Performance Review: adidas D Lillard 2

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)


Despite the general release getting pushed back initially, I was finally able to get my hands on Damian Lillard’s second adidas signature. The Blazers have been a pet favorite team of mine (and Finch’s) since the Brandon Roy days. He was one of the best all around players on the planet at one point and it’s a tragedy that his knees simply didn’t work correctly. I’ve always been a big fan of Terry Stotts too – an excellent Xs and Os guy that has drawn up some beautiful sideline out of bounds game winners over the years. Now, led by Lillard and CJ McCollum, the Blazers have two gifted off-the-dribble scorers and shooters and are scrapping for a playoff spot in the West.

I was pretty excited for the release of the Lillard 2, despite the poor performance from the 1. adidas listened, made some key updates, and created a shoe fit for a tough-as-nails Oakland PG. I’ve gotten several runs in with the shoe and in fact will get one more into tonight, but I’m convinced that this is one of the best shoes on the market for its price. adidas continues to knock out great performers.

The Lillard 2 runs a little wide and I went down a half size to get the fit I prefer. It will take some time to break in and it took me probably 3 wearings before they really felt good. The first time I wore them, there was some slippage at the heel. I believe it was due to the full bootie not yet conforming to my foot (it’s thicker and padded at the heel) but by the middle of the second wearing it started to improve.


The base for the upper is the Techfit bootie, which runs the full length of the shoe. I have been and continue to be a fan of Techfit when it’s used in this way – as a sock-like base layer or like a neoprene upper (as in the Crazyquick 1 and adidas running’s Energy Boost 2 ATR).

The shell, in the black “Away” colorway, is a textile mesh with synthetic leather accents. The mesh provides more containment than traditional open cell types but is more flexible than a fused synthetic. In other words, it’s a great compromise. You get synthetic for the heel portion and along the eyestay.


The midfoot is actually locked by two TPU pieces – one on each side of the upper. These are more stiff than lacing through the traditional eyestay, and the lockdown is evident once you get them laced tight. A nice touch that works both functionally and visually. The inner bootie has more padding than the Lillard 1 and the prominent external heel counter really locks the heel in place. It’s an area much improved over the first shoe.

For me, there’s a little extra volume on the inside. I have a narrow foot and the shoe is built a little wider than most, but I think for most hoopers it will fit without issue.


Heel-Toe Transition
The Bounce cushioning setup is a dual-density compound that gives you a pretty consistent feel from heel impact to toe off. It’s not quite as flexible as others (this is especially noticeable coming off the Kobe XI and HyperRev 2016) and takes some time to really feel natural. It is a consistent feel underfoot and after a couple weeks, the midsole will break and be just fine.

I passed on the opportunity to snag the Primeknit/Boost version because I really haven’t ever been a fan of heel Boost-only setups. I was also stoked to play in Bounce for the first time and I’ve loved it so far. It’s firm with good impact protection and very stable. It’s not as plush or responsive as Boost, but I like it better than most Lunarlon/Phylon setups. It seems more dense than Micro G/Charged and is going to come down to personal preference for most. I’d probably put it just behind Micro G and Boost, but it’s very good and I’d take it over most foam setups.


It provides a ton of support, but it does lack some response and court feel. It’s very stable, but the feedback through the floor is a little muted. It’s definitely more stiff, solid, and heavy (in a good way) than a lot of shoes I’ve recently played in.

Overall though, I think it’s a really good platform and a good alternate to Boost. As I said, I’d rather play in Bounce than the half-Boost setups out there, thanks to the support and consistent feel from the Bounce midsole. It’s tough to compare to Zoom because those setups vary so much, plus Zoom is usually a unit placed in a cored out midsole – the feel just isn’t the same. Compared to recent shoes I’ve tested, I like it better than the Kobe XI but not quite as much as the HyperRev 2016 cushioning.

The outsole, a Continental rubber-sourced compound, is used to highlight some of Dame’s background and personality, and I’m always a little skeptical of sacrificing performance for that (a la the Kobe VI). The grooves are fairly close together and not overly deep, so the shoes did pick up dust when the floors were less than perfect. If the grooves are spaced too closely, it basically creates a flat surface to pick up dust on – the Kobes were bad partly because of this – the slightly stiffer midsole on the DLillard 2 means it won’t flex and bite quite as much either.


On the second wearing, the floor was a bit better and traction was fine – no squeaks though. Traction could be better, but I didn’t find it to be a deal-breaker.


Just know that these things are tanks. I can’t imagine too many issues with a rock-solid build like this. There’s not a lot that’s built to go wrong with these, and it’s a pretty straightforward build overall. Two things that especially stood out: the Contintenal rubber outsole is beefy and the heel counter is absolutely rock solid. I look forward to many games in these.


Overall, the Lillard 2 proved to be a very good shoe in all aspects. The fit, cushioning and materials are all high points – though I wouldn’t say it’s elite in any category. It’s a bit like Chris Paul’s line from Jordan Brand and should settle in nicely in the slot behind Rose and Harden’s shoes.

The improved inner bootie, external heel counter and effective lockdown system are a huge step forward from the previous model. adidas’ Bounce setup should be here to stay and hopefully become a staple of adidas’ budget-minded lines.

Make no mistake – it’s not a budget shoe. It’s as good or better than shoes that cost $50-80 more. I’ll definitely be keeping these in the rotation going forward.

dlillard 2 guide

Performance Review: adidas Crazyquick 2

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

If you’ve visited this site before and read some reviews, you probably know that my favorite shoe of 2013 was the adidas Crazyquick. The shoe debuted a new outsole/midsole platform featuring 17 “quick zones” designed to give you traction, stability and responsiveness in any direction. The shoe was engineered perfectly, and allowed you to move freely and quickly without sacrificing support.

The upper was also redesigned, with a bootie-like Techfit construction that locked the foot in. The Sprintframe heel counter ensured no heel slippage. The shoe became an extension of the foot, and that’s the ultimate goal when we’re looking at a performance hoop shoe.

Alas, the Crazyquick wasn’t for everyone. The trade-off for the flexibility, stability and unmatched court feel was a very firm (necessary) cushioning platform. The shoe also ran very narrow, giving wide or even normal footers some issues. Others felt that the Techfit upper didn’t offer enough support or containment (I personally had none of these issues, but I understand that plenty of people could and did).

With the second installment of the Crazyquick line, adidas took steps to remedy those issues. The result is a shoe that will probably work for a wider variety of people…but fell short of my own expectations.

First things first – go down a half-size to get the proper fit with the Crazyquick 2. It definitely runs long and I’ve had this backed up by several different people.

Despite how great the outsole was, the upper and overall fit is what ultimately made the original Crazyquick my favorite. The comfort of the Techfit upper and glove-like fit combined with the flexibility of the outsole and midsole to marry the shoe to the foot.

The Crazyquick 2 ditches the pure Techfit upper (it says Techfit on the tongue but is nothing like last year’s) and uses synthetic overlays on top of the Techfit base. These overlays are similar to what you’ll see on the Rose 4.5, just more independent and with a more flexible base.

The upper is still extremely flexible – though not quite as free as the first model – but also should provide you with better containment and support. I felt like it flexed a little weird in the toe box, where the overlays got in the way and created extra volume in there.

The Sprintframe heel counter has also been reduced in size, and many people will see this as a welcome change. For me, I didn’t get the same heel lockdown as the first shoe, but it’s still solid. Adidas also made excellent use of branding again, using the three stripes to provide support to the heel area. Collar padding was also beefed up and is very comfortable.

I have a hunch that a lot of folks will like the fit better with the 2 since it’s so much more accommodating. But for me, the first Crazyquick fit so well that you almost forgot it was there, and the 2 doesn’t quite reach that level.

Heel-Toe Transition
The Puremotion outsole/midsole with quick zones is a dream. The smoothest shoe from heel strike to toe-off that you’ll find. You’ll feel very low to the ground and stable at all times.

This was the area that led to the love/hate nature of the first Crazyquick, and I think that the overall feel has softened up slightly. You’re still going to get perfect court feel, stability and responsiveness thanks to the midsole/outsole build, but I think you’ll also get a little better impact protection as well.


If you look at the bottom of the shoe, you’ll see a darker portion that basically encompasses the ball of the foot and big toe area. I think this portion is a slightly softer density foam, designed to provide better impact protection in the areas that take the most beating. It’s a concept shared by the CP3 line, which uses dual density Podulon in order to provide more responsiveness and impact protection in key spots.


The sculpture or shape of the midsole remains pretty much the same, if not slightly beefed up in the heel/midfoot areas, from the first to the second model, and you’ll feel some extra support on the lateral side especially.


It’s not going to be pillowy underfoot like the HyperRev but it’s been improved from last year from the standpoint of sheer impact protection. Overall, it’s fantastic once again in terms of how it makes the shoe function.

The outsole features herringbone, and lots of it. Like last year, the grooves are deep and the flexible zones give you responsive traction on any movement you make – lateral or linear. The flex grooves are well-placed and allow you to move freely with great traction.


I’ve found no issues to speak of so far. Last year’s model showed some wear on the toes and could have used a little more reinforcement on the toebox, but that should be remedied with the overlays used here. I think the use of the overlays will allow the 2 to hold up better than the first model overall.


The insole is high-quality, and the Puremotion midsole should hold up without much bottoming out. That’s one of the advantages of adidas’ cushioning platforms – while not as soft as other brands, they’re usually fairly responsive and don’t seem to bottom out as much.


I’m afraid for me personally, this shoe was cursed by its predecessor. I loved the first so much and really didn’t want to see anything changed with it that the Crazyquick 2 was almost bound to disappoint me. That said, I do believe it’s a good shoe and I still enjoyed playing in it.

It was still damn near perfect underfoot and even had improved impact protection compared to the last model. The shoe is designed to allow you to play as quick as possible, and that goal is certainly achieved.

Would I have liked the full Techfit and a more snug Sprintframe? Definitely, but the Crazyquick 2 still deserves to be in the discussion when you’re looking at your next performance shoe.


Performance Review: adidas Adizero Crazy Light 3

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)


Back in 2010, the original Crazy Light was the shoe that drove the adidas brand’s weight-driven performance shoes. It carried over from basketball to football to soccer, as adidas’ sole goal was to provide the lightest weight footwear and performance products in each category. The brand’s designers cut weight everywhere via the use of layered synthetics with support in places where it was only absolutely necessary. This was achieved through the implementation of technologies such as SprintWeb (a weight-shedding composition for the shoe’s upper) and SprintFrame (a rigid, supportive, yet lightweight chassis). I remember first seeing the original CL, from the sketchwork to the first official pictures, and marveling at the low-profile midsole, the sculpted Sprintframe, the barely-there Sprintweb upper and the high-cut but slender silhouette.

But this “adizero” push was a double edged sword. In its quest to provide the lightest footwear products on the hardwood, the Crazy Light has succeeded. The Crazy Light 1 broke the 10-ounce barrier, weighing in at 9.8 ounces in a size 9. The Crazy Light 2 dropped that to 9.5 ounces, and the CL3 clocks in at 9.4 ounces. The reduced weight played great on court because the shoes also packed quite a bit of ankle support into such a lightweight shoe.


But I personally felt that the cushioning, inherently pretty thin (a requirement to achieve such a light weight), just didn’t give me enough impact protection or midfoot support – especially after a few weeks of hooping. Props to adidas for using premium foam for that midsole and getting as much impact protection out of such a thin profile, but it simply wasn’t enough for me and it took a toll on my knees after a while. I also was never fully satisfied with the fit, which seemed compromised by all the webbing that didn’t quite flex naturally with the foot. As I found out, those same issues cropped up again in the Crazy Light 3.

Fit: 8
As with most aspects of this shoe, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, I’ve always been a fan of the SprintFrame tech because of the sculpted fit and solid lockdown it gives you. The CL3 Sprintframe was excellent again, providing quality heel lockdown. A more padded and molded interior collar also gave a nice fit around the ankle. The outsole and midsole also appear to be slightly wider through the midfoot, which is a welcome development given how narrow shoes such as the Crazy Light 2 and Rose 2 had been in the past. I have an extremely narrow foot but some adidas models in the past were so narrow underfoot that I felt like I got no torsional support. The CL3 was certainly better in this department.


But I felt I was never able to quite achieve a full lockdown through the midfoot because of the synthetic upper and Sprintweb combination. The supporting overlays placed along the midfoot and toebox never quite seemed to flex naturally. I hoped this would improve after several wearings, but even after 8-10 sessions I still wasn’t fully satisfied. It was also difficult to get the shoe to stay laced tightly and I found myself re-tying the shoes more than once during a 2-hour hoop session. I would feel my foot sliding around slightly, and that’s nearly a deal-breaker for me. It wasn’t terrible by any means, but compared to the Anatomix Spawn and Crazyquick that I’d be consistently playing in, it didn’t hold up. At $140, the price point comes into play too and I expect no excuses lockdown from a shoe like that.


Heel-Toe Transition: 9.5
Transition was smooth as the shoe rides very low to the ground. I’m not sure what the heel-toe drop would be on the Crazy Light, but it figures to be fairly minimal and that lends itself to a pretty fluid heel-toe motion. There’s plenty of flexibility thanks to well-placed flex grooves and wavebone traction setup.


Cushioning: 8
This is probably always going to be a major point of contention with the Crazy Light and it’s really going to come down to the reviewer and your (the wearer) own preferences. My opinion is this: the low to the ground feel is great. I felt light, quick, uninhibited by the shoe. That’s a credit, again, to the high quality foam adidas uses to pack some cushioning in to such a thin midsole. And the more dense Crazy Comfort insole (pictured below, on the right) does make a big difference initially, giving the footbed more padding and support.


But wearing the shoe for an extended period of time really revealed the flaws, in my opinion. There simply isn’t enough impact protection in the shoe for my wearing needs. The Crazyquick, with the segmented midsole, also gave me great court feel but the quick zones, adiprene midsole and thicker rubber outsole allowed for just enough impact protection. The shoe moved with your foot so well, making the cushioning more responsive and, I think, helping to dissipate some of the impact from each footstrike.


The Crazy Light didn’t feel as responsive to me and it felt like my feet consistently took the brunt of the impact. As you can see in the picture above, the only thing between your foot and the TPU Sprintframe is the insole. You can see the white piece underneath the heel and the forefoot, and that at least gives you some direct contact with the midsole. But the dark gray surrounding the white pod is the Sprintframe. An insole is going to get compressed and worn down rather quickly, and I found the impact protection to be rather harsh. The actual foam is fine, and is fairly responsive, but to me it just was too firm because of the frame.

Traction: 9
Wavebone is a version of the industry-standard herringbone pattern and it did an adequate job providing traction. I did find that it picked up dust on courts that were less than perfect, and I didn’t always get that reassuring squeak. But it was certainly very solid and I wasn’t concerned with losing my footing while making cuts or changing direction at high speed (your high speed is probably faster than mine but it’s all relative, right?).


Materials/Durability: 8.5
I touched on it before, but I didn’t love the upper synthetics because I felt like I couldn’t achieve full lockdown. I understand these are used in order to keep the weight down and thus make it a Crazy Light, but I’d like to see them softened up or at least placed a little differently in order to allow the proper flex.


Besides that, I didn’t see too many issues crop up. The midsole foam is high quality and the Sprintframe heel counter is solid, while the rubber compound used on the outsole is relatively soft but provides good traction.

Bottom line, the Crazy Light is a shoe that some of you will probably really like. You can’t go any lighter than this and the shoe allows you to play low to the ground and quick on your feet if you’re that type of player. But if you need impact protection at all or want a shoe that really forms and fits your foot well, I think there are better options out there. I liked the CL3 better than either of the first two Crazy Light models but there were too many shortcomings to make it one of my favorites of the year.

Overall: 43/50

Performance Review: adidas Crazyquick

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

After wearing the adidas Adipure Crazyquick for the first time, I struggled to find the right adjectives to describe the shoe.

Stealthy. Predatory. Aggressive.

I struggled with a description because the Crazyquick doesn’t feel like any shoe I’ve ever played in. I told Finch after the first hoop session that I forgot they were on my feet by the end of the run – and that is a very good thing. One thing is clear though: this is a finely-tuned, precision engineered piece of footwear and is a performance beast.

As I’ve noted in each of my previous reviews, I value fit more than anything else when it comes to performance sneakers. The Kobe VI is my standard in terms of fit, as it brought the upper to the foot, locked me onto the footbed and moved with me. Yeah, well, the Crazyquick is now the new standard.


When you’re talking fit with the Crazyquick and putting the shoe on for the first time, you’ll immediately notice two things: the Techfit upper enveloping your foot and the Sprintframe chassis locking the midfoot and heel in place. Techfit is not a new technology to the adidas brand – it’s been used in compression tops and bottoms, as well as a couple of running models, for a couple of years now – but this is the first version we’ve seen on a basketball shoe. The upper basically feels like a neoprene bootie base with strategic overlays – the three stripes enveloping the midfoot give the upper added lateral stability. The graphic pattern of the upper reminds me of the way that the Kobe VI used “scales” to give the shoe texture as well as added strength.

Sprintframe has been criticized in the past (notably on the Crazy Light models) for being too small, but the chassis on Crazyquick fully wraps the heel and extends through the midfoot. The heel and midfoot are completely locked in place. I experienced absolutely no slippage and the fit is glove-like from heel to toe. Dual ankle notches aid comfort around the ankle bone and range of motion, and the mid cut does a great job of giving you a supportive feel while not restricting movement whatsoever. I’m not sure what else to say regarding the fit, other than that the Crazyquick is the single best fitting shoe I’ve ever played in thanks to the TechFit/Sprintframe combination and bootie-like upper. This shoe becomes part of you and moves with you as an extension of your foot, and that’s exactly what I want.


One final note: the lacing setup is slightly asymmetrical, which allows the three stripes on the forefoot to wrap around to the top of the foot to provide extra lockdown and support. It’s the little things, folks.

Heel-Toe Transition
The Crazyquick was absolutely perfect in this aspect as well, providing the best court feel I’ve ever experienced. The 17-pod outsole moves naturally through the footstrike and moves with you through any type of cut, defensive slide or sprint. The Crazyquick is reportedly the most weartested shoe ever produced by adidas, and that level of testing and refinement shows up in the transition. Getting all the pods to work in harmony is something that must have been fine-tuned hundreds of time. Crazyquick designer Robbie Fuller said he wanted the transition to be like a centipede, with each pod gripping the floor precisely when it should. The shoe does just that. I’d liken the sensation to wearing a minimalist running shoe or a well-cushioned Nike Free from a flexibility standpoint (the shoe still provides support – I’ll get to that later). The transition is smooth and rolls through the footstrike with stability and unparalleled court feel.


There were a couple aspects of the cushioning setup I found interesting. Obviously, you’re going to give up a little bit of impact protection in order to get that great court feel so the Crazyquick is not necessarily plush and padded in the cushioning department. Impact protection is adequate though, and responsiveness is excellent – aided by the perfectly tuned outsole which allows you to push off and go whenever you demand it.


When Finch and I first discussed the shoe, he was initially (and rightly) skeptical of the lateral stability/rigidity of the shoe given its deep flex grooves and carved-away outsole. Again, the shoe’s engineering came through. If you remove the insole, you’ll notice a rigid plate (part of the Sprintframe chassis, I’d assume) running from the heel to the midfoot that gives it good, lightweight stability while allowing the outsole pods to do their job. Again, I can’t understate the level of engineering and testing that this takes. (If you don’t understand how midsole construction affects the cushioning unit, check Finch’s review of the flawed Hyperdisruptor.) In the center of the plate directly underneath the heel you’ll find a small foam circle, indicating the adiprene-cushioned midsole that makes up the cushioning platform. I enjoyed being able to physically see the construction and it helps you understand how they designed such a great setup.

It’s herringbone all around and in various angles, and the traction is superb. Deep grooves on each of the outsole pods allow the pods to grip the floor securely and provide reassuring stop and go ability no matter how sharp the cut. Four zones and 17 individual pods work in concert to provide elite level traction. Not much else to say, but I’m happy that they went with the tried and true pattern underfoot, and it certainly pays off from a performance standpoint.


Materials/DurabilityTime will tell for the upper of the Crazyquick when it comes to durability. The Techfit upper feels and fits amazing, but it is almost like a neoprene bootie with supports fused on strategically so it remains to be seen how long that lasts. I’m not doubting the durability, but since it’s a new materials setup we’re required to withhold judgement. I believe the outsole and midsole will hold up just fine, as thick, durable rubber was employed for the outsole and the midsole has remained firm.


In conclusion, the adidas adipure Crazyquick is one of my all-time favorite performance shoes at this point. A ton of engineering, fine-tuning and development was put into this shoe and it shows. In a performance market where it seems like corners are cut on plenty of models, it’s refreshing to play in a shoe that bills itself as a performance beast…and actually backs that up. adidas introduced a new thought process with the Crazyquick line, employed new technology and updated some existing tech, and came away with one of the best performance shoes on the market.

Fit: 10
Heel-Toe Transition: 10
Cushioning: 9.5
Traction: 9.5
Materials/Durability: 8.5
Overall: 47.5/50 = 95/100

TGRR Blog: adidas Adipure Crazyquick Performance Review Primer

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

I should have the adidas Adipure Crazyquick in hand tomorrow afternoon and will hopefully get in a pickup run with them at 6 pm Wednesday night. I’m anticipating the review for this shoe for a couple of reasons.

First, adidas announced that the Crazyquick was the most wear tested shoe ever produced in the adi labs so I’m expecting a finely tuned fit thank to said wear testing and the nature of the TechFit upper itself. I also expect the transition to be top-notch thanks to the 17-part outsole that designer Robbie Fuller likened to a centipede with the way in which all the pods work in sync to grip the floor.

I’m also happy to hear that the engineers enlarged the Sprintframe chassis for the Crazyquick – I always felt that Rose’s shoes could have used a slightly beefier frame – and I hope that this gives it the necessary lateral stability despite the deeply segmented outsole. The deep grooves were the only thing that initially made me pause, as I hoped that torsional support wouldn’t be sacrificed in the name of flexibility or cutting weight (a la the Reebok Sublite Pro Rise, which is quite possibly the worst basketball shoe I’ve ever put on my feet).

The athlete feedback seems to be overwhelmingly positive, and a lot of the adidas-sponsored NCAA Tournament teams went to the Crazyquick during March Madness. John Wall and Damian Lillard are reportedly leading the marketing campaign, with Nic Batum making a few cameos as well. Former Indiana University guard Maurice Creek was still hooping in his at the rec center in Bloomington when Finch and I were down there playing pickup ball a few weeks ago, so there’s your insider (not really) nugget for the day.

More updates to come over the next few days at The Gym Rat Review Twitter account and expect a full review within 10 days.

TGRR Blog: State of the Industry, Part 2: adidas Basketball

Prose: Jake Sittler (@jtsittler)

In part one of our State of the Industry series, we took a look at the present and future of Jordan Brand. The face of the basketball sneaker industry and leader in market share, we looked for Jordan Brand to continue to push the limits of design and innovation while being led into the future by the Jordan namesake, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and newcomers Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin. While I jumped straight into the JB review and the future of the brand, the adidas story requires more of a history lesson.

The adidas basketball division is one that has undergone massive changes in terms of the branding and design of its products. Back in the late 90s and early 00s, adidas basketball launched a largely successful “Feet You Wear” campaign that made the company competitive it the basketball market.

Feet Your Wear was more a philosophy rather than an actual, tangible technology. Basically, Feet You Wear differed from a traditional shoe “last” (the shape of the outsole that the shoe is built on) by curving and molding the midsole and outsole to better fit the wearer’s foot. Adidas shoes built on the Feet Your Wear philosophy feature midsoles that wrap up higher on the foot than typical shoes while molded and form-fitting outsoles that targeted specific areas of the foot. This provided better lateral stability and torsional rigidity underfoot and promoted a natural footstrike. The upper was then brought close to the foot to provide better fit all the way up.

Behind Feet You Wear shoes like the adidas Real Deal, Top Ten and Crazy 8, adidas brought models to the consumer that were distinctive and performed well. They also had a strong presence on-court behind a young, budding superstar named Kobe Bryant. Feet You Wear proved to be short-lived, and once Bryant got his signature line – with the Audi-inspired Kobe and Kobe Two – adidas created some of the most loved/hated signatures of all-time.

Here’s a banger of a commercial with Kobe in the Top Ten:

Later on in the 2000s, adidas moved into the a3 and Bounce era as a response to the Nike Shox craze. While neither technology ended up enjoying much longevity, adidas’ versions were basically always seen as the little brother to the Vince Carter-led Shox series. Adidas had some moderate success with the a3/Bounce line as team shoes – I wore the a3 Pro Team during my time with the Indiana Elite AAU program – and the a3 Superstar Ultra was probably the most comfortable basketball shoe I’ve ever owned (though the outsole peeled off and the a3 pillars literally disintegrated after two weeks – and a couple of other teammates had the same thing happen).

Then, adidas trended back towards Feet You Wear with the Formotion campaign behind young stars like Gilbert Arenas while incorporating Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett (who had a couple of adidas signature models). They also pushed the limits of design with Tracy McGrady’s signature shoes (particularly the T-Mac IV and V). Finally, we got to the Team Speed line and with 2010’s TS Supernatural Creator and Commander. Adidas had created two of the best performance shoes of all time with the Creator and Commander, and were beginning to be led by Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard. The Creator is one of my all-time favorite performance shoes – its heel-toe transition, fit, cushioning and traction were nearly perfect. The shrouded upper also gave it a sleek, clean silhouette. The outsole was vintage Feet You Wear – perfectly tuned and molded, as well as stable and form-fitting with the pod outsole. Adidas was back and Feet You Wear was better than ever. I was prepared to buy whatever guard-geared TS shoe they cranked out…

And then adidas moved away from it all. Again.

In late 2010, adidas introduced its SPRINTFRAME and SPRINTSKIN on Rose’s first true signature shoe and thinned out the midsole. Then within the first two months of 2011, adidas rebranded their basketball line – under the adiZero campaign – in the name of speed. They launched the Crazy Light  – the lightest basketball shoe to date. At 9.8 ounces, the shoe and the campaign changed the idea of how light a shoe could be built. Even with Nike’s Kobe line pushing the low-top limits, adidas still clocked in lighter. And at $130, they were testing the limits of the consumer who’d pay top dollar not for superior technology or comfort, but for a lack of weight. They’ve continued with the Crazy Light 2 (as well as other light-driven models like the Ghost and Crazy Shadow), and appear committed to pushing the weight barrier on all its shoes for the near future.

*Market Share: 5.5% (via @MattSOS)

Latest Performance Models
Adidas Crazy Light 2
Adidas Rose 3/3.5
Adidas D Howard Light
Adidas Crazy Shadow/Crazy Fast
Adidas Top Ten 2000/Real Deal

The Crazy Light 2 has been a popular shoe at the professional, collegiate and high school levels. It was lauded as an improvement over the original Crazy Light (which had some durability issues) and beefed up the midsole and targeted stability of the SPRINTWEB upper. It’s available in a myriad of colors and we’ll likely see the Crazy Light line continue as a go-to team shoe in the future.

The Rose 3 was an interesting release to me because of the price point. At $160, the Rose 3 was priced to compete with the high-end Nike and Jordan Brand products such as the Hyperdunk and XX- line. But in my opinion, the shoe didn’t provide the type of technology or innovation that I want if I’m dropping $160+ on a shoe. Yes, the fit was very good and the SPRINTFRAME chassis was very well-sculpted. The full-length herringbone traction was a sight for sore eyes (especially after the embarrassment that was the Rose 2), but looking at the entire package the Rose  3 simply didn’t bring the requisite luxury feel and technology it should have at that price point.

Howard’s signature shoe has been lightly marketed and isn’t the prettiest shoe aesthetically. His line has been lauded in terms of performance for providing an extremely light but protective shoe (with top-notch Alive cushioning and cilia traction pattern) suitable for many positions, but as I’ll talk about later, Howard himself is limiting marketing opportunities. His shoes simply aren’t that good-looking and the namesake isn’t endearing himself to the public.

The Crazy Shadow and Crazy Fast silhouettes have also been popular among athletes at all levels, providing a lightweight option without the $130 price tag. Both the Top Ten 2000 and Real Deal are retro performance models – a welcome nod to the Feet You Wear days. The Top Ten has been seen on the feet of John Wall and Damian Lillard, while Avery Bradley was the first to break out the Real Deal.

When adidas went light with their basketball line, two technologies drove the weight cutting measures: SPRINTWEB and SPRINTFRAME. The SPRINTFRAME component is one that I personally loved. The idea of a single piece chassis makes a ton of sense in terms of cutting out excess material and providing a consistent fit and stability. SPRINTWEB is similar to Nike’s Fuse technology, as it’s a layered outer skin with targeted zones of overlays for durability. Where that support isn’t needed, such as the toebox of the original Crazy Light for example, it’s basically just a thin layer of mesh.

Further adi tech is pretty well known. Adiprene and adiprene+ have been cushioning staples for years, and the Torsion system has been providing lateral stability for a long time.

A quick note: adidas unveiled new Boost cushioning last week in their running shoes, and look for it to creep into the basketball line in time. Boost reportedly is three times more responsive than traditional foam, and seems to be a natural candidate to be employed on a basketball court to compete with Nike’s Zoom Air and Under Armour’s Micro G.

Top Athletes
Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Tim Duncan, Ricky Rubio, Damian Lillard, Eric Gordon, Harrison Barnes, Jrue Holiday, John Wall, Serge Ibaka

Adidas is obviously led by Rose and Howard in the signature shoe department, but they’ve also featured Smith in adizero Ghost ads. Adidas does deserve serious props for the job they’ve done in terms of bringing young, marketable talent to the brand. Rubio is one of the most watchable guys in the league and has international appeal, Lillard is far and away the best rookie in the league and Holiday is 22 and already an All-Star. Barnes has the potential to be a starter for years to come, and Gordon and Wall are young, productive vets who could still become stars.

I didn’t even include guys like Avery Bradley or Arron Afflalo, who both deserve mention for being the first to preview the Real Deal and Crazy Light 2 Low, respectively. In terms of drawing young talent to the brand, adidas has done a great job in the last two years.

Future Outlook
The Rose signature line is now six signatures deep (three regular models and three “.5” models, plus a low-top version of the Rose 2) and Howard has four officially to his name. One year ago, adidas had to be thrilled with their two headliners. Rose was the reigning MVP and Howard was the best big man in the league.

But today, various circumstances have clouded each players’ future and put adidas in a precarious spot with their top two basketball athletes. Rose endured a horrific ACL tear on April 28 and has yet to return to the floor this season (a minor dustup involving Nike designer Jason Petrie implying that Rose wouldn’t have gotten hurt had he signed with Nike put adidas basketball in the spotlight too). Adidas went ahead with the release of his third signature shoe before the 2012-2013 season and marketed “The Return” of Rose to the floor. It was a quality strategy due to the circumstances, but it’s still going to be hard to sell a $160 signature shoe behind a player that can’t play. It was nobody’s fault, but it is what it is.

Howard has quickly become one of the least-liked players in the league for his perceived lack of competitiveness, petulance, selfishness in Los Angeles and the way in which he left Orlando. This could not have helped sales of his signature shoe, which wasn’t exactly the most popular shoe on the market based on looks or marketing beforehand.

With Howard taking a hit in terms of public perception and Rose’s playing future somewhat in question, adidas may have to rely on its young talent to carry the brand. Luckily for them, the trio of Rubio, Lillard and Holiday appear ready to step up and be the face of the brand. This doesn’t necessarily mean signatures shoes all around, but adidas could have three All-Star point guards under 23 years old as soon as next season. And with the brand already driven by lightweight performance, the Three Stripes could end up with a perfect combination of product, players and performance.

*3/12/13 Update

Last week adidas unveiled the CrazyQuick, a shoe that may bridge the gap between reduced weight, comfort and performance. The shoe was the most weartested ever from adidas, and features a 17-piece outsole for greater stability, comfort and transition while keeping the midsole thin. The shoe also features the first-ever TechFit upper which keeps the weight down. To me, this shoe is a hybrid between the Feet You Wear adidas and the CrazyLight school of thought. Hopefully, they’ve found a way to incorporate the great fit and comfort of a Feet You Wear model while still making a competitive lightweight product. So far, John Wall is the most visible athlete associated with the Crazy Quick (personally, I don’t think he has the clout to carry a shoe) but I expect to see other guards in it very soon. For TGRR purposes, I plan to cop and review the CrazyQuick when it drops on May 1.