In November, Reebok announced a contest where fans could go on YourReebok.com and design a pair of ZigSlashes, John Wall’s new signature shoe. Wall would then choose the best design and wear a pair of those shoes on the court during NBA All-Star Weekend.

Drum roll, pleeeeeease ... Via Twitter, Wall announced the winner last week: “Want to say Congrats to Dylan Stratton on designing the winning shoe that I'm gonna be wearing all-star weekend!”

I had the chance to speak with the sweet and humble 19-year-old Stratton over the weekend while he was in Los Angeles for the All-Star festivities. It was among the perks he received from Reebok as the winner of the contest.

Stratton decided to enter the contest after his buddy in their hometown of Bardstown, Ky., had already submitted a design. But Stratton thought to do some research before devising his design, and that resulted in his outsmarting the rest of the field.

“I went with an All-Star theme with the colors, I knew that Wall would appreciate that," Stratton said of the design. "I looked at the other designs and tried to make mine different, I took inspiration from the Washington Bullets.”

Stratton is a dedicated fan, to say the least. He used to travel from Bardstown to Lexington to watch Wall play for the Kentucky Wildcats last season. His passion and attention to detail paid off.

“I’m a big fan of Wall, and through the years, when I watched him play he always wore patent leather and suede; I knew that was his thing," Stratton said. "That is why I made the two main sides of those materials, and it worked.”

It worked all right, Stratton received accommodations at the All-Star hosting hotel and a round-trip flight to LA, tickets to the rookie-sophmore challenge -- Wall was the game's MVP -- dunk contest and skills competition.

“At the hotel I kept running into the whole Reebok Staff, LeBron, Carmelo, Bosh, Durant and Garnett," Stratton said. "It was pretty cool.”

Reebok has some of the best strategic online marketing plans lately by combining stars and adoring fans with ease.

“Reebok also set it up where I got to meet John Wall, and he was a real cool guy," Stratton said. "He autographed the shoes and gave them to me. I brought my Wall jersey from when he played at Kentucky and his NBA rookie card, he signed both those too. It was a great day."

I could hear him smiling on the phone.

You can follow Dylan on Twitter @dylanstratton, and if you need a shoe design to make your own, let him know because he clearly does the best job.

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Brian Vickers is back on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit in 2011 after having to sit out nearly two-thirds of last season with a blood clot condition. Fully recovered, with a new outlook on his professional and personal life, Vickers competed Sunday at the Daytona 500 and plans to race a heavy schedule this season. I had a few intriguing questions for BV about life, racecars, food, uniforms and more:

TPG: How does your race car differ from an every-day car?

Vickers: There are many differences in a street car versus a race car. In NASCAR I drive a Toyota Camry, but it’s not like the street version. This race car has 850 horsepower, numerous safety features with roll bars and fire extinguishers, a spoiler on the back, no doors and no CD player. The tires are much bigger and have no tread. This allows more surface area to grip the race track. Our cars only have one seat, and it’s custom fitted. Finally, the gas we use too is a much higher octane. It produces much more power in the Toyota engine I race. It’s not something you can pick up at the gas pump at your local Sunoco.

TPG: How safe are you in your car?

Vickers: We are very protected overall, and I am strapped in with a five-point seat belt harness. We have no sunroof but what’s called “roof flaps” on top. We are going at high speeds and the car is spun around the roof flaps deploy and help to slow the car down and keep it on the ground.

TPG: What does it feel like in the driving uniform? Uncomfortable, fashionable, snug, loose?

Vickers: Each team designs their own “firesuits” with their logos and branding on it. In my case it's Red Bull. My firesuit is a one-piece suit that protects us in case of a fire. Red Bull does a great job of making the suit look good and stand out. They are all custom fitted for me, from inseams to waist, arms and chest --everything! If you’re going to sit in something for hours, it has to fit perfectly. The biggest issue with firesuits is that they are hot. When it’s 95 degrees out in Talladega, Alabama, I am roasting before I get in the
car. There are fans running and cooling equipment going at all times, but we can drop pounds of water weight quickly with each race.

TPG: What’s your favorite items in the closet?

Vickers: I have a bunch of “Astor and Black” suits that are very comfortable and stylish for events. I enjoy dressing up for a formal night out on the town. I also like John Varvaots and Hugo Boss casual clothing, both look and feel great. Big fan of a linen shirt while sitting around by the pool or at the beach.

TPG: Got a fashion tip to pass along?

Vickers: You also have to have a great pair of sunglasses. I really like the different lines that Oakley carries. If it’s for play or sport, they have something that will fit every need.

TPG: What’s your favorite restaurants for great food, friends and atmosphere?

Vickers: When I am living in New York, Italian is the way to go. I always try to go to Boom. The lasagna is fantastic. When I am living in Florida, I like Yolos in Fort Lauderdale. It has great indoor and outdoor dining. They have a fire pit out front with couches, great to gather around, even on a colder evening.

TPG: What are your favorite non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages?

Vickers: Ty Ku is the choice for 21+ drinks. Their soju and sake is awesome. I’m a big believer in keeping good company and always have it for my guests when entertaining. Water is what I drink most on race weekends. It can be very hot in the car and at some of the tracks that we go to on the NASCAR circuit, so I have to stay hydrated. How can I not mention Red Bull? I drink this over coffee and other caffeinated beverages, any day!

TPG: What do you find attractive (fashion wise) on the opposite sex?

Vickers: Whether it's business or casual, something that accentuates a woman’s assets. Oh, and a good pair of high heels doesn’t hurt.

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The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue hits mailboxes and newsstands later this week, but a gallery of pictures is already up and running online at SI.com.

Here are some of the shots in the package along with links to more from each model:

Irina Shayk



Brooklyn Decker



Leryn Franco



Damaris Lewis



Alyssa Miller



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Amid all the arguments about Polamalu and Matthews, Rodgers and Roethlisberger, AFC and NFC, the football experts have overlooked the biggest determining factor of Sunday’s Super Bowl XLV.

The uniforms.

Sure, games aren’t won on paper and you still have to play it out and all that good stuff. But let’s face it: Recent history points overwhelmingly to a Pittsburgh victory on Sunday, simply because the Steelers will be wearing white.

Each of the past six and 10 of the past 12 Super Bowl champions have worn white in the NFL’s big game. Once John Elway and the Broncos finally put an end to the NFC’s pesky 13-game winning streak in Super Bowl XXXII, color of uniform has become the most commonly shared trait of NFL champions.

How does the 10-2 record posted by the team in white stack up against more football-related stats, you ask? Really well, actually. In that dozen-year span, the Super Bowl favorites are only 8-4. The team with the higher regular-season point differential is 8-4. The team with the better defense is 7-5. The team with the better turnover margin is 7-5. The team with the better offense is 5-7. The team with the better record is 4-5 and the team with the better seed is 4-7.

Thus, the Patriots may have been better than the Giants by any and every statistical measure in 2007. But they couldn’t overcome the magic of the white uniform. (New York, in fact, was a mediocre 6-6 in blue jerseys that season and an invincible 8-0 in white.)

The only reasonable conclusion is that a team’s sartorial style has more to do with the outcome of the Super Bowl than its playing style. The Steelers at least seem to know this, having elected to wear their white uniforms for Super Bowl XL against the Seahawks after they had won their first three playoff games in road whites. Faced with the same circumstances this year, the Packers decided to stick with their home green jerseys.

It might be a mistake of staggering proportions.

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