MOUNT PROSPECT, Ill., March 28 (AP)-- Stephon Marbury started it. Now, Ben Wallace is joining the cause.

Wallace is lending his name to the Starbury Movement, endorsing an affordable line of sneakers and apparel started by the New York Knicks' star. Wallace will begin wearing the Starbury II basketball shoe Thursday when the Chicago Bulls play his former team, the Detroit Pistons. And his own sneaker - Big Ben - is expected to hit the market in late August or the fall.

"Kids don't really understand what it takes to go out and buy a pair of $300 pair of shoes,'' Wallace said at a news conference on Tuesday. "We don't understand the pressure we put on our parents when we're growing up. This is one of the things where I think the parents will appreciate it a lot more than the kids right now because it eliminates so much stress from the parents. All parents want to see their kids have nice things.''

Launched a year ago, the Starbury line is expanding from 50 products to 200 - nearly all available for $14.98 or less at Steve & Barry's University Sportswear. It includes a joggers shoe, skater shoe, casual shoe, gym shoe, woven shirts, jackets, jeans, T-shirts, shorts, hats and other accessories.

At a time when youngsters feel pressure to wear expensive brands of shoes and clothing and are even being killed for what's on their feet, Marbury and Wallace are trying to provide an alternative.

"Once parents and their kids begin to see that other pro athletes are getting down with this, then it just makes a world of difference,'' Marbury said in a phone interview. "It's not just one person doing it. Other people are wearing the shoes. Other people are putting their feet inside of shoes that they're saying are cheap.''

Marbury and Wallace are not paid to endorse the products. Instead, they earn royalties on sales.

Marbury and representatives from Steve & Barry's started developing the line after discussing it over dinner about a year-and-a-half ago, while Wallace joined in about four months ago.

Marbury said adding the four-time defensive player of the year "gives the brand some credibility,'' and he plans to get more players involved. He hopes that, in turn, will help spread the word to children and their parents - that there are good, cheaper alternatives. Alternatives he wishes were available when he was younger.

Growing up on Coney Island in Brooklyn, Marbury couldn't afford the top brands. So he wore "everything. No specific shoe.''

For Wallace, it was a steady flow of hand-me-downs.

The 10th of 11 children and the youngest of eight boys, he grew up poor in White Hall, Ala. He knows he had shoes, but which brands? He couldn't say.

"I had to wait in line,'' said Wallace, who was wearing a White Sox cap, jeans, a striped short sleeve shirt and a pair of white Starbury low-top sneakers. "It's tough at times because you see everybody else getting new shoes. You want to be a part of that crowd. Sometimes, you're just not able.''

But with the Starbury line and the Big Ben sneaker coming out, there are more opportunities.

Although the shoes are inexpensive, Marbury and Wallace said they're as durable as the more expensive brands.

"If you were to cut this in half, there's absolutely no difference between this and the most expensive sneakers on the market,'' Steve & Barry's spokesman Howard Schacter said, holding a red, white and blue Starbury II. "This provides arch support, a reinforced heal. It really is the same deal, and what Ben and Steph are wearing on court is exactly the same shoe.''

Marbury said: "It's not that they're cheap; they're just affordable. Now, as we begin to sign more players, kids won't feel that burden.''

Wallace acknowledged he had doubts, but they went away once he tried a few pairs.

"They last just as long as any other pair,'' he said. "I hope people do realize that regardless of how much you do pay for a pair of sneakers, eventually they are going to wear (out) somewhere.''


Ben Wallace #3 of the Chicago Bulls.
D. Lippitt/Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images

Stephon Marbury of the New York Knicks tries to comfort a crying child at the Steve & Barry's retail store.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images

Stephon Marbury of the New York Knicks at the Northland Mall as part of the Starbury Movement Tour September 14, 2006 in Blaine, Minnesota.
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images


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