Phi Slama Jama Lives On...But Not In Houston

Categories: Sports
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Photo courtesy Nike

With a 31-3 record and slam-dunking skills like no other, the "dunking fraternity" Phi Slama Jama put University of Houston men's basketball on the map in 1983. So much so that Nike will soon be releasing a shoe commemorating the team: a limited edition release, the Big Nike Hi LE will be sold only at House of Hoops Foot Locker locations in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

That's great -- people in those cities will be thrilled, but what about those in Houston that, you know, actually attend or have attended UH?

"That's got to be an unbelievable oversight," Thomas Bonk, the former Houston Post writer and the man who coined the phrase "Phi Slama Jama," tells Hair Balls. "Houston should be the place they're launched, and they should get all the players involved, and they should make a big deal about it."


With rumors floating about a Houston location, maybe HOH will make a big deal of it, but after transferred call after transferred phone call, the only person to mention to Hair Balls an opening in Houston has been a random employee at the New York House of Hoops location.

Through "Nike Talk," an online forum for the sneaker-loving community, word on the street is that a Houston location was set to open in March of this year at Willowbrook Mall. But user Kadoma posted, "Due to the current state of the economy plans have been put on hold indefinitely."

After more than two weeks, Nike still has yet to comment on anything regarding the shoe or its release. The shoes are commonly known on many websites as the "Nike Big Nike Hi LE - Phi Slamma Jamma" -- with two 'm's -- even though the team's nickname is only spelled with one 'm.'

"It's with one 'm,' and when this whole thing happened in 1983, I got a call from Sports Illustrated saying that I misspelled it, and I said, 'How could I misspell it? I made it up,'" says Bonk, now a writer for Golf Digest.

In defense to whether Nike is dodging a copyright bullet by adding a letter or two, Jeff Conrad, sports information director for the men's basketball team at the University of Houston said, "That's a common mistake...we have Cougar fans who spell it with two 'm's."

Even if they were trying to avoid a lawsuit, it would be UH's bone to pick.

"What I basically wound up doing was kind of giving the phrase to the University of Houston as a gift to the athletic department," Bonk said, "and I'm happy with that."

The Big Nike Hi LE will be decked out in Coach Guy V. Lewis' typical red, white and black plaid jacket, copied on the shoes' side panels. Red and white, the official university colors, accent the entire shoe. The shoes are emblazoned with symbols representative of the fraternity: a Greek letter Phi, a slam dunker silhouette and a broken backboard.

Unfortunately, the University of Houston will not be selling them in the merchandising department of the athletic office, Conrad said. And with all the Cougar pride out there, the shoes are bound to turn a profit, but Bonk won't see a penny for it -- and he doesn't mind.

 "Oh, no, I'm happy for it...I had so much fun covering that team and they were such great players and those memories are forever so, no, I have no problem...anything that makes the University of Houston stand out is good in my book," Bonk said.

Good sport.
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