In Memoriam - My Nike LeBron Zoom Soldier (2008-2009)

Nike LeBron Zoom Soldier overview: "The Nike Zoom Soldier is an aggressively designed, impeccably cushioned basketball shoe inspired by the incomparable LeBron James. This shoe represents the DNA of The King: Team, Toughness, Passion and Vision. It is all about durability, strength and comfort. Full-grain leather upper with syntetic forefoot lockdown wrap system along with interior fit sleeve allows you to create a great fit and keep your foot locked in place for a ultimate lockdown. Full-length lightweight Phylon midsole with Zoom Air (heel and forefoot) unit adds lightweight yet very responsive low-profile cushioning. Solid non-marking rubber outsole gives durable, multidirectional traction. Four stitch system stands for maximum durability. This historic shoes guided LeBron James all the way through the 2007 Playoffs to his first ever NBA Finals appearance."

I remembered buying my first ever proper basketball shoes while I was studying in UK, but it took across the Atlantic Ocean and the American mainland to get them. San Diego to be exact. Besides being ditched by my magnanimous cousin who thought it'll be a preview of how his love life is gonna be like (which I responded by taking him to Sea World). I first saw this gem at the National City Mall, and the pretty hot lady didn't have a Jordan Spiz'ikes for sale. I was bummed initially, having wasted an 8-hour trip for nothing. So I "settled" for the Zoom Soldier instead. Boy, did I realized it was the start of great things that came shortly afterwards.

Upon return from San Diego, I immediately joined the MSSM Games in 2008. It was also the first time the aptly-named Brunei Select debut on the UK stage. Back then I thought it was illegal to bring a team fully compromised of purely Bruneian students from different Universities across the nation to compete in a Malaysian tournament, so I registered them under the BruManch Society (the loophole was they belonged to the Manchester Students Union... Yeah it's that complicated). We lost the first game, and that wasn't exactly the best way to start the tournament and pumped the team up. I thought my experiment was slowly going up in flames.

We got better in the second game and then the third, not really demolishing opponents but did well enough to garner some attention onto us especially with Mizi's stellar plays as well as Zainul's low-post dominance. We went on to win the rest of the tournament and received our first gold medals ever for Brunei Select. So what's this got to do with the Zoom Soldiers that I bought? Simple - it was the first UK tournament I ever won with.

Not long after winning the tournament, I began using the shoes on a daily basis for pick-up games. Whether it was outdoors at the park or indoors at the University gym, it didn't matter. It was the only pair of proper basketball shoes I had plus I was slowly attaining the keen awareness of what 'kicks' were. Nowadays you'll see me decking different sneaks everynight, and half the time I have yet to play in them! So you could thank the Zoom Soldier for making me a junior sneakerhead. About two months later, we would join the Malaysian Sheffield Games that year. Needless to say, it was our repeat performance and we would win our second straight title with the newly formed team.

Once again, I found myself being a winner with these babies. So why am I blogging about them now?

Well you could say I'm retrospecting the first proper basketball shoes I ever had from UK, and what it meant to me. I'm also doing this as a tribute as I will be parting with them soon enough. I'm giving them away to a good friend, and I know he will take care of it. Yes, I will miss them for sentimental reasons and they have served me well, but I reckon it will do more good on somebody else since I rarely use them. It will be a shame if I let it to rot away in the darkness of my shoe cabinet, so this is the justice I'm giving to the shoes that I can't thank enough to.

Goodbye, Nike LeBron Zoom Soldier. May serve your new master well. Just don't get anklebreak.

Abandoned Workers Survived On Fishing and Wild Vegetables

Huh. I thought this country can't get any worse. I guess I was wrong. How embarrassing and frustrating to hear these people's plight and to know it is caused by one of our own. So much for being friendly and wealthy.


Abandoned workers survive on fishing and wild vegetables
By James Kon

Twenty-eight foreign construction workers were allegedly abandoned by their employer
without a cent in wages for four months and left to fend for themselves.
The construction workers who are staying at a double-storey wooden building in the Kilanas industrial area approached the Borneo Bulletin to voice their plight.
The victims comprised 14 Thais, three Indonesians, nine Indians and two Filipinos.
One of the construction workers from Thailand, Khammat, claimed that, "We haven't received any salary for four months from our employer. We have barely enough money to buy food everyday".
The construction worker who has been working in Brunei for around two years alleged that, "Some of the workers have to look for fish in a stream and wild vegetables to put food on the table. It's hard. We have nowhere to go and no money. If there is food, we always share, (but) there is barely enough for everyone.
"Recently I went to my employer's house to demand our salary but I was chased out of his house.
"We lodged a complaint with the various embassies and the Labour Department around two months ago but we are still stuck here."
When asked where their passports are, he replied, "Our passports are still kept by our employer". However, he did produce a photocopy of his passport and work permit.
Another worker Soban Soprang who was among the few lucky ones who managed to obtain a stable job with another company claimed that, "The workers and myself haven't seen a penny for four months from my former employer.
"I was lucky enough to find another job as a mechanic, but the rest still don't know whom to turn to for assistance.
"We did lodge complaints but nothing has been done to force the employer to pay up our salary.
"The victims' families also suffer in their home countries as there are no income being sent back.
"We would like to plead to the relevant authorities to help solve the issue as soon as possible," he said.
Mr Ana Juk, Minister Counsellor of Labour at the Royal Thai Embassy in Brunei when contacted said that the embassy had received a complaint from the construction workers and is trying to help by trying to transfer the workers to other potential companies. However, this is not easy, he said.

Source: Borneo Bulletin, "Abandoned workers survive on fishing and wild vegetables", 4th August 2009.