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Doernbecher Freestyle Air Jordan 1 by Tony Taylor Jr.

Nike has once again unveiled their latest series of Doernbecher Freestyle sneakers for charity, designed by former patients of the Portland-based Doernbecher Children’s Hospital with the help of Nike designers and developers. The first sneaker of five that we’ll be detailing is the Doernbecher Freestyle Air Jordan 1 High, designed by Tony Taylor Jr, or as his friends and family call him, “Mr. Boober.”

It was an opportunity of a lifetime for Mr. Boober, a 16 year old from Portland, Oregon, as he was given the chance to design his very own Air Jordan 1 after battling Nephrotic Syndrome and overcoming a kidney transplant over a year ago. A Doernbecher Children’s Hospital patient who received his transplant on April 4th, 2007, Tony first learned about the Nike Doernbecher Freestyle project after he noticed his doctor’s cool shoes one day in her office. “Sweet kicks!” said Tony, an avid sneaker fanatic with a collection of over one hundred pairs of Air Jordans. As his doctor began to tell the story of how her former patient had designed them with the help of Nike, she mentioned that Nike was looking for more young designers to participate. Tony wasted no time to interrupt her, simply saying, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Sure enough, Tony was one of five Doernbecher patients chosen to design his very own shoe for the 2008 release, and he teamed up with Jordan Brand Senior Designer Jason Mayden and Developer Estelle Maranan to work on an Air Jordan 1 High from scratch. Aesthetically, there’s surely more going on with this Air Jordan 1 than ever before with the model, but it’s Tony’s detailed backstory and inspiration for every facet of the sneaker that make it so special. The shoe’s upper (with the true original High top cut!) is comprised of a gradient fading patent leather, and is actually just two pieces, a first for the normally multi-paneled silhouette. The seamless toe cap extends into the tongue, and the forefoot support overlay begins the rest of the upper piece extending to the heel of the shoe. According to Tony, the fade from black to blue signifies his triumph over kidney disease.

The shoe’s yellow contrast stitching and outsole, along with Tony’s number 15 along the heel, are all inspired by one of his favorite athletes, Carmelo Anthony of the Denver Nuggets. Just under his favorite number is the date he received his transplant, as well as a sequence of four stars, representing the Generals, his Grant High School mascot. With his extensive Air Jordan collection, Tony is known at his Grant High School as quite the sharp dresser, always matching head to toe and rotating his many shoes with a crisp pair every day. He likes the Air Jordan V’s and XI’s most, and Tony says the one phrase that best describes him is simply, “I’m Fresh.” Designer Jason Mayden helped him out by including a cartoon character of Tony along the tongue tag, with his nickname Mr. Boober and his defining phrase all included.

Tony’s family also plays a major role in his life, as he credits them with keeping his spirits high during his hardest times while at Doernbecher. His nickname, Mr. Boober, was the result of his mother ReEtta and her friends constantly joking about how mature and grownup he acted, and Tony jokes that he’s had his mustache since he was a kid. The name has stuck for years, and his mom says kids at his school might not even know his real name, as to everyone he’s just Mr. Boober. He’s closest to his mother, and she rightfully headlines a list of his “Angels” along an affixed dog tag that also includes the names of his siblings, Aunt and Uncle and two Doernbecher doctors. He takes the angel theme even further, as large angel wings help tell his story along the upper. Also at the heel, you’ll notice several Palm trees, which represent the calm and tranquil islands of the Bahamas. Tony hopes to one day take his mother there for a much deserved vacation, where the two can relax and reflect over the hardships and scary times they conquered together.

Aside from all of the extensive details and inspiration making up Tony’s Freestyle Air Jordan 1, he was also presented with a special pair for his own collection, as well as an extra pair in his size 7 to wear. The pair he was first presented with includes a wooden box specially laser etched by Jordan Brand Creative Director Mark Smith. The box includes the 5th Year Doernbecher Freestyle Anniversary logo along the top, which is actually Smith’s handprint with a Roman Numeral V. Inside you’ll find the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital logo as well as Tony’s name also lasered into the wood, making for an intricate package and keepsake. The added touch is also Tiger Woods’ signature along the left toe cap, as Tiger and his wife Elin are avid supporters of the Doernbecher and Nike Freestyle project. They both take the time to learn every year about each young designer and former Doernbecher patient and also collect the shoes from the series.

While the joy in the project is certainly seeing young kids like Tony beaming at their designed shoes, the Nike and Doernbecher Freestyle series is also a great charitable event that helps raise money for the Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. The shoes will be sold at retail at Niketown stores as well as on on November 14th, with all of the procesds benefiting the hospital. Each year, each shoe is also auctioned off, with all proceeds going to Doernbecher to help buy supplies and new medical equipment, as well as pay for research grants and also provide funding help for families in need. Last night, Tony’s “Fresh” Air Jordan 1 went for $12,500, further helping the Doernbecher Foundation provide future medical care to children in need! There is also an anonymous donor who has stepped up to match every auction’s ending price, helping the Freestyle project in its quest to beat last year’s raised donation of $850,000.

Keep checking back for more details and pictures of the four other Doernbecher sneakers that are set to release November 14th. For designer interviews, further auction results and extensive coverage of this year’s five Doernbecher shoes as well as all past Doernbecher shoes, be sure to check out Issue 25 of Sole Collector.

Thank Nick DePaula of Sole Collector Magazine for the story.

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