ESPN 30 for 30 Shorts: Friedman’s Shoes (2016)

Directed by Danny Lee

ESPNs 30 for 30 Shorts series finally returns after one of the lengthier reprieves in the series’ history. I was beginning to wonder whether the series would continue. But they return with a bang, with five short films set to be released once a week over the next month and a half. The first in this surge is Friedman’s Shoes, which pays tribute to a small shoe store located in Atlanta, Georgia that sells to larger than life celebrities, NBA superstars. The charm of both the film and the shoe store it covers is the down to earth family that runs it. Discovering the niche of selling oversized shoes to oversized personalities brought them fame and fortune.

When I saw the next film in the series dealt with shoes, I feared a slight fashion piece in the same vein as Disdane the Mundane, which slugs its way through the wardrobe of NBA legend Clyde Frazier. But Danny Lee frames his story in a very different manner, with Friedman’s Shoes featuring a heroic rise to fame, and a tragic fall from grace. In many ways, the story leans on irony to create its drama. Friedman’s Shoes established itself by tapping into an otherwise untapped market: that of oversized high end shoes. In retrospect, this move was genius. The customer base is full of millionaire athletes who love shoes, but didn’t have a place to buy them before. By cornering the market, they cornered the relationship with these stars, making millions along the way.

But with the advent of internet shopping, Friedman’s was left behind. It’s hard to imagine having to take a special trip to Atlanta in today’s internet shopping climate, but the proprietors of Friedman’s clung to their archaic philosophy of in-person customer service and the need for consumers to feel the shoes on their feet, see them in person in order to make the purchase. Friedman’s has since succumbed to the interest craze and built a website, but the kingdom that once ruled with customers like Shaquille O’Neal has also succumbed, struggling to stay in business in the same shop that once featured hundreds of shoes including gator skins in every color.

**1/2 – Average

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