Jan. 24, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) - One look at Patrick Christopher's room, the piles of shoe boxes reaching the ceiling, raises the thought that maybe things have gone too far.
"He has a shoe fetish," his mother, Patricia, says.
The California guard knows which are which simply by the description on the box, and can easily pull out the ones he wants to wear - carefully coordinating with his clothing. Like the medium mint/lemon frost, the multicolored, pastel patent pair known as "Easter Egg '07."
"The sneaker business is beautiful. It's big time," Christopher says with his ever-present smile. "Oh, I know there are so many people who this is their life. I play basketball, too."
Christopher has some 50 different pairs of Nike Air Force 1s and another couple dozen Air Jordans that he plays in, having spent thousands of dollars on a love of athletic footwear that developed when he was just 5. He donated a large number of those along the way to needy children at his church as his foot rapidly grew.
He was already a size 6 in third grade and a 7 1/2 the next year. By sixth grade, he wore 9. His collection now features sizes 13 and 14.
"He got his first pair of Jordans for his fifth birthday," his mom recalls. "He started playing ball around the same time in a recreational league. We were probably buying shoes for him - wow - almost every six to eight months. Patrick is so particular about his shoes. He kept them very well, so after he grew out of them we'd give them to the kids at the church."
Now, many youth in Northern California would be thrilled to own a pair of Christopher's fancy kicks.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore has emerged as one of Golden Bears' most steady players this season - and his confidence is about as high as all those boxes piled up in his room.
On Saturday, he might even lace up a new pair of Jordans for the special occasion: Cal's rivalry game against No. 20 Stanford at home. Christopher heads into the contest as the Bears' second-leading scorer at 16.5 points per game and their top defender typically responsible for guarding the opponents' best player.
He lives for such challenges, and knew coming into his second year of college he could produce consistently. He started 14 of 33 games last season, averaging 5.2 points and 2.3 rebounds.
"It's all confidence," Christopher says. "I knew I was capable of doing what I'm doing. I'm also playing a lot of minutes. This is everything I always dreamed of. I had to wait my turn. That's the rules of the game. It happens at every level."
As precise as he is on the court, it carries over into his everyday attire. Take the black and gold patterned bow tie he sported for his media guide mug shot that his teammates love so much, or the patchwork plaid tie and matching belt he wore for his portrait.
"Everybody in every media guide, they all have long ties," he says. "I wanted to spice it up. ... When I have on my suit, it's probably my dress shoes, but otherwise it's a pair of Air Force 1s."
How about the purple and teal striped pair of sneakers he wore with a matching striped short-sleeve hoodie for a dance during his senior year in high school? On his floor is a patent leather stars and stripes pair from Fourth of July '06 and an understated but expensive waterproof pair close by. Two plain white shoes rest atop his headboard. There's also the popular see-through clear pair, which "went on demand and sold out real fast."
"He has a lot of stuff," teammate Theo Robertson says. "He wears a lot of loud outfits. He's really a sneakerhead."
Christopher debuted a pair of navy blue and white Jordans against Arizona State last week.
"A lot of them are from different eras," he says. "I wear the all-white ones a few times and give them away to someone at church."
He makes sure to mix up the ones he wears in order to keep all of his pairs looking like new.
His roommates are two teammates, fellow sophomores Nican Robinson and Jamal Boykin - and Christopher lucked out to get the largest of the three rooms. "I wish I had a walk-in closet," he says. "That would be nice."
Also in his room, more than a dozen New York Yankees hats in every color line the wall above all his shoe boxes - though he admittedly doesn't like baseball. Not long ago those hats might have gotten him in trouble. Christopher had to choose his clothes carefully growing up in Compton, Calif., outside Los Angeles, to avoid gang designations.
"Coming up here, it's like, 'Whoa,' I can wear my red Yankee hat in the mall. That was a complete no-no," he says.
While he puts a lot of energy and thought into each outfit, Christopher's upbeat personality certainly completes the look.
Even when a referee makes a questionable call - like the intentional foul whistled on him earlier this month in a loss to UCLA - he handles it with a calm beyond his years.
"That's just me," he says. "That's just how I've been for as long as I can remember - spirit high, make people laugh. I don't ever want to show any negativity."
His success this season has been encouraging to coach Ben Braun, who is depending on a young roster to compete in the deep and exceptionally talented Pac-10. Even the pro scouts at games to see Cal big men DeVon Hardin or Ryan Anderson have taken notice.
"When we recruited Patrick, we knew he was an explosive player," Braun says. "Patrick's scoring is not a surprise. He has taken on the challenge and he is durable. He's playing at a really high level and facing a lot of pressure. He's an iron guy for us."
A rising star with one of the best shoe collections in the country.
Is his foot still growing?
"I hope not!" he says.