TGRR Blog: Finch’s Performance Review Primer


Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

As a forerunner to my in-depth performance review – which will be launched in the upcoming days – I wanted to share the key aspects of performance shoes that I find important. These topics are the areas that my review will be centered around. Also, I want to share with you some of my favorite past performance sneakers so you can see examples of the shoes I have worn and draw parallels to you own experiences. If you have read the review primer from my colleague Jake Sittler you will see that we share many of the same points. Even though our playing styles differ, some aspects of performance shoes transcend any stylistic differences.

I like to think of myself as a point/forward, switching between wing and post throughout the game a la Royce White (when he played for Iowa State) so the overall fit of a shoe is very important to me. I need a shoe that keeps me locked into the midsole while banging in the post with bigs, but also allows me to keep my footing when making a crossover, making cuts and playing defense. Jake made a statement in his primer that I thought echoes true for me as well: “A performance shoe should be an extension of the foot.” This should ring true whether you play basketball or table tennis – fit matters.

When I try on a shoe for the first time the first thing that I pay close attention to is the fit overall. Do I have room in the toebox? How does the shoes lock my foot in when its laced and tied? The overall cushion on the inside of the tongue and inner bootie also plays a major factor on how I determine the quality of fit. If you knew me, you would know that I am a sucker for shoes that come equipped with straps. Straps for me put the icing on the cake. I feel more secure and locked in to the shoe, making the shoe more a part of me.

The best shoe in terms of fit for me would have to be the Adidas TS Commander LT. The inner bootie was completely memory foam and the shoe ran a bit small at first so it felt like you were wearing a shoe that was custom made for your foot. You were completely locked in and even though it was a shoe made popular by a power forward (Tim Duncan) I didn’t feel as if you were restricted in movement nor did I feel like I was wearing a lumbering space boot i.e. the Total Foamposite Max. The TS Commander offered amazing near customized fit while also offering a clean, streamlined silhouette.

Heel – toe transition
Due to the fact the I am a multiple-position player, heel to toe transition is an aspect of a shoe that I like to pay attention to. The key is to get a natural gait so I can run smooth without hitches or hangups. I’m a big fan of the new Nike Hyperdistuptor (in-depth review coming soon) but I found the shoe to be a bit too flexible for my liking.

The shoe that has given me what I look for in heel to toe transition would have to be the Nike Force Max (yes another shoe worn by a big.) The shoe has a sole that is slightly curved in the front directly under the toe box and this exaggerated angle allows the foot to move naturally, making the wearer’s gait smooth and almost effortless. This actually differs from many of the other shoes from the Nike Force collection, and it’s a good example why this shoe was worn by players that play many different positions.

Cushion is one of those things that can go under the radar or be taken for granted but in todays sneaker world, especially in long-term performance, cushion is huge. It the difference between playing in a Converse Chuck Taylor or a Lebron X (ok maybe not that dramatic but you get the point.) As I look back on the types of shoes that I have worn, I have realized that I am an Air Max guy in my casual shoes – for example the Jordan IV or Air Max 1. But when it comes to hoops, in a perfect world I would prefer to play in a Zoom Air forefoot, Max Air heel combination. The best example for me is the Nike Kevin Garnett III (ok maybe I did that one on purpose). To me, a Nike Zoom forefoot unit and Air Max heel are two products that hold hands in sweet, sweet union. If you want an example of this cushioning system in today’s market, the KD V is a shining example – a three-time scoring champion can’t be wrong, right?

I am a big supporter of herringbone. To me it just works and it’s a classic, though I must admit the shoe that I am currently using for ball contradicts my affinity herringbone. I am currently hooping in the Jordan 2012, which showcases a very peculiar multi-directional, almost square like patterns on the bottoms. Although I am not completely sold on this type of traction, it has been more than pleasantly surprising. Since the shoes are still fairly new, I’ll ride with ’em but I still think I would rather prefer herringbone.

In the modern era of performance, many of the new basketball shoes are being produced using synthetic materials in order to make the shoes lighter and more flexible. On the other hand, using synthetic materials in my opinion has had an impact on the overall quality of the shoes of today. I am big fan of leather and/or suede upper in my shoes, there is something to be said about using high-grain leather on a performance shoe – they break in so nicely and wear so gracefully. With that said, my flagship for durability would have the be the Nike Air Max Sweep Thru (Amare Stoudemire’s quasi-signature shoe.) My colorway has a grey suede upper and a bright orange strap, and this shoe and I have gone thru the ringer. From everyday hoop wear at the rec center to outdoor and indoor tournaments – that we came out on top of for the most part – it’s just been a solid shoe that wears and weathers beautifully over time.

The shoe that has to be my favorite performance model of all-time has to be the Nike Zoom Huarache 2k4. I hooped in that shoe as a child and as an adult in both the mids (that came with a wonderful strap) and the low-cut version. Its just a shoe that fits what I want to do on the court. Although its not a perfect shoe – it has its shortcomings in cushion and fit – the 2K4 is that rare shoe that can be called jack of all trades but a master of none…and that’s kind of like me.

TGRR Blog: First Impressions of the Reebok ATV 19+


Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

Like many, I could be called skeptical about change and especially when it come to sneakers. After watching the promotional videos for Reebok’s ATV 19+ featuring “Rampage” Jackson (who just retired, mind you) as the pitchman, I must admit I was more than apprehensive; entertained, but apprehensive nonetheless. I was concerned that Reebok had made a grave mistake after a great run of retro releases from their Classics line (which included the previously written-about Kamikaze II.) and the ATV 19+ seemed to be a step in the wrong direction.

I was was confused about the functionality of the sole, which has 19 “Lugs” (a term coined by Reebok) which are supposed to help you run and train on virtually any type of surface. While looking at spec pictures, I was confused about how the Lugs would be viable in terms of the overall stability of the shoe since no part of the sole itself was a flat surface.

I brought my grievances to Sittler, who is well versed in sneaker technology, and a big fan of innovation. He too was was very wary of the comfort and the the overall functionality of the design. Even with all of our doubts, we both were trying to be the first to try on the kicks and to share our experiences with you fine people.

I got the opportunity to try on the ATV19+ yesterday as I was leaving my job at Foot Locker. As I was walking to the exit, I walked by the Finish Line in the same mall (I usually try not to frequent this store because I try hard not to buy shoes without my discount unless its completely necessary.) There on the door display sat an ATV19+. I couldn’t resist. I made a beeline with the shoe in hand to the nearest sales associate. Before I knew it I was sitting on a bench with the classic blue Reebok box in my lap (in other words It was about to go down).

The shoe comes in three colorways: a black, blue and orange “Rampage” colorway, a grey, black and lime green, and a red, black and yellow. I thought it was fitting to try on the “Rampage” colorway. The first thing I noticed when I opened the box was the length of the shoe. I wear a size thirteen so I’m used to the shoes in my size looking totally different than the shoe on the display. This shoe was a monster. The Lugs looked like they jutted seemingly from every which way, and even though the shoes’ shared identical Lug placement there didn’t seem to be a real pattern. The position of the Lugs also played a major factor in the overall width of the shoe as well.

As I put the shoe on my foot I came to the realization of two things:
1) That the ATV’s are a bit narrow
2) The ATV’s run a bit long

After tying the laces for a secure fit I stood up and the most amazing thing happened: the Lugs, which I previously thought to be locked in their respective positions, began to flatten once my body weight was applied. The Lugs work cooperatively with the soft midsole, almost making them like the Reebok equivalent to Nike Free plus Shox in some weird/awesome hybrid combination.

To say it in as few words as possible, these shoes are awesomely comfortable. I just wish they looked a bit better. To be honest, after viewing the shoe on foot for a while it begins to grow on you but still it’s a pretty ugly piece of footwear. When I talked to my source at Reebok they explained to me that the shoe was built for functionality and comfort and not as a fashion statement.

I can dig it but still I wish they would have done something better than what they did. I would have loved to pick the shoes up and done a total in-depth review but until then, the jury still is out on the overall functionality of the shoe. I am still very curious to see how The ATV 19+ perform in the elements intended. I guess I’ll have to save that for another time.

The Reebok ATV 19+ is available at and of course with a price tag of $139.99. I thought that they ran a bit long so you may want to think about getting a half-size smaller. If you can’t overlook the aesthetics of the shoe and if $140 is a little too much for your pocket, I strongly advise that you hit up your local Finish Line and at least try them on – you won’t regret it.

TGRR Blog: The Return of the Reignman

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

In my last post I talked about the re-emergence of big man shoes in today’s sneaker market and I’m going to continue with the same theme in my latest pick up. I present to you the Reebok Kamikaze II OG Sonics, which I think is even cooler because of the possibility of the Supersonics coming back to the NBA. I was able to pick up the shoe from the good folks at City Gear for around $109.00 tax and shipping included in an early morning release day pick up. The Kamikaze II is the latest in a line of nice retro releases from Reebok Classics which include Emmitt Smith’s ES22, Allen Iverson’s The Question and Answer IV’s and Dominique Wilkins’ colorway of the Twilight Pumps. I have been more than excited about all these releases and am proud to say that I was able to pick up almost all of these retro’s for a modest price and great quality (ed. note: Sittler is pumped for the DMX 10 and Answer I releases too).  With that said, the Kamikaze is by far one of my favorite retro pick-ups to date.

The Kamikaze II was made famous by Shawn Kemp, one of the most athletically gifted players of the 1990’s not named Michael Jeffery Jordan. He was dubbed “The Reignman” because his ability to dunk on any and everybody. You will not find a top 10 dunkers list without Kemp’s name on it. The man had the rare ability jump so gracefully, but also throw it down with ridiculous power and what Shaq called “Funk” – creativity/swagger. If you were to use a player comparison of someone in today’s NBA, he was like a combination of Josh Smith and Blake Griffin, but with a flat top.

Kemp played for the Seattle Supersonics from 1990-1997. In those years he teamed up with Gary “The Glove” Payton (who is also rumored to have his Nike shoe re-released later in the year) to form one of the most dominant guard/forward tandems of the 90s outside of MJ and Pippen. Besides having catchy nicknames, Kemp and Payton ran roughshod over the Western Conference over their tenure in Seattle. Those seven seasons included five straight 50+ win seasons and two NBA Finals appearances (where they lost to the Bulls as did everyone did in the 90s.) Be that as it may, Kemp put up some highlights that will remain in NBA history forever and some pretty dope shoes as well.

The Kamikaze II “Sonics” is a mid top shoe with a white and black, leather and nubuck upper. Its most distinguishing feature is the black, almost lightning bolt, nubuck design that engulfs nearly the entire upper. This shoe also has accents of green on the midsole as well as green Reebok Vector logos throughout the shoe, which really pop against the black and white canvas. The sole is black with a classic herringbone design, the most functional setup from a performance standpoint in my eyes. There is also a green wave at the forefoot flex point and a chili red Reebok logo. In the sole itself Reebok uses Hexalite, which is comparable to Nike Zoom or Air Max. Hexalite works by using many hexagonal pods placed closely together, making a shape similar to a honeycomb. When weight is applied to the grouping of hexagons, they bend and mold around the foot while acting like a spring as it deflects and spreads the weight of the foot, helping on-court performance. The Kamikaze II was one of the first shoes to use this technology but it’s still being used on many new and retro silhouettes, including the Kamikaze I (which is also rumored to be released in the near future) and many shoes from the Iverson line. From a breathability standpoint – like most shoes from this era – they offer little relief so I suggest you let them air out after wearing them on the court or as a fashion statement.

Since the KII’s retro debut it has been worn on court by one of my favorite young players, Sacramento Kings’ point guard Isaiah Thomas (cool because he’s from Seattle, and ironic because the team could be moving back there soon.) Los Angeles Clippers’ shooting guard Willie Green has brought them out as well. They were also worn off the court by Rick Ross, Swizz Beatz and Jay-Z.

Since the success of the OG colorway, Reebok has followed up the release with rumors of a red and black colorway and a black and white on February 1. If you couldn’t get your hands on the OG colorway, make sure you get your funds ready by the first; I believe that it will be worth it. This shoe has a very nice combination of style and functionality that will appeal to today’s modern baller. You can’t go wrong with the price either!


TGRR Blog: Who says bigs don’t sell shoes?

Prose: Finch (@Sir_Stymie)

Over the last few months there has been a resurgence in retro big man shoes from the late 80’s and 90’s. This push was started by the retro of the Ewing 33 Hi by Ewing Athletics and was continued as adidas brought back their classic Ewing silhouette with the Conductor Hi.  Nike on the other hand has pushed the envelope with the reemergence of the Nike Force collection which is a personal favorite of mine. The Force collection was centered around two of the most recognizable big men of the 90’s: Charles Barkley and “The Admiral” David Robinson (who in my personal opinion has some of the sickest PEs in NBA history).

Nike released the Nike Air Force 180 Mid/Hi (depending on where you shop) earlier this year in two dope colorways: the Suns colorway in honor of Barkley (even though he didn’t wear the shoe at any point in his career) and the David Robinson Spurs colorway, which I thought was more fitting because it was one of Nike’s most Popular PEs and the shoe that Robinson is most known for. Although Nike changed the retro quite a bit with the removal of the famous ankle pump system, under the hood the shoe performs admirably to it’s predecessor .

Nike followed this same formula with the retro on another Nike Force classic, the Nike Air Max 2 Strong. I was lucky enough to pick up early via phone order from the good folks at Rock City Kicks. The shoe was originally released in 1995 and was widely used in the NBA and NCAA – most notably the Fab Five of Michigan – in both high and unreleased mid versions. Although this is a retro silhouette, Nike has made several upgrades that offer plenty to today’s modern ballplayers while still staying true to the original design.

The Nike Air Max 2 Strong was released in two colorways. The Barkley colorway (gray, orange and purple) which he never wore, and of course my main man D-Rob’s classic (black and white) colorway which Robinson himself donned several times during his career. I, of course, picked up the Robinson color and was pleasantly surprised with the quality. The straps on the ankle and the heel are fully functional and supply a snug and locked in fit while the padded ankle sleeve and large heel Max unit add comfort and functionality. The upper sports in a plush leather with an overlay of black nubuck. This gives the shoe’s upper a very nice style contrast, though different from the all-nubuck upper of the OG. I think this was a major aesthetic upgrade to the shoe’s design. The 2 Strong’s midsole has a very aggressive design, seen on the Nike Air Max Barkley and the Nike Air Force Max (which also released this month) as well. The fingerprint grip pattern on the bottom stays true to the original design and also is a unique and functional – this idea was also applied to the Jordan XXIII.

Even though I personally love this shoe, it does have some flaws. Breathability may be a problem if you plan to play ball in these. The leather doesn’t have any air holes, and your foot could get sweaty with extended hoop time. The leather tends to be a be a bit stiff but after a few runs you should be fine.

The shoe also runs a bit big. I wear a 13 but was fine with a 12; though if you plan on wearing a Sneaker Shield or a Force Field you should stay true to size. I think if you go a half-size smaller you will find creasing to be minimal to nonexistent.

This shoe has become one of my favorites in my collection because of it versatility and overall cleanliness of the shoe. I’ve always had a thing for all black Nikes with a white swoosh (ed. note: what up Fab 5!) because they look good with jeans, shorts, sweats, anything really because it doesn’t matter. It’s just a dope pair of kicks. These shoes are available at Foot Locker and Finish Line, as well as many sneaker boutiques. I’m really excited to see what Nike has in store and what other brands follow suit in the re-emergence of retro shoes for the big fellas. Here’s hoping for a Nike Air Unlimited retro