- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Stephon Marbury has staked out the moral high ground in the latest sneaker wars.

LeBron James has bought the rest of the ground and would like to lease it to Marbury.

Marbury owns his own line of sneakers called Starbury. Price: $14.98.

James is being paid $90 million over seven years to endorse his sneakers produced by Nike and its dedicated sweatshop workers in China. Price: $150.

Before the New York Knicks-Cleveland Cavaliers game on Wednesday, James said he couldn’t image endorsing a sneaker as cheap as Marbury’s.

“No, I don’t think so. Me being with Nike, we hold our standards high,” said James, who also endorses Cub Cadet lawn mowers.

While lacing up his Starburys, Marbury was told of James’ comment.

“I’d rather own than be owned,” he said.

The moral high ground comes complete with zingers.

Chicago Bulls center Ben Wallace joined Marbury’s company last week. His sneaker Big Ben is expected by fall.

The Starbury line, launched last year, is expanding from 50 products to 200 and can be found at Steve & Barry’s University Sportswear.

Marbury and Wallace aren’t paid to endorse the products. They receive royalties on sales.

It’s all part of the Starbury Movement, an effort to provide more affordable athletic sneakers and clothing to those who can’t afford the latest Jordans or LeBrons.

James’ latest movement is the plan for his new 35,440-square foot house in Bath Township, Ohio. The house will include a theater, recording studio, bowling alley, barbershop, casino and enough room for all of his alter egos.

“Greed is good,” Gordon Gekko said.

Of course, James has the right to his mansion and his $120 million in endorsement deals.

But his comments about Marbury’s sneakers, even if he was joking, were arrogant and out of line. At best, James’ comments were poor public relations.

NBA fans, no matter what sneakers they wear, don’t appreciate James ripping Marbury and his altruistic cause.

Marbury has partly remade his image through the Starbury Movement and his stance against expensive sneakers.

Marbury is trying to do the right thing. He doesn’t deserve derision. He deserves praise.

At the end of last week’s game, Marbury made two 3-pointers in the last 1:40, including the game-clincher with 8.5 seconds left. The Knicks beat the Cavaliers 97-93.

James shot 6-for-20 from the field.

It’s gotta be the shoes.

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