Inside the Store Where Famous Athletes Got Their Shoes
When you're 7 feet tall and have feet that are larger than a standard Brannock device, it can be hard to find shoes that fit. In a recent installment of its 30 for 30 documentary series, ESPN profiled an Atlanta store that specialized in helping athletes solve that problem.
Because of their wide selection of men's footwear in above average sizes, Friedman's Shoes became a mandatory stop for athletes like Mike Tyson, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, and Michael Jordan in the 1980s and '90s.
"My dad knew that if he bought them, people would come," current owner Brett Teilhaber said in the documentary of his father Bruce. "And sure enough, they came."
Bruce decided to focus on selling large shoes after losing a sale to former Boston Celtics player and coach, Tom Heinsohn. The NBA legend took his business elsewhere when Friedman's Shoes didn't have the size that he wanted. Over the years, as athletes told other athletes about the store, the business took off and Friedman's became iconic.
"We couldn't buy too many shoes because people would come in and get eight to 10 pairs at a time," Bruce said. Some would buy even more. Shaq, who appears in the full documentary, said that he would get 20 pairs each time he walked into the store, joking that his "favorite kind was every kind."
Shaquille O'Neal picking shoes at Friedman's, Image via ESPN
Well-paid athletes and other customers who could afford to splurge began buying shoes made of exotic animal skins. Selling those status symbols helped Friedman's rack up an annual revenue of around $6 million during the peak years. The family enjoyed incredible success until the market and the shoe business changed in the late 1990s. The store now relies on its website to stay in business.
Watch the clip above, and head over to ESPN to see the full documentary.