April 25, 2012 BY Aaron Kr.
SN: Can you run us through the major changes from the original version of the LeBron 9 over to the Elite edition?
JP: With the LeBron 9, going for the full season, we did some new things like Pro-Combat and the dynamic wing on the side for support. LeBron’s all about having the support and a feeling of being secure in his shoes and protected. So with the LeBron 9, that was part of the triple threat of benefits we were trying to bring to him. And so with the Playoffs, we know that his mindset changes, so we wanted the shoe to change for that and really exemplify that “strength” notion without getting bulbous and heavy and thick.
We really started with the bottom and worked our way up and totally changed the way the shoe was constructed. For the sole on the P.S., we actually took it and made it a little simpler just to take it back to basics and make it the best that we can. We re-engineered the midsole. We went in and changed the plate. We started with a full carbon plate trying to mimic the orthodic that LeBron wears because he needs that extra stiffness in the shoe, but it turned out to be too much for the normal player to wear, because you really have to have super power to flex that and get the most out of it. So we ended up going with this set-up and thickened the Zoom bag up a little bit and changed the traction just to eliminate a little bit of rubber.
And then moving into the upper, the biggest change you obviously see is the wing breaking up into this carbon lateral support element and deconstructing that ankle a little bit so that now it’s more like a low-top shoe with these extra harnesses around your ankle to give you that feeling of support, but they don’t add the collar of the LeBron 9 which is really protective and thick. So we kinda pulled some of that stuff out and still give the protection, but in a different way that actually allows for a little better ankle flexion, because the post-season is so much shorter so you don’t need that much protection up there. And then we expanded the notion of Pro-Combat through more of the shoe, so instead of just inside the wings on the LeBron 9, now it’s the entire bootie. And that’s something that LeBron really identifies with. He loves to feel those pads. Maybe it’s that football mentality. So we’re bringing that to the shoe as well, so when you strap it on, it’s like you’re putting on football pads. You feel like you’re ready to get hit and take that beating with no problem.
And even furthering that, we updated the sockliner so that the impact protection is even better. We still use the 180 Max unit, but now we’ve got a dual density Elite sockliner that really cups your heel and this sticky print that helps the foot remain stable in the shoe and not move around so much where you don’t want it to move. These little details are just small tweaks here and there, but all together, you get a performance that’s drastically different and a feel that’s drastically different, as well as a different look.
That’s the LeBron and with the others, I think we took each shoe and looked at the athlete we were making it for and what they would want for that time of year. For LeBron, it’s all about strength and these others guys are about a different set of qualities that they look for.