December 28th, 2012 by Sneaker News
There’s no doubt that Nike has the kind of clout to crank out basketball sneakers fit for the most demanding of performance conditions. At the end of the day though, these sneakers have to be transferable into the retail world, and costs can become a limiting factor on the type of innovation and technology that is possible when it comes to sports footwear. The new Nike Basketball Elite Series basically threw all those price restrictions out the window, letting the mad scientist design minds of Leo Chang and Jason Petrie tackle the task of creating the ultimate footwear performance machines unrestricted of the necessity to balance pricepoints. The results saw the Nike LeBron 9, Zoom Kobe VII, and Hyperdunk 2011 all reworked, revamped, and upgraded with added accoutrements meant to address the heightened demands of post-season play.
The Nike LeBron 9 Elite had perhaps the most drastic jump in terms of its reworking, both the outer shell and the guts of the sneaker getting switched up dramatically. The Zoom bag got thicker in an attempt to recreate the feel of the orthodic inserts that LeBron normally uses to add more stiffness into his sneakers. The upper was transformed into “more like a low-top shoe with these extra harnesses” in the words of Jason Petrie, the base strengthened by a lateral carbon support and the thick collar of the regular Nike LeBron 9 trimmed a bit in the name of ankle movement. Even the sockliner got the remix treatment, with a sticky print and an added level of density to help grab at the foot and keep it in place. LeBron’s entry into the Elite series was also the lone one to expand upon the straight black and white colorways, offering the likes of the “Taxi”, “Miami Vice”, and the celebratory “Championship Pack” that came at the culmination of his epic season.
The Nike Zoom Kobe VII Elite honed in on the low version of the modular Kobe System set up, a response to Kobe’s own preferences. For this particular model, the Nike design team knew pretty much right away what sort of higher end technology they wanted to cram in to suit the needs of the Black Mamba. That would be the full length Zoom unit, one of the pricier bags available in Nike’s repertoire of cushioning systems, and one that doesn’t find its way into too many standard footwear releases for that very reason. Beyond that, Kobe’s entry grabbed at the scaly look of his previous sneaker, upgrading the pattern to serve a slightly more functional role with the scales switching in density on differing areas of the design for added stability benefits.
The Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Elite, represented in the league by the likes of Blake Griffin and numerous others, saw the layers of the original model halved, the upper shaving off a considerable amount of bulk in that area to ramp up the overall flexibility of the silhouette. Along with that subtraction came plenty of additions. Kevlar threads were introduced to help lockdown the fit, the heel counter came through with a little more bounce thanks to a new carbon fiber plate, and a traction print in the Achilles area was fashioned to help keep in the heel in control.
The Nike Elite Basketball Series was a rare glimpse at exactly how far the designers behind Nike’s foremost basketball footwear offerings can push the performance aspect when given the chance. It was a reminder in a market dominated by retros that there are indeed folks out there focused on, obsessing over even, the notion of making the best possible sneaker for the world’s best players. Let’s just hope that they decide to make the teched out post-season tier of Nike Elite Basketball a yearly tradition and we can only imagine what further advancements could be in store in the future.
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