words & images_Zac Dubasik

I’ll openly admit that I’ve been extremely fortunate to get the opportunity to play in so many shoes, and for the past few seasons, it seems like there have been more and more pairs falling into the “good” and “really good” categories. With so much to choose from though, what sets a shoe apart? What takes if from being another really good pair of hoops kicks, and makes it great? As I was thinking about this, the answer became really obvious, and it really comes down to one question, “What shoe do I just simply want to play in?”

When all of my other testing is done, and I’m waiting to start the next pair, which ones do I want to play in just because I love playing in them? Two seasons ago, that was the Zoom LeBron V. It fit great, had phenomenal stability, responsive cushioning, killer traction and, above all, it had that X-factor – I just wanted to play in them. Last season was another easy choice. I logged countless games in the Zoom Kobe IV, even long after its forefoot cushioning had bit the dust (meaning every wearing after the first two). But I still reached for them every time I didn’t have another shoe to review.

This season, I thought the Air Jordan 2010 and Zoom LeBron VII PS were exceptional shoes. I could have made an argument in my head for either of them being my favorite of the year. When I look back, though, I haven’t worn either of those shoes upwards of 30 times after I finished testing them. The shoe I have worn day in and day out as my go-to pair this year? The Zoom KD II. All $85 of it. The shoe that doesn’t even have an Air cushioning unit in the heel. The shoe that didn’t even have a new tooling from the prior year’s model. After playing in it now probably close to 40 times, I like them just as much as the first time I tried them on.

It was a bit surprising that I’d like a shoe costing only $85 as much as I did, but it wasn’t a total shock. Getting to play in the luxuries offered in more expensive shoes, I’ve learned that they don’t always necessarily translate to better on-court performance. What did shock me was that even after wearing them all this time, they haven’t considerably broken down, and I’m still as big of a fan of them as I was when I was just a few wearings in. I’ve talked at length in my Kicksology review, and in my season-end performance picks, about how much I liked the Zoom KD II, but it only recently struck me that I had now given them the highest acclaim I personally feel I can give a shoe. I just want to play in it, and that’s what makes a shoe great.