I was 12 years old when I fell in love for the first time, and I remember exactly how it felt.

Growing up, I played basketball — a lot. I wasn’t the tallest kid, but it was the only sport I was good at. It’s all I did before and after school. Hot days, cold days, rainy days, etc — if I wasn’t in my room, I was at the school shooting hoops. While my parents wished I focused more on school, they recognized my passion and discipline for basketball so they supported it. My passion for basketball was unmatched by anything at that time, but it wasn’t my first love — I fell in love because of basketball.

My mother always bought me a new pair of basketball shoes every season. I was allowed one pair, and I needed to make them last through the entire year. I started playing basketball at the age of seven, and I always wanted the ‘coolest’ shoes. In 1996, Nike came out with one of the most iconic shoes of all time; the Air Penny 2. They were beautiful. Better yet, they were worn by my favorite player, Anfernee ‘Penny’ Hardaway. They were THE coolest shoe you could buy. My mother bought me the shoes — and I loved them!

I fell in love for the first time during the Final Four of the 1997 NCAA tournament.

I remember coming back from playing with my friends to watch the Arizona v. Kentucky game. I remember sitting right in front of the tv. I remember watching the game and staring directly at all of the shoes. I remember seeing Arizona’s star player, Mike Bibby, wearing these bright blue shoes. It was all I could focus on — stopped caring about the game — I was on a mission to find out what these shoes were. They were beautiful. They were something i’ve never seen before in my entire life. I needed them.

That was the day I officially fell in love with Nike and with the Nike Air Foamposite One.

I became obsessed with the Foamposite One. I printed out every picture I could off Infoseek of them. They were my favorite thing in the entire world.

When we went to the mall, I begged my mom to get them for me. I knew I already had a great pair of basketball shoes, but I NEEDED these! My mother shot that request down no questions asked. Devastated.

As the months went on, these shoes were all I thought about. The translucent outsole, the foamposite upper, the full length zoom unit, the carbon fiber — everything about these shoes were absolutely beautiful. Problem is, I didn’t have them — and I never got them that year. Even though I never bought them, my love for them never faded. As I grew up, I constantly watched the eBay/Niketalk prices so I would know how much I would need to save up to purchase them. I worked a ton of jobs between ‘97–’99. In the summer of 1999 finally saved up enough to purchase them off Niketalk for $500. I finally had them. A brand new pair of Foamposite One’s in a size 9 — my holy grail.

I only wore them a few times, because to me, these were a priceless work of art. Something I always said that I would frame when I got older. These shoes represented my childhood, my passion for basketball, and now a very strong artifact that played a crucial part in why I love Nike so much. I promised myself I would never sell them, I would never over-wear them, and I would always keep them in pristine condition.

That was the first time I fell in love.

I was 19 years old when I fell in love for the second time, and I remember exactly how it felt.

I met Elyssa in 2004 and I immediately knew she was the one. In fact, she’s the reason why I’m writing this today.

I remember knowing I would marry Elyssa, but I wanted to show her more than just telling her. Problem was, I was 19 and didn’t have any money. I didn’t have any money because I spent every dollar and cent on a pretty robust shoe collection I put together over the years — a shoe collection that was the embodiment of my love for Nike. So I did a bunch of research, and I calculated that if I sold the majority of my collection, I could buy a “promise ring” for Elyssa.

This was a huge day for me. I was pushing aside my love for Nike for something vastly greater, something more beautiful, I was doing it for love. I sold every single shoe I had to get enough money for this ring. Every single shoe, except for the Foamposite One (valued at $800 at the time). I could never let that one go. That piece of me, that piece of my childhood, that remaining reason to why people call me the ‘Nike guy’ or the ‘shoe guy’.

I went to the jewelry store to buy Elyssa the ring, so pumped because I was so excited for her to wear it! And so pumped for me to promise someone that I’m going to promise them the rest of my life!

Turns out I was $750 short.

Within a heartbeat, I knew what I had to do. It was the hardest/easiest decision I ever made. Hardest because if you’ve read up to this point, you know what these shoes mean to me. Easiest, because if you’ve read up to this point, you know how much I love Elyssa.

In the parking lot of a Longs Drugstore, I sold my Nike Foamposite One’s so I could buy Elyssa the promise ring.

We got married seven years later.

For the past year I’ve had my dream job.

As a kid, I always imagined what it would feel like to introduce myself as: “Eric Toda, from Nike”. I got to finally say that. I got the opportunity to join the best digital team ever assembled. A team that nobody could touch. A team that consisted of high profile people from Starbucks, Red Bull, AKQA, 72 and Sunny, TBWA/Chiat/Day, Soho House, Burberry, ESPN, and the NBA — if they were the best in the business, they were probably on our team. I can say i’ve worked on a World Series, a BCS Championship, a Super Bowl, and an MLB All Star Game. I’ve launched products, met athletes, helped sign athletes, met commissioners, and traveled the ballparks — dream come true?

You bet.

For a full year i’ve traveled back and forth between Portland (where I lived) and San Francisco (where Elyssa lived) to live out my dream of playing for Nike.

This year taught me an incredible amount. It taught me that dreams do come true. More importantly, it taught me how valuable my marriage is with Elyssa, because Elyssa is ‘home’. Being a transplant in Portland, it never felt like home — but it did when Elyssa came and visited. I realized that no matter where I was in the world, if I was with Elyssa, I was home.

As my time with Nike comes to a close I’ve been faced with making the hardest/easiest decision of my career.

Hardest, because if you’ve read up to this point, you know what Nike means to me.

Easiest, because if you’ve read up to this point, you know how much I love my wife.

I‘m coming home, @elyssa.

@toda