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What It’s Like Spending A Month Training With Nike Basketball

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The NBA’s All-Star Weekend finally returned to New York City this February. The mid-season classic hasn’t been held in Gotham since 1998, and this allowed for shoe brands to show out for the occasion. Nike rebranded Manhattan as Zoom City, releasing their four signature models in colorways inspired by particular architectural landmarks in the city’s storied history. This also afforded the brand the chance to give a select few the opportunity to partake in their Zoom City Training experience. I was one of twenty or so lucky people that got to partake in the month-long event (that’s me: fifth from left) to meet training gurus, try out Nike’s latest technology, and get a good run or two in before heading to a day at the office.

My credentials are a year of High School basketball, a lifelong love of the game, and this job, so I’ll do my best to let you know what a month-long wear-test experience is like as honestly as possible throughout the rest of this article. My game’s about an inch or two above the ground so I have to rely on the fact that I’m left-handed and have an average jumpshot to make any impact on a game. Can people who write about sneakers as a profession play basketball? Definitely. Am I one of them? I probably fall somewhere right in the middle. From training sessions with famous trainers like Tim Grover and Idan Ravin, to a tournament that had us playing on a futuristic LED basketball court in front of a couple hundred people, the Nike Zoom Training experience gave SneakerNews an in-depth look at the inner-workings of Nike Basketball’s All-Star plans all while getting a chance to try out their latest creations. Here’s how it all went down.

Week 1: Training in the Nike Kobe 10 with the legendary Tim Grover

Walking into Week 1 in early February, I entered the court and immediately noticed all the Kobe call-outs. Notice the banner in the bottom left-hand that simply reads ‘Free’. Week one had us focus on taking the Nike Kobe 10 for a spin, and none other than Tim Grover was there, a man who Kobe considers to have a mental toughness second to none. The Black Mamba personally sought out Tim after he heard a testimonial from his idol, Michael Jordan, on what a workout with Grover was like. I don’t consider myself to be that mentally tough of an individual – I can’t run more than a mile without the occasional ‘you’re dying, just quit’ chorus chanting in my head unless a basketball is in my hands to trick me into exercise, so I was hoping that this guy would take it easy on a bunch of people with desk posture. I was wrong.

In this case, Tim and Kobe’s Score Til You Black Out mantra was substituted with Stretch Til You Black Out. I left the first training session so sore that I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

Tim was intent on giving us a hellish workout. The man partly responsible for Kobe’s adoption of the 666 training regiment (in which Bryant ran for 2 hours, played 2 hours of basketball, and lifted for 2 hours during the off-season in his prime) had us doing all sorts of drills that made me question whether I’d have my legs and arms able to hoist a shot anywhere near the rim during the actual games. (Above:) I’m pretty sure I’ve never made this movement since playing catcher poorly in 4th grade. (Below:) We had to do push-ups with our hands on the ball. After seeing how many of us could do it, we reverted back to normal push-ups.

Was it a coincidence? Or were they trying to tell me something by giving me a no.8 jersey on the day that we’d be giving the Kobe 10 a wear-test?

Outfitted with a brand new outsole that’s comprised of Natural Motion on the forefoot, the translucent overlay features tiny teeth that grip the court to give you added traction. This was by far everyone’s favorite shoe by the end of the monthly training session. When we were given the option to wear any shoe for the final run, there’s a reason why everyone showed up with this vibrant blue pair. As for the overall model, people have complained that it’s overly simplistic and has no real identity. I disagree. With the incredibly lightweight mesh upper that continues Kobe’s affection for low top silhouettes, you’re provided with a shoe that’s as breathable as last year’s engineered mesh varieties. Definitely worth checking out.

Week 2: Playing under (and above) the bright lights at the Nike Zoom City Classic

With the NBA’s All-Star Weekend returning to Manhattan for the first time since 1998, Nike rebranded all of Gotham as Zoom City. Their crowning achievement – the Zoom City Arena. The court was comprised of LED lights that during a previous ‘draft combine’ would tell us where to go for drills with annotated arrows, and the technology was virtually limitless in what it could display given we were essentially playing on a HD TV. Split up into 6 teams representing LeBron, Kobe, KD, Kyrie, James Harden, and Anthony Davis, bloggers like myself were paired with the occasional celebrity like Stalley, Common, J.Cole and A$AP Twelvy for the double elimination tournament. Hailing from Cleveland, I was honored to represent Team LeBron. Each team was given a chance to run in their particular Nike Athlete’s “All-Star” signature, so we laced up the Nike LeBron 12 “Zoom City”.

When we asked Anthony if he’d be our back-up center to provide some much-needed interior presence after a heartbreaking Game 1 loss that had Stalley score a bucket over me to win (I think I was playing the 4 at this point) The Brow looked at our jerseys, laughed, and noted the Team LeBron name. Davis to Cleveland in 2016? You heard it here first.

The beards unite. After this Stalley-James Harden handshake I could feel my facial hair grow.

To my Team LeBron teammates, even though we were ousted in the first two games, I’ll leave you with the third quote I found on Google when searching for ‘inspirational failure quotes’ – “Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.” – Credited to none other than Donald Trump. We may not have any in-game action shots as proof that we competed together, but we will always have this. Always.

Week 3: Testing out Nike’s Hyper series with the Hyperrev, Hyperchase, and Hyperposite 2

Week 3 tipped off with an introduction to Nike’s bolstered Hyper Series. With the Nike Hyperrev 2015, the James Harden-inspired Nike Hyerpchase, and Hyperposite 2, Nike has created models right below their immediate four-star signatures that are just as enticing offerings to wear on-court. Guys waiting in the wings for their own respective signature sneaker in Paul George (the Nike Hyperrev 2015) James Harden (who has been given added attention in both the Nike Zoom Run The One and the Nike Hyperchase) and Anthony Davis (the Nike Hyperposite 2) all don these models on court. You might remember the Nike Hyperrev from last year, as it was introduced by Kyrie Irving, and seeing this year’s model was jarring to say the least. It’s a complete redesign, as the shoe opted for a lowtop construction with a neoprene mesh sockliner. The Hyperposite 2 added that feel as well, as the posite overlay was given multiple cutouts to bring the shoe up-to-date with a lightweight construction while being just as supportive as the previous model.

Even the Nike Zoom Hyperrev 2015 got in on the All-Star action this year. I didn’t get a chance to try on this pair though. Instead I gave the Nike Hyperposite 2 a test-run. Surprisingly lightweight for a shoe aimed at guys like Chris Bosh and Anthony Davis, the Posite overlay was supportive enough for a firm grip while an inner-sock was form fit to my foot for a snug ride. I wouldn’t say they’re a pair catered for guards, but if you consider yourself someone who lives in the paint, then they’re worth a shot.

The morning drills inspired me to be more aggressive.

An awkward post up attempt inspired by the lengthiness of Anthony Davis and my Hyperposites. The lack of shooting sleeve was regrettable.

Ending the session right with a post-training session meal prepared by Chef Max.

Week 4: Listening to The Hoops Whisperer, Idan Ravin, and saying goodbye to ZCT

Upon hearing rumors that the mysterious Hoops Whisperer would be leading the last training session, I had to prepare. My car picked me up at 6:45 in the morning and as I headed over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan, I was gearing up by listening to the distant instrumentals in my headphones disappear while I read player testimonials about Idan Ravin. This is the guy that helped Stephen Curry become fully-actualized and has pushed both Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony for about a decade with his unorthodox training techniques. I needed to find my center before entering the quiet eye of the storm that would be a training session ran by Mr. Ravin.

We never stopped. If we weren’t focusing on directional shifts and using our own respective body weights against us in an actual drill – an immediate reminder of what sitting at a desk for hours on end will do to your balance – then we were on the sideline in perpetual motion mid-jumping jack (if he didn’t have his back turned). Idan was an eclectic individual for sure. While he doled out instructions with a humble soft-spoken nature, his intensity was a definite contradiction. He had us try to take two dribbles to cross the length of the court for a layup. Fundamentals were ignored. Balls were thrown like Steve Francis in the 2000 dunk contest and caught by mid-court in the name of basketball anarchy.

Idan kept referring to the court as a sanctuary, as he noted that as much extra noise that Kobe and LeBron have going on in their lives with personal branding and the media, they still shut out everything and find peace on the hardwood for hours at a time. Of course, this was in-between sending out reminders that we were only doing drills at both a fraction of the pace and portion that these guys do.

This was seriously one of the only times our feet weren’t moving – a reward for winning a shooting drill. When we weren’t apart of the drill happening on court, Idan had us either doing knee-highs or jumping jacks to keep the blood flowing. This is the guy that famously made J.R. Smith throw up three times during a training session. No word yet on whether that occurred on a Sunday morning though.

The great thing about these brief training sessions is that the trainer doesn’t know you well enough to harp on fundamentals like using the correct hand when going up for a lay-up. Lefties unite.

To my Zoom City brothers, I bid you adieu.