This piece was originally published in Dime 70. You can check it out in its entirety by picking up the issue on newsstands nationwide…
Everyone claims they’re a sneakerhead, yet only a few really take it to the next level. Joe Johnson might have thousands of shoes, but he also has a sneaker vault equipped with a James Bond-styled fingerprint system. That makes his collection just a little bit different.
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Joe Johnson beckons us to follow him into the shadows.
“Shh,” he motions with his finger, whispering. “You gotta be quiet so you don’t wake the sneakers up.”
Lights come on. Jaws drop.
All professional basketball players buy cars. A few will start up record labels with childhood friends or buy into restaurants. Some purchase houses with luxurious outdoor swimming pools, movie theaters and even bowling lanes. Joe Johnson built a sneaker vault, and then secured it with a fingerprint system so restricted that even Ocean’s Eleven couldn’t break in to get the goods.
The six-time All-Star, who averaged 18.8 points for the 40-26 Atlanta Hawks this past season, never shies away from showing off the fruits of his labor. In Dime #37, we featured his suped-up super truck. Since then, he’s added an interesting paint job to it, as well as acquiring an all-white Matte Aston Martin with a red interior.
But it’s that sneaker closet that stands out today. Big enough to shoot baskets in, large enough to hold over 1,000 pairs of Jordans, actually calling this part of his Atlanta home a “closest” doesn’t do it justice. A closet wouldn’t have a bed. A closet wouldn’t have a ceiling lined with mirrors or a wall with a basketball hoop. And a closet definitely wouldn’t be this exclusive.
Joe puts it simply: “You can’t get in the vault man unless you’re Joe Johnson.”
A 6-7 swingman with career averages of 17.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.4 assists, Johnson has been a part of the Jordan Brand for six years. With all of his custom player exclusives flowing in on a regular basis, it didn’t take that long to run out of room. Even now, Johnson admits it won’t be long until he has to expand his vault again.
During a break from this hectic 66-game season, Johnson brought us to his Atlanta crib to show off his unique car collection and the impressive sneaker vault. Why’d he need something so grand? We’ll let him explain.
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Dime: Describe the room to me.
Joe Johnson: It’s a nice size. It’s big enough for me and probably about six or seven of my friends. We all go in there and we shoot on the goal that I got hanging up in there. We might bet for pushups or you gotta go jump in the pool when it’s ice cold outside. It’s pretty big. I take naps in there too. I got a bed that was in there. I took it out but I’m gonna put it back in.
Dime: So you actually do stuff in there? It’s not just a sneaker closet?
JJ: Nah. Well I mean that’s the main theme of it, my sneaker closet. But I just try to do some cool stuff, put a bed, a TV in there, things of that nature. I just like the feel of it.
Dime: How did you get the idea for this?
JJ: Man, it was just a vision I had. I’ve never seen it before. It was empty space down there and we stockpiled a lot of stuff in there so I was like, ‘Man, I wanna clean it out and turn it into a shoe closet,’ because my shoes were just built up all over the house. I didn’t know where to put them. I just came up with that idea and just kinda ran with it.
Dime: I see you have your sneakers all out of their boxes. Do you have to do anything to keep them in nice condition?
JJ: I just keep the little tissue cushion stuff in the shoe but other than that the room has a great temperature. It’s not too hot, not too cold. I guess that has something to do with the condition of the shoes. But nah, I don’t have to do nothing. I just sit them over there. I get shoes and put them in place.
Dime: Is there a set temperature?
JJ: It depends. If I go in there and take a nap, I might have it a little cooler than normal. I like it to be a little cool. It just depends on the weather outside I guess.
Dime: Are the sneakers organized in any way?
JJ: Not really. I just kinda put them in. I didn’t really want to organize them to the point where you’re going the 1s, 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s. I just thought the different color would be a lot better.
Dime: Are the ceilings mirrors?
JJ: Yeah the ceilings are mirrors. They make it look bigger than it really is.
Dime: How long did it take for you to put this whole thing together?
JJ: Probably a few months. I think it was probably about four months to get everything done.
Dime: Do you keep all your sneakers here?
JJ: Yeah just about. I’ve got my closet in my room that has a gang of sneakers. I’ve got sneakers all through the house, but that main room right there holds the majority of them.
Dime: I heard there’s a fingerprint system?
JJ: Yeah. For me man, it’s kinda like this sacred, 007-type. You see all the movies to where you have to use your fingerprint to get through the door. I wanted that so I just implemented it in my house and put it on my shoe closet.
Dime: Are you the only one that can get in there or can some of your friends?
JJ: Nah, I’m the only one.
Dime: What size sneaker do you wear?
JJ: I wear a 16.