
SLAM: How’d you learn that sneakers were such an important part of basketball culture?
KM: That definitely comes from my dad. He always kept me in a fresh pair of shoes, so that’s all credit to him for that. But I don’t know, it’s just something that kind of stuck with me. When you’re a hooper, basketball shoes go hand in hand with that.
SLAM: Did you remember ever seeing anyone older or in the NBA play where you really wanted the kicks they were wearing?
KM: Yes, I can remember a couple. To this day I still don’t have these shoes: The first one is I was playing with the DC Assault, and I was on the 14-and-under team and Mike Beasley was on the 17-and-under team, and they had the patent leather [adidas] Pro Models, and I remember he had them in all navy blue with gold writing that said DC Assault. To this day I still think that’s one of the best PE shoes of all-time. Adidas had the Super 6 at the time, where it was like the New Jersey Playaz, the DC Assault—they were taking care of a couple teams—and me playing for the younger Assault team, we would always go watch them play, and Mike Beasley was a big deal. I can distinctly remember him wearing those.
SLAM: You should ask him for a pair of those now—he’s gotta have a few in storage.
KM: I never got around to asking him. I’m gonna have to get on that.
SLAM: What other memories stand out?
KM: I was always a Carolina fan growing up, so the Carolina XIIs—that was in 2006, I believe. Also I remember Raymond Felton wearing the ice blue Xs when they won the National Championship. Ty Lawson, he wore the LeBron Soldiers in the finals and won the [National] Championship—I remember he had a foot problem, and those were the best with the hard toe box. There’s a bunch of little stuff that I can remember.
SLAM: Did you own any NBA jerseys that you specifically remember?
KM: Oh man, I was one of those kids who had a bunch of jerseys, and my dad always kept me in the authentic ones. I had a Tim Duncan Wake Forest jersey, a Dominique Wilkins jersey, a Dirk white Dallas jersey, a Magic Johnson Michigan St. jersey, a Shareef Abdur-Rahim Hawks jersey.
SLAM: Still have any?
KM: I kept the special ones. If I go back and look, there’s a couple I kept. For instance, the LeBron white Cavs jersey, I kept that. Kept my Dirk jersey. The ones that meant a lot, I kept.
SLAM: What about with sneakers? If you have a good game, will you keep playing in them or save them?
KM: I like to keep as many of my sneakers as possible. Sometimes I give them away, but I still have all of my shoes from college, except for the ones I put in Carolina’s basketball museum. Whenever I have a good game in a shoe, or like the first time I started as a rookie, I still have those shoes. Those were the [Air Jordan] 28s, black and volt.
SLAM: Growing up, did you keep your kicks super organized or were they all over the house?
KM: Oh nah, man, I always took special care of my shoes. Whenever my dad bought me a new pair of shoes, I would always sleep with them that night in my arms. For some reason, I just wanted to hold them. The smell of new shoes is one of the best smells in the world. And there’s the stitching, the detail—things like that that I think some people take for granted.