TGRR Blog: State of the Industry, Part I: Jordan Brand

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

We’re fresh off of All-Star weekend, where superstars young and old had a spotlight shone upon them for a couple of fleeting days. The old guard – Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett, among others – shared the attention with the new guard led by James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Paul George and Jrue Holiday. Beyond the weekend itself, even rookies like Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis have announced their arrival over the first half of the season.

Sneaker companies and their respective kicks played a role during All-Star weekend too. Nike went all out with the Area 72 theme and dropped a massive amount of models. Jordan Brand released the much-anticipated XX8, which garnered more attention than any other single model. Under Armour was well-represented on the booth scene, showing off all their PEs and adidas is the NBA’s official sponsor.

Those companies also took advantage of the increased attention and launched marketing campaigns and unveiled new technology in the days and weeks surrounding the All-Star festivities. Nike went with the aforementioned Area 72 campaign and Jordan Brand was represented with the XX8 Days of Flight countdown that culminated with the brand’s most technologically advanced shoe ever. Adidas recently unveiled new Boost cushioning and Blade midsole, while Under Armour continued to push its Spine technology. Reebok even got into it on the Classics side, announcing the return of Shaquille O’Neal and his Shaq Attaq and Shaqnosis signatures.

For all the marketing and technology, those brands still rely on the performance of those products while on the feet of their athletes – and vice versa. With some of those players nearing the end of their playing days and others such as LeBron James and Kevin Durant already entrenched as the new breed of superstar, it’s time to take a look at the future of those sneaker companies. They’ll need both superior products and the right athletes wearing those products in order to be successful in a hypercompetitive market.

We’ll do this in several different installments, brand by brand, and the first company we’ll take a look at is Jordan Brand.

Jordan Brand
Overview
JB is a little hard to break down because of the sheer amount of retro and lifestyle basketball models compared to the relatively few true performance hoops models. It’s also in the process of integrating signature athletes Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook – and possibly signature shoes – after parting ways with Dwyane Wade. The launch of the next Jordan signature shoe, the XX8, was a polarizing event thanks to its looks (an eight-inch high zip-up shroud) and price tag (a staggering $250).

Market Share (U.S. Basketball Shoe market): 58% – via @MattSOS

Latest Performance Models
Jordan XX8
Jordan Melo M9 (Carmelo Anthony signature)
Jordan CP3 VI (Chris Paul signature)
Jordan Super.Fly Mid and Low
Jordan Aero Mania

Technology
JB and Nike set the standard for performance technology, and Jordan Brand has all the money, research and development resources it needs at its disposal. The XX8 is the pinnacle of the sneaker world in terms of innovation and technology (and price) – no surprise coming from the mind of the Godfather, Tinker Hatfield. The shoe features a reinvented Zoom Air (cushioning system made up of tensile fibers in a pressurized bag that compress upon impact then expand back outward giving a responsive and bouncy ride) bag, dubbed ProPlate Zoom, that puts the cushioning unit directly in contact with the foot. JB also developed a carbon fiber Flight Plate, a super light and super strong chassis for the shoe that helps the Zoom bag make flush contact with the foot, resulting in increased responsiveness. The heel counter is also made of carbon fiber, while the stretch synthetic shroud is made using premium Swiss textiles. The inner bootie features a Dynamic Fit system, with the lacing directly attached to the midfoot for a snug fit. All of this leads to hefty price tag, but you get what you pay for: no other shoe on the market features this kind of technology.

Air-Jordan-XX8-Tech-Sheet

Other performance models haven’t shied away from using the technology at its disposal either. The Melo M9 is the lightest Melo shoe ever made and packs a ton of technology into the package. The most striking tech is the Flywire-based Dynamic Fit straps that wrap around the upper of the shoe and provide a tight fit. The M9 uses maximum volume Zoom Air units in the heel and forefoot, and a full-length TPU cage for a stable fit. It’s a shoe perfectly tailored to a player like Melo.

Jordan-Melo-M9-Tech-Sheet

Chris Paul’s CP3 VI once again uses Podulon cushioning – a staple of the CP3 line – and a one-piece Hyperfuse upper stitched together at the heel. The shoe is 20% lighter than his last shoe, and the Fuse material provides better fit and durability. The Podulon material is highlighted on the outsole of the shoe, and is concentrated across the forefoot and along the medial (big toe) half of the foot for extra responsiveness when planting and pushing off.

The Super.Fly has been a popular model because it’s playable for a variety of different players and features a comfortable Lunarlon forefoot, Zoom unit in the heel and Phylon midsole. The Aero Mania is a recent release seen most often on the feet of Blake Griffin and features a Flywire-based upper and forefoot Zoom unit.

Top Athletes
Carmelo Anthony
Chris Paul
Russell Westbrook
Blake Griffin
Ray Allen
Joe Johnson

Jordan Brand boasts two established superstars in Anthony and Paul and two up and coming faces of the brand in Westbrook and Griffin. It’s not hard to see where JB is going with this strategy, as Westbrook and Griffin are two of the most exciting and explosive players in the league. Both could warrant signature shoes in the future – especially Griffin – and the fashion-forward Westbrook has been leading the XX8 charge by becoming the athlete chosen to first rock the shoe on court. Allen has long been the recipient of some of the best Player Edition colorways, and Johnson is just another productive, big name in a big market.

Future Outlook
We’ve already talked about how the brand is positioned with two of the most exciting individual athletes in the league signed to JB contracts. Melo and Paul will carry the signature shoe line for several years, with Melo approaching his tenth signature model next year. The XX8 was a statement in terms of fashion and performance for the brand and it set the bar high in terms of expectations for that signature numbered line.

It will be important for Jordan Brand to continue to innovate, but it will be interesting to see if the numbered line becomes a top-of-the-line, technologically advanced product every year. In order for that to happen, the shoes may have to stay in the upper echelon of the market’s price range, attainable only for those elite athletes or simply hoopers with no regard for budget.

The Melo and CP3 line should occupy a price range just below the top, while perhaps the Super.Fly (the Super.Fly 2 was debuted by Griffin during All-Star weekend) and Aero- lines will be even slightly more affordable while providing exceptional technology.

The retro craze will always fuel the brand and there are so many models to be taken advantage of that I don’t foresee it slowing down anytime soon. But on the performance side of things, look for Jordan Brand to continue to be leader in innovation and technology thanks to some of the best minds in design, while pushing forward with Griffin and Westbrook joining Melo and Paul as the faces of the brand.

TGRR Blog: Finch’s Performance Review Primer

hyperdisruptor

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.

Fit
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
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?

Traction
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.

Materials/Durability
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: Underrated Kicks – Vol. 2: Nike Zoom Go Low

zoomgo1

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Steve Nash is without a doubt one of the greatest point guards of all-time and perhaps the greatest pure point since John Stockton. He’s a maestro running the pick and roll, has preternatural court vision and anticipation and is a master at keeping his dribble alive. Nash is also criminally underrated as a shooter: for his career, he’s shot 49% from the field, 42% from three, and 90% from the line. Only three times in his career did he shoot under 40% from behind the arc and he’s shot over 50% from the field eight out of his last nine seasons.

Nash’s shoe game has been criminally underrated as well. He rocked the Nike Jet Flight back in his Dallas days – perhaps the best performing shoe of all-time – but it has been slept-on by many current sneakerheads. He’s worn an eclectic mix since then, including the Zoom BB II, Zoom MVP, Cradle Rock Low, and Nash has favorited the Lunar Hypergamer Low for the 2012-2013 season. The Zoom Go Low was another shoe of choice for Nash back in the 2010-2011 season, and also one that I happened to snag off eBay a few months back.

The design is simplistic and there’s nothing flashy at all about the shoe, but that’s kind of why I like it so much. Everything about the shoe is built for performance, starting with the midsole and outsole. The midsole is full-length Cushlon with a forefoot Zoom bag that’s plenty soft. The step in comfort and transition are excellent. The outsole is fairly thick and solid but boasts flex grooves working in tandem with the podular design to provide an easy heel-toe strike. The traction is a modified, full-length herringbone pattern and the entire outsole design is almost identical to the setup found on the Huarache 08; I had several teammates and friends that hooped in that Huarache for a long time and raved about the comfort and traction. (Check the spec sheet here.)

zoomgo2

The upper is a mix of full-grain and synthetic leather, with the midfoot overlay providing very good lockdown when laced tightly. The toebox is reinforced with a full-grain overlay as well, and features the same hardened plastic reinforcement along the midfoot/heel as the Huarache 08. This piece gives the foot excellent lateral support. All in all it’s built pretty much exactly like the 08 from the ground up, but Nike did an excellent job of giving it a low-cut without sacrificing any stability or security.

The white/grey/purple/orange PE colorway is simple and a nice hookup for the then-Phoenix Sun. Personally, my favorite aspect is the “SN” logo on the heel -it’s  always a plus to get an obscure PE logo on your kicks. And as a point guard, I felt like I needed the kicks of one of the greatest to play the position.

zoomgo4

The shoe was available in two Nash PE colorways (the white-based model pictured here and a black-based colorway), several Team Bank colorways, and two “Trash Talk” colorways constructed of recycled materials. It wasn’t a major release in the states, and I can’t recall any major chain carrying the shoe. Thus, the Zoom Go Low is relatively hard to find on eBay and the prices, for whatever reason, tend to run high. Many eBay sellers offering the shoe were from Canada, so perhaps (and for good reason) the shoe was just more popular in the land to the north.

Regardless, if you can find a pair under $100 on eBay, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger. It’s a solid shoe for both hooping and casual wear, and mine will return to the rotation once this crappy Indiana winter is over.

TGRR Blog: Underrated Kicks, Vol. 1 – Nike Flight Lite II

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

10/15/13 Update: Thanks to savvy reader Anastasios Thomaidis, we’ve got a few pics of a used but still gorgeous blue/silver colorway of the Flight Lite II via an auction on German eBay. It’s always awesome to get input from readers, so enjoy the new pics.

We’re testing out a new blog mini-theme here at The Gym Rat Review, called Underrated Kicks. Throughout any sneaker era there have been shoes that, for whatever reason, haven’t gotten the love they deserve. Finch and I will pepper these in whenever we have time to give these unique kicks some props. First up, the Nike Flight Lite II.

The best picture I could find was from krossovki.net, a wonderful website with pictures and descriptions of tons of shoes…except that it’s in a completely different language that I do not speak. (In fact besides the ads, the only thing in English on the site read “f*** nike.” Not very nice.) Leave a comment if you know how I could translate the picture below.

https://i0.wp.com/krossovki.net/images/stories/cross/nike/flight/Nike_Air_Flight_Lite_II.jpg

A Google search of “Nike Flight Lite II” yielded about three pictures of the shoe before I got sick of scrolling. Part of this is because the Flight Lite II had the misfortune of sharing a name with a handful of other “Flight Lite” models. The 1991 Flight Lite shoe was, at the time, the lightest shoe in the Nike Basketball lineup despite its bulky appearance. There’s a couple different versions of that shoe, including a Flight Lite Hi, Flight Lite II and Flight Lite Mid. There’s also a boring Flight Lite that came after the Flight Lite II that I was originally talking about.

Regardless, it’s a gorgeous, confidently designed shoe that has long been a hopeless grail in my eyes. It boasts an asymmetrical lacing system (swoon), a full-length, encapsulated Air unit, a Phylite midsole and an awesome exposed monkey paw anti-ankle inversion structure. And of course, the legendary Alpha Project dots are prominently featured on the forefoot midsole and heel. I also love the dimpling of the midsole with various dots. Even the simple sculpting of the midsole near the heel augments the rest of the design and gives it a low-profile, sleek look. The colorblocking, particularly the red toebox piece and red Swoosh against the white midsole, is clean as well.

It’s a shoe that probably doesn’t have a prayer to be retroed but nonetheless deserves respect for the ingenuity and creativity in design while incorporating and exposing elements like the asymmetrical lacing and monkey paw structure.

nikeflightliteII3 nikeflightliteII2 nike_flight_lite_II

Black/Silver images are from here

TGRR Blog: Performance Review Primer

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Before I launch into the full Nike Hyperdunk 2012 Low review tomorrow, I think it’s important to briefly explain the areas of performance that I’ll be examining in my reviews. I also want to detail my background in performance hoop shoes and the standards that those shoes have set for me as a player.

Fit
The first and most important performance aspect of a shoe, to me, is the fit. I’m a guard and have a narrow foot, so I need a shoe that hugs my foot and doesn’t leave a lot of excess room in the toebox and midfoot area.  Heel lockdown is also extremely important. It should help anchor your foot to the footbed, aid in lateral stability and is key in preventing ankle injuries. I rely on quickness and change direction (thus I have been dubbed the “Ground Squirrel” by Finch) and I need my shoe to be an extension of my foot, so the fit is absolutely imperative.

When I review a shoe for its fit, I’ll pay close attention to the toebox, midfoot fit, the lacing system, upper flexibility and heel lockdown. For me, the best fitting shoe I’ve ever owned is the Nike Kobe VI. The fit from the sockliner and collar foam inside the shoe were incredible and the external heel counter provided perfect heel lockdown. I played in a black/dark grey pair until the outsole started to separate on the lateral side, then went out and bought the purple gradient colorway from a Nike Factory Store until the outsole peeled off under the midfoot. Every shoe I review will get compared to the Kobe VI in terms of fit.

Heel-Toe Transition
Because my game is predicated on quickness and playing low to the ground, heel-toe transition is very important. When I step on a court, I want each step to be smooth. I run with a heel-toe strike most of the time, occasionally toes only, but when I run I do not want a slappy feel as I transition through my heel-toe strike. At the same time, I can’t have a midsole that is too flexible and has too little torsional rigidity. For example, I loved the soft feel of the transition of the Jordan Q Flight but its lack of a midfoot plate and softer rubber outsole didn’t give me enough support.

While I loved the Kobe VI’s transition and have no complaints, the adidas TS Supernatural Creator is the standard for me. Its flexibility was perfect and the transition was perfectly tuned thanks to the Formotion outsole setup. From the absolute first wearing, the shoe was nearly perfect from a transition standpoint.

Cushioning
I’m a Zoom Air guy first and foremost. The responsiveness of Zoom is simply unmatched by any foam I’ve ever played in and I’m an unabashed lover of a full-length Zoom bag. I was a fan of the cushioning setup in the Supernatural Creator and the Kobe heel/met bag setup is excellent too. I played in the Zoom KD III and wasn’t as big a fan of the forefoot only Zoom, though it was certainly solid.

The Nike Zoom BB II featured a gorgeous, responsive full-length Zoom bag that kept its excellent cushioning over the course of a year’s worth of play – including offseason workouts at Taylor University – and is easily the best-cushioned shoe I’ve ever owned. The fit and materials, thanks to a full inner bootie and quality leather, was also very good. It is unfortunately extremely tough to find in my size nowadays, or else I’d have purchased more than one pair.

Traction
It’s herringbone or nothing for me when it comes to traction. The only drawback of the Kobe VI for me was the fact that its scale-inspired traction pattern was a little lacking, especially for the first few wearings when it had a noticeable, slippery sheen.

The Zoom BB II once again had the best traction I’ve ever experienced on a basketball shoe. It featured basically full-length herringbone, and the rubber herringbone strips were slightly wider and larger than typical herringbone. This gave it unrivaled grip and helped flexibility as well. Try as I might, I couldn’t wear out the traction even after a year of use and the inside of the shoe actually became warped and stretched, causing blisters and poor fit, before the traction gave out.

Materials/Durability
Most performance shoes are going to feature some type of synthetic upper with varying use and placement of each brand’s textile setup. Personally, I was never a huge fan of early-generation Flywire, though the Skinwire in the Kobe V and VI and Dynamic Flywire set up gave me more tangible benefits. I like the durability of Fuse, though it’s a bit stiff and can crease in odd ways. I have liked adidas’ material choices on the Supernatural creator, though I thought the White/Red Rose 2 was stiff and uncomfortable.

The Kobe VI is the standard for me when it comes to materials, as the Skinwire and scale pattern overlay allowed for maximum flexibility and support. It wasn’t too thick, it harnessed the foot perfectly and contributed to the unmatched fit. It was also exceptionally durable (I played in each pair daily for more than six months) and if you’re huge on aesthetic appeal, creases were barely noticeable.

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!

kemp

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

TGRR Blog: The Nike Zoom Revis and the Return of the Performance Trainer

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

Even though the Nike Zoom Revis not strictly a basketball performance shoe, hoopers still need to train right?

During a trip to my nearest Nike Factory Store last weekend (side note: for the uninitiated, factory stores are awesome for finding performance shoes for a bunch of different sports), I was surprised to find a pair of Zoom Revis’ in the Fir/White colorway sitting on the clearance rack in my size and $30 cheaper than retail. The reason for their presence at the store is still beyond me – normally shoes don’t hit the outlets until months after their release date – but I’m guessing they’d been bought and returned at a retail store. (The shoe is probably going to be slept-on given Revis’ injury and the timing of the release, and will hit the outlets en masse within a couple months – but that’s a great thing for those of us on a budget.)  Regardless this pair showed no signs of wear and after deliberating with Finch, I went ahead and copped.

The purchase excited me for a couple of reasons. First, I appreciated the design from an aesthetic and functional standpoint. The midsole is equipped with real, full-length Zoom Air, something I had dearly missed in my shoes since I was hooping in Zoom BB IIs a few years ago. The shoe is the first in my collection featuring Dynamic Flywire and while I’m on the fence about the usefulness of Flywire in general, this iteration seems to harness the foot better given that it’s directly attached to the eyelets and is used over a pliable mesh upper. The midfoot strap – I like straps, FYI – is the boldest design element in the package, and it’s passable in terms of holding the foot over the footbed though the bootie/innersleeve and lacing system do a good job of locking the foot in place. From a practical standpoint, I usually prefer a solid rubber outsole, but the clear bottom is a nice look, exposes the Zoom bag and makes the traction on demand pods really pop. For what it’s worth, the traction on demand idea seems best suited for training on grass or another soft surface and I haven’t noticed any real difference when just wearing the Zoom Revis in the gym.

Secondly, I felt that the Zoom Revis was a welcome return for Nike signature trainers. I still own a White/Black/Red pair of the Zoom Vick I (purchased the summer before my freshman year of high school; I’m 23 now) and I used them for everything from open gym runs in the summer to weightlifting and plyometrics. The Zoom Vick I is one of the most versatile, durable and comfortable shoes I own and I have hopes that the Zoom Revis is a sign that Nike is getting back to packing their training shoes with technology and durable materials. Nike Free trainers aren’t for everybody, and I found the Air Max trainer series to be solid but slightly too lifestyle-driven for me. The Vick and Revis shoes are similar in that both feature low-profile, responsive Zoom bags, a prominent strap, an inner bootie that provides a great fit, and materials built to withstand some punishment. I haven’t decided if I’ll try the Revis on court yet, but it’s already my go-to for the weight room, the heavy bag and jump rope. Here’s to the swoosh cranking out some more solid performers – perhaps Calvin Johnson or Adrian Peterson are next in line for a signature shoe.