Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III Part 2/2

Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III Part 2/2

Leo Chang & Nike Basketball Detail the Nike Zoom KD III

words & images // Nick DePaula

You learned all about the design details and performance insights that went into building the Nike Zoom KD III in Part 1 of our interview with Leo Chang and the Nike Basketball team that works on Kevin Durant’s signature product, but what about KD’s personal input right after a full-on workout? Or the colorways he most wanted to see this time around on his third namesake model?

Check out Part 2 of our Zoom KD III feature below, as Nike Basketball Design Director Leo Chang, Footwear Developer Dolores Thompson and Pro Sports Marketing Field Representative Charles Terrell help to walk us through both the shoe and what it’s like to work with KD. Nike Basketball Product Line Manager Will Eberhart was also kind enough to join in on the second half of our roundtable discussion.

To read Part 1, check here: Leo Chang & Nike Basketball Details The Zoom KD III (Part 1 / 2)

Nick DePaula: The price point of KD’s shoes is something that always sets him apart from other signature athletes. Is he contractually locked into that $88 zone and staying below $90 for the foreseeable future?
Charles Terrell: There’s nothing on paper, but that was something that we’ve always been eye to eye on that’s important to him and that we said we were going to do. As he elevates, it’s going to be harder to do, and I think that’s the challenge. But that’s a welcome challenge, and I don’t think it’ll be something we shy away from. We’ll have conversations with him too, when we think the time is right to re-assess the business.

Kevin Durant - EPICNDP: In three to five years, Kobe will be older and LeBron will be onto his 13th shoe….
Terrell: Kobe won’t be playing in five years. [laughs]

NDP: Exactly. [laughs]
Will Eberhart: I think even more importantly for him, is his personal connection with the kids that are buying his shoes and how that relates to how he grew up. It’s more important to him to have a kid that can afford his shoes and have a kid that grew up like him be able to afford his shoes. We’ve seen it in the past, with a number of athletes who had very pricey shoes for their time period, who ended up going to funny companies.

NDP: Don’t hate on my man CWebb!
Eberhart: I’m just saying!! The reason was, guys who grew up like him couldn’t afford his shoes. It’s a personal thing for him to have his shoe be more affordable.

NDP: Is part of the long-term plan in keeping his price-points low also just sharing the tooling? We saw the 1 and 2 carry over the same outsole.
Dolores Thompson: Not necessarily. There might be certain upper molds like a KD logo or certain things that we might be able to share, but as far as the bottom tooling, no.

NDP: So the IV won’t be on the same?
Eberhart: As signature styles grow and evolve, you want more signature details in the shoe, and you won’t necessarily just share tooling. The goal is to keep him at a premium level as much as possible.

Leo Chang: On that note, this is the first time in a long time that we’ve done as robust and as nice of a shank on an $88 shoe. That’s something we do on a $100-$125 shoe level or more. We have this nice 3D shape that really prevents the midfoot area from bending in weird ways. That’s something that working with the Thunder Director of Sports Medicine Donnie Strack, we were we able to learn more about just the biomechanics of KD’s foot. Some of the guys were wearing the Hyperize at the time that we started these, and they felt like it was bending in weird spots, and Donnie was pointing that out to us and why those players didn’t like it. For us, it was all knowledge to incorporate into this shoe for him and his teammates, to make sure it doesn’t do that. Even after that meeting, we kept in touch and would always meet with Donnie when the Thunder came to town. Last time, he brought us actual X-Rays and MRI slides of KD’s foot, just to explain even further what was going on.

Eberhart: Now Leo is being really modest, because the other side of that is Leo taking all of that information and incorporating it into the right places and still keeping the shoe key to the athlete and making it commercially viable for the rest of the greater population.

NDP: Can you guys talk about some of the colorways that we’ll be seeing?
Chang: Obviously, he’ll be wearing his Thunder colors for home and away, and then we also are dong team colors for the first time.

Eberhart: There’s four team versions, a White/ Varsity Red, White/ Varsity Royal, White/ Gorge Green and White/ Black/ Metallic Silver. It was kind of a play to just stretch out his color opportunities by virtue of him getting more worldwide. It was an opportunity to say, “How can we get this into a more broader range and into team basketball?” It’s not your traditional team bank plan that’s blown out in ten colors, but it is a team-based look for those four colors. Three of which are probably your most widespread team colors, and then the Gorge Green being a nod to Montrose Christian, his high school.

Chang: The Black/ Photo Blue will be his away colorway, and then the white based with black, orange and yellow hits will be his home. Then, there’s also a White, Photo and Navy colorway for him to wear at home in the spring. We launched on Christmas Day in the yellow version of the KD3 that is basically this year’s Creamsicle. We let him decide what that’s called, like he did with the Creamsicle. He just made that up on the spot. He always loves bright, super bold colors on the shoes, and we wanted to play off of the yellow in their uniforms, and still have the team orange and photo blue in there to hook up as well. Using the fourth color in their palate was the goal, and we haven’t really used that color too much so far. We wanted to really blow that out, and we also used all reflective yellow 3M through the whole upper, and he loves that. Then, an icy yellow outsole to round it out.
Eberhart: That’s always fresh.

Nike Zoom KD III Playoff ColorwayTerrell: The thing I like about this [Christmas] shoe is that, externally, I think it shows that he’s arrived, because our other two guys were wearing their special shoes on that day as well, in Kobe and LeBron. He was showcased, and it’s kind of his coming out party. It’s also us launching him internally, and saying, “Hey, he’s our guy and he’s prominent on holidays too.” He was excited about that too.

NDP: How do you guys decide who on his team wears his shoe? Is it just offered to everyone?
Terrell: Yeah, the whole team is offered to wear it. Some guys will wear it and some guys won’t, but the majority of them will wear the shoe because they like to support him. Other than it being him, it’s good product, and guys are really starting to take to wearing his shoe.

Eberhart: We’ve seen it a few times with LeBron and the Soldier series, and we’ve seen it often with Kobe, where even a guy like Derek Fisher, when he was still with the goodfellas, before he crossed over to the dark side. [laughs] He was a guy who was notoriously in a Max shoe, and now he was wearing a Kobe signature shoe to show support. It’s one of the things that Leo has really taken and injected into the shoe, that entire team dynamic. He’s making sure that those guys are able to support him by virtue of wearing KD’s shoe, which we saw on November 19th versus Boston. Kevin was hurt, but guys still wore his shoe in support of their guy. It’s very rare that you find guys that aren’t jealous of one another and are actually supporting the guy that is getting the majority of the accolades and a lot of the attention.

What’s also a funny story, or at least I think it’s funny, is that with the Black/ Photo Blue colorway, everyone constantly talked about a Black/ Red/ White being the “lucrative” or the most dominant colorway that you have to do at retail. It doesn’t make sense for a guy that plays in Oklahoma City! Our version of the Black/ Red/ White is the Black/ Photo Blue, and you’ll see that consistently. You saw it in the 2, it was the lead color for the 3, and you’ll see it in the 4 and so on. It’s Kevin Durant’s version of Black/ Red/ White. That was Michael Jordan’s colorway and what broke the mold. Naturally, if for the past twenty-five years you have the most dominant colorway at retail being led by the guy who pretty much changed the game, then Black/ Red/ White works for him. But does it make sense to do that for Kevin Durant, who’s colors are not tied to that and who has no connection to it? I don’t think so, so Black/ Photo Blue will be his lead colors and will continue to be.

Nike Zoom KD III Tooling

Chang: Photo Blue was an entirely new color on our palette, right around the time that the 1 had hit. We started using that and it was the closest thing to the Thunder colors, and it was just one of those difficult colors that a lot of our regions didn’t really embrace. But now, it’s a staple on a lot of our other shoes and Photo Blue is on everything. There was another person that originally had worked on the brief before Will came on board, and they had written, “We gotta do something different with these colors. Who wears blue, orange and black together?” I was like, “Well, that’s kind of their colors. We have to work with that.”

[everyone laughs]

Thompson: Maybe you shouldn’t write that down, and maybe you shouldn’t say that. [laughs]

Chang: His colors aren’t White/ Black/ Red, but it was a new opportunity to do something different and start a new legacy of colors and do something that we could make a mark with.

Nike Zoom KD III Redskins Colorway

NDP: What about the Redskins burgundy and yellow colorway?
Chang: That actually came from our trip to China with him, and we were asking him what other colors he wanted. Right away, he said, “I want a Redskins based colorway.” So we ran that version and it has a gumsole.
Eberhart: That was just insight from the athlete. And, not what’s your favorite team, but what’s your heritage? Where are you from? The kid represents DC all day, and what’s most notable about DC? Redskins. So we ran with the Redskins, and it was a fight, but it’s been well received.

Nike Zoom KD III Grey/YellowNDP: And this grey and yellow version?
Eberhart: It’s also just in time for Easter, and Oklahoma City only has two uniforms, but we were just thinking aloud, “What if they get a third alternate uniform and what would that look like?” This is our take on what that might look like.
Terrell: Did you tell the team what we’d like their alternate to look like?
Eberhart: Oh yeah. I sent them an email.

[everyone laughs]

Chang: Lastly, we’ll do a Black and white version with a cool iridescent Flywire piece for the playoffs. One of the final details that I want to point out is just the tongue pull. It’s just one of those details that when you think about signature shoes, you want to have those iconic details that people remember. Every Jordan always had something that became iconic. That’s why they end up doing those hybrids where they throw all of those iconic details onto one shoe. [laughs] But we won’t be doing that.

NDP: Man, don’t do a Fusion KD please.
Chang: No way! [laughs]
Eberhart: On a Free bottom!
Thompson: As long as the three of us are working on KD, that won’t happen. [laughs]

Chang: But that tongue is just one of those fun, youthful details there. He’s still young, and we want to have fun with his stuff.

NDP: Obviously LeBron has a huge advertising budget and had his whole start of season campaign, but KD seems to be going the more viral route.
Terrell: We’re the grassroots guys here. The thing about KD is it’s been a slow-burn type of mentality with him. Obviously, he was a phenom coming out, but we still didn’t throw him out there with a bunch of pairs of shoes in the marketplace and all of these crazy colorways. We started him off small, and second was bigger, the third will be bigger, and the fourth will be even bigger. We got a pretty good cadence now, and hopefully his marketing will pick up a bit next year. We’re happy with what we have this year, and we’re not satisfied yet, but we do see growth and that’s what you want.

Everyone has been working hard on his product, being pro-active about things, and that’s the way that he is. He’s in the gym all of the time, and he’s always trying to get better and watch film, and it’s a dual action from both sides and you get great product out of that. Where we’re at now, he’s growing, and we’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a phenom here, and we’ve got to push it.

Nike Zoom KD III

NDP: What inspired the “KD’s Neighbor” campaign, and was that something you guys created or was that a Wieden thing?
Terrell: Wieden came up with it, and they were just feeding off of him and how he is. There was an actual neighbor in Seattle that was like that. He had a situation like that. The kid came by to drop some cookies off, and he had an interaction like that, and Wieden heard that in a meeting and they bit on that.

Chang: A lot of the scenarios that are shown online, you guys just made them up on the spot.
Terrell: Wieden had a list of stuff, and then they ended up just adding more to it. There was one time where we were just in the weight room, and he thought it’d be funny if he was showing Mathias how to lift weights. Then it ended up being something funny where we wanted to make a joke about KD not being able to do 185. Then, they showed him benching three plates or something crazy.

NDP: Without showing the side of the bar of course.

[everyone laughs]

Terrell: I don’t know what you’re talking about! That’s the kind of guy he is though, and you can make light of some things with him. A lot of the videos that we did with him, we didn’t script any of it.
Chang: Even the one where he’s in his scuba gear, that came from his Facebook picture of him wearing a wetsuit and scuba diving in the Bahamas.
Terrell: For him to actually want to do that and be comfortable, that just shows his growth. It’s all been gradual.

NDP: What kind of feedback on the KD III were you able to get just from meeting up with him?
Chang: It was cool when Will and I went to Chicago to meet up with Chuck at KD’s Skills Academy, and it was a so not normal experience. Will and I were in a focus group at a hotel talking to kids, and we get this text from Chuck, “Where you guys at?” It was like an hour before we were supposed to meet up with KD, and he’s like, “Where are you guys at? He’s at the gym right now! He’s waiting on you guys.”
Terrell: They were going to show him the shoe in his size for the first time, and he’s waiting there wanting to try them on.
Chang: We’re scrambling out of the hotel, throwing stuff in the bag and driving over to the gym, and that’s not normal for an athlete. He’s waiting for us to get there, and we weren’t even late. We were early. He’s there with his shoes off already all ready to go.
Terrell: He’s telling me, “I want to put the shoes on and go work out in them right now!”
Eberhart: What these guys aren’t telling you, is that he just got off of a plane too. It must’ve been about 6:30 pm. We were supposed to meet at 8, and his flight was supposed to get in at 6, so we figured he’d get in, put his stuff down and take some time to relax and then go to the gym. He went straight to the gym. No food. Guys that are with him are hungry and starving. [laughs]  He didn’t just shoot around either. No, he went through a full workout. He did a two-hour workout with [Tim] Grover and is working on moves to get better for next season. That was the whole weekend. He gets up at 7 in the morning, hits the weights and goes to the gym. At his Skills Camp, he’d go through the drills full speed with the High School kids in the morning, take some shots in between, and then do all of the drills again when the college kids came. He’d grab lunch, get up a couple hundred shots, and then do the High School second session, and then do the College second session of the day. He’d go through at least three sessions a day!
Chang: Right around dinner time, he went and did a community service thing at a bowling alley, and then went back to the gym at night. From 8 til 10 at night, he was just working out.
Terrell: The flip side of that is, he’s doing all of this work, and now we’re getting all of this information about the shoe and it’s in real time. He can say, “I like the shoe, but it’s hurting me right here.” Because he’s been out there full speed, we know that he’s really testing them out. It’s not like, “I’ll get back to you in a couple of days and try them out.”
Chang: It was instant. Just seeing him run around out there full speed, doing cuts, doing drills and doing whatever. Right afterwards, when he was taking a break, we’re asking him how they felt.
Terrell: The thing with KD, is we’ve built that rapport, so he’ll allow us to get into his realm. Most guys want to just drink Gatorade and chill during a break like that, but he’s open to us.

NDP: When you guys were talking with him in settings like that, what were some things that he knew he liked right away, and some things he wanted to see changed or improved?
Chang: He just said it was a comfortable shoe, and he has a really narrow foot, so he just wanted the forefoot area to be tightened up just a little bit more. Overall, he was really happy with it. He thought it felt lighter.
Eberhart: And the Flywire. That Photo Blue pop jumped out at him right away, and he started talking about it before he put the shoe on. He had it in hands and was just tossing it around and inspecting it, and you could just see, he’s still a guy who is so humble, that anything you do for him, he feels that he doesn’t deserve it or he hasn’t earned it. He’ll just sit there like, “Wow. This is incredible.” He’s super excited to get it on, but he’ll still take it in, like, “Really, you did this for me?”

NDP: That’s how he seemed at the World Basketball Festival when he was getting interviewed by everyone. He was just like, “I’m not sure why everyone is around me and what the big fuss is.” [laughs]
Terrell: I always talk about this new athlete that we have, and he’s different. We know that. Working with him, you can really see it. The public might not know that, but it’s our job to promote that in his shoe and in his product and whatever we do. It ignites us to make sure that we’re on top of what we’re doing, and are complete and detailed.

Available now: Nike Zoom KD III

Nike Zoom KD III Grey Heel

Nike Zoom KD III Orange Outsole

Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III (Part 1/2)

Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III (Part 1/2)

Leo Chang details the Nike Zoom KD III.

words & images // Nick DePaula

Kevin Durant is not your typical signature athlete. As in, literally, he doesn’t even want his own signature on the shoe. That’s not because he doesn’t appreciate the thought, work and attention to detail from the Nike Basketball team that leads his sneakers, but he’d rather deflect than attract the attention. At all times. He’s also adament that his shoes represent more than just his name, as he and his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates have all taken to wearing them, whether it’s guards like Russell Westbrook and Eric Maynor, or even bigs like Nick Collison and Nazr Mohammed.

Now just three years into the process of personalized and custom signature product, Durant and Nike Basketball Design Director Leo Chang are getting more and more familiar with eachother when bouncing off ideas and feedback, and when they set out to begin the process of designing the Zoom KD III nearly two years ago, it was a series of emails and exchanges that helped to shape the new silhouette, technology and direction.

I had a chance to catch up with Leo Chang, Footwear Developer Dolores Thompson and Pro Sports Marketing Field Representative Charles Terrell to hear not only every last point of inspiration and design detail that went into the Zoom KD III, but also to hear a bit about how the team works with KD, how his own approach to the process has evolved through the years and what he’s after in his own, more-we-and-less-me signature shoes.

Check out our in-depth conversation below, and be sure to check back soon for part 2 of our interview with Leo Chang and the Nike Basketball team behind Kevin Durant’s series.

Nike KD III Sample - Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III

Nick DePaula: Coming off of the KD2, what were some of the main things that you wanted to get after from the start and improve upon?
Leo Chang: We started the process by looking at the KD1 and 2, and we had a lot of story telling details that we created on the outsole, that talked about the hard work that he’s put into his game to get to where he is now, his family, and everything that’s important to him. On the 3, we knew we were going to create a new midsole and a new outsole, and everything head to toe would be new. What do we want this shoe to represent story-wise? How do we evolve his story? Really, that had to come from him. Chuck was great about reaching out to him and getting that information for us. So, what did he say Chuck? [laughs]

Charles Terrell: Well, we’ve had open communication with him from the start, and I think that’s what we’ve tried to keep focusing on with him. Being open and letting him know that he’s apart of the process. The first year he worked with Leo, the second year he and Leo got together more to work on the 2, and now we all feel like we have a rapport with our group, and that made it much more easier for him to elaborate this time around and really give us more details and inspiration. That’s what gave us a head start on things this time around, because he was more familiar with us and with Leo as a designer, and those things being in place is how the 3 began to evolve, and we’re still early on that path and still progressing. He had a big summer, probably a breakout summer for him, and especially also with Nike and the World Basketball Festival, so he’s growing and now the footwear is growing too. The 3 is better than the 2, and we’ll continue to get better.

Nike Zoom KD III Grey SampleNDP: What were some of the things that he was pin-pointing that he wanted to see design wise for the 3? Obviously, the strap is gone here.
Terrell: Right away, he said, “No strap. Kobe collar.”
Chang: Here’s actually the email that he sent Chuck. I’ll just read it. [laughs] “Ok, I’ve been thinking that on the KD3, I don’t want a strap!!! I think I want to try the Kobe collar on the shoe, and I want to display my true love and passion for the game, and how much I love the family aspect of the game, and how close me and my teammates are. I also want to incorporate the 62 point game I had down at Berry Farms, and also my love for Keri Hilson.”

[everyone laughs]

Chang: But he also talked about his love for music. We were kind of building off his Velvet Hoop persona at the time [from the Hyperize campaign]. So I asked him what was the difference between him and Velvet Hoop. He said, “Velvet Hoop is different because he’s more the quiet but deadly type, but has a great sense of humor.”

Really, the team thing was huge for him too. As you know, coming off of the Sports Illustrated “Season Preview” cover, he really fought to have his teammates on that cover with him. And he didn’t want just Russ or Jeff Green.

Terrell: Sports Illustrated wanted to do the cover with him. He said, “No, I’ll only do a cover if I have my teammates.” So they said, “Ok, which ones? Westbrook?” He said, “Russell. Jeff. Thabo. Krstic. Me. They‘re all starters, but they don‘t get the credit.” That just kind of speaks to who he is as a person. Sports Illustrated said, “Well, we can’t sell that.” So he just said, “Well, if you want me, that’s how it’s going to happen.” So, they did it. I thought it was great on his teammate’s part to all be wearing the KD2 and KD3 on the cover. He’s supporting them, and they’re also all supporting him right back. It was really cool to see, and it was amazing on his part to do that. And he’s been like that throughout, even in college. He’s always been that way, and it’s the mentality of a different athlete in our stable. He has all of these accolades, but he’s still grounded and about team, and not about “me.” That speaks volumes about him.

Chang: Even when we were in China for the KD Tour over the summer, they went to three cities and he brought James Harden along with him. He brought Russ last time to Taiwan.

Terrell: He just feels comfortable with his teammates always around him, and it’s a win-win for us because they’re other Nike athletes. But it speaks volumes about him and also gives us direction about who he is. In his emails, he doesn’t give us a lot of words, but he’s not standing on top of a table and screaming at us about what he wants either. We have a great communication.
Nike Zoom KD III Early Sample - Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III



NDP: How often do you guys go back and forth normally when working on a shoe?

Terrell: It could be every three to four months that we check in. We’ll try to check in with him and see what he likes and what he doesn’t like. He’s really good now about telling us what he wants. Just the other day, he hit me up and said, “I want some more color on the court.” Not a problem, we can do that for him. Now, it’s more so from him and what he needs, and we don’t have to always press the button and call him. He’s able to hit us up, and that comes from him being comfortable with us.

NDP: Design wise, the insights were, “No strap. Kobe collar.” Where did that take you Leo?

Chang:  He’s still looking at what LeBron is wearing and sees what he has, but Kobe has constantly come up over the years and what he’s worn. He was seeing that Kobe had been going lower, and he was like, “Well, that dude is a champion.” [laughs] We started thinking about the height that he wanted, and lowering it, so he gets a nice range of motion around the ankle. And actually, when we went to LA last year around this time to show him the KD3 sketches and everything, and a super busted upper [laughs], we were in the lobby and Nick Collison actually stopped me and was just chatting with me, cause he loves wearing the 1 and the 2. He said, “What I love about the shoes is that they’re lightweight, but not ridiculously lightweight like the Hyperdunk. They’re light enough, but it’s super stable.”

He was talking about lightweight stability, and that was one of the things that I thought was a great catch for what KD’s shoes should really represent from a performance standpoint. Lightweight stability, because everyone from Russ, Jeff, James and Nick, to KD obviously, all of those guys on that team, all different positions, are going to wear this shoe. In some ways, how do we meet the needs of all of his teammates? If you strip down the shoe too much in weight, you’re gonna lose a lot of the bigger guys. That was one of the key things. We want it lightweight obviously, because we don’t want the guys restricted by bricks on their feet, but we don’t want to overdo that and lose the stability or the confidence that the players have in wearing it.

Nike KD III Sample - Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III

NDP: Did you carry over the same cushioning platform from the 2?
Chang: Slightly different, because it’s a regular Phylon midsole, versus a lightweight Phylon that we used last year. Last season, he wore two pairs of the KD2 throughout the whole season. A home and an away. [laughs] That was it. And the Creamsicle once, of course.

Nike Zoom Air - Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III

NDP: Wow. That’s pretty much unheard of.
Terrell: That’s just how he is. He feels comfortable with something and he’ll wear it til they fall off. [laughs] Literally.

Chang: Both technically and cosmetically, the regular Phylon seems to hold up a little bit longer and better.

Dolores Thompson: From a processing standpoint, there’s a little bit more that you can get out of it from a definition perspective in a traditional Phylon than a lightweight Phylon. It’s the same process, but just a different compound and you get more definition.

Chang: Zoom in the forefoot again too.

NDP: Full wide and 6mm?

Chang: Exactly. And he plays on his toes all the time, and we watch him all the time and he barely ever touches his heels on the ground, even when he’s running. We just wanted to be purposeful of where we put technologies in things, because it’s $88.

Terrell: I think that’s a big key. That’s the zone that he requested when he came in. To Leo and his team’s credit, that’s the challenge.

Chang: Gahhh. [laughs]

Terrell: [laughs] Just making a shoe that marketing can get behind, yet still staying true to KD, has been a great challenge that up until this point has been great. I don’t know how it’s gonna go next year. [laughs]

Chang: He pretty much wears his shoe stock. There’s not a lot of customization going on with his shoes, like some other athletes have, so it’s even more important that what we put into his shoes will actually work for him. We’re not sacrificing performance for a ridiculous amount of embellishments or anything. That’s something that DT and I have, since the 2, have been pretty efficient with. When we put the story telling details on there, it’s on the parts of the shoe that need to be there. Like an outsole. You need an outsole, so why not build those details onto that.

Thompson: We’re not putting a lot of extra decorations on the tongue top, or the quarter or the foxing. Everything that is there needs to be there. We just try and embellish it to a point that it’s meaningful for him.

NDP: Some of the details that he definitely wanted carried over from the 2 are his mom’s initials?
Chang: Yeah, he wanted both his mom and dad’s initials and logo to return, the “WP” icon is for Wayne and Wanda Pratt. On the 1 & 2, we had it as a stamp on the inside of the tongue. Here, we’re trying to build more performance into the shoe, so those little extra screenprints will cost money, so that’s now built right into the tool and it’s a permanent thing that you can’t take off of the shoe. That’s definitely important, and there’s even more commitment to having that on the shoe.


When I read the email about what he wanted, there was that whole team aspect and how important that is for him. But I just wondered, “How do I put that on a shoe without being corny and just writing ‘TEAM’ on the shoe?” That’s kind of weird, and has been done before. So I wanted to do something that was a little more clever and creative than that. I was thinking that maybe I could use thunder bolts. One, it speaks to the team, and two, it also talks about energy. The team is so young and they’re full of energy and they get along on and off the court and have great energy when they play. That symbol alone represents them. You have five thunder bolts in the forefoot, and that represents the starting five coming together, and the bigger lightning bolt represents KD as the leader. That’s the long, drawn-out explanation of that. [laughs]

Nike KD III Outsole - Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III

NDP: There’s also the piano keys all throughout the outsole. How did that come about?
Chang: That actually came later, and we were stuck on how we were going to incorporate the music thing and his love of music. Right around that time, we had heard from Chuck that he makes beats on the side, and he just likes making music and listening to music. We didn’t know that he actually made beats, and it was kind of cool that he likes to be the producer in the background. When he said he loves music, we were like, “How do we figure that out and put it in there?” We didn’t want to do musical notes, because that’s been done before too. I was thinking beat machine buttons, but that could really be anything. So I asked him again on one of the trips how we should incorporate that, and he was like, “Well, what about piano keys.” I just said, “Yeah! I can definitely work with that.” So we have that perimeter inside of the outsole, and it’s the perfect place to hide some piano keys in there without being overly corny about it.

Thompson: Leo is masterful at finding real estate for things like that. You’d never think to do something like that, but yeah, it fit perfectly. We also had his signature on the medial side, and he was like, “Can you clean that up and get rid of it?” That just speaks to him wanting to be sleek and not wanting to draw any attention to himself.

Chang: There’s other details too, like the tip of the toe has three stars for DC, and he’s always gotta pay homage to that. On the medial side, on the rubber wrap, you’ll see “Seat Pleasant.” Every time we met with him, he kept saying he wanted more details on the shoes, and obviously, he grew up basically living in the Seat Pleasant Gym. They still have “Kevin’s Corner” there, where he used to nap at and where his grandma brought him lunch and dinner. [laughs] It was important for him, and he wanted to pay homage to that. The controller buttons on the back, that was something from the fact that we knew that he was obsessed with playing video games. He’s just obsessed with playing 2K.

Terrell: All of them. His ritual is he’ll play pre-game. He has to play his 2K before the game. [laughs]


Nike KD III Flywire - Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III

NDP: Does he play as himself?

Terrell: No, not always. They’ll do the random mode where it just stops on a random team and you have to play with them. He has to play some sort of game before he plays. He doesn’t take a nap pre-game like some other guys, so that’s what he does. [laughs]

Chang: And apparently, Chuck was saying that in China, he was undefeated. It was like 200-something people that he had played and he never lost. So obviously, that connection is huge for him, and every controller has four circle buttons like that, so it could represent any of those game systems. It could be an old school Super Nintendo. [laughs]

NDP: What’s going on with this midfoot piece here?
Chang: That, you can tell that the strap is sort of floating and pulls from the upper, and behind it is a longer eyelet whole. That channel allows you to lace into the back row of the eyelet hole, and you could potentially get a little better arch pull if you wanted to have a more snug fit through the arch. That’s something that other categories and products at Nike have done to get more lockdown in the arch, and I thought that was something that could be good for him to have. If each player has a different arch shape, that could help them get a better fit. Everyone’s arches are a bit different, and that’s probably one of the areas of the foot that varies the most, so why not make it more adaptable.

NDP: At what point was it decided that Flywire was going to be incorporated into the 3?
Chang: We wanted to definitely include Flywire from the get go. In the 1 and the 2, we were in a leather zone, and we wanted to really step it up and give him something with technology and innovation.

Thompson: And the timing was right. Flywire and Skinwire had already been in products for a few seasons, and naturally when you’re dealing with innovations at the factory, there’s efficiencies that are realized and the costs and labor that are associated with those technologies tend to come down over time. It became an affordable technology that we could put into the shoe.

NDP: How did the alignments change throughout the process?
Chang: Originally, we started with lines that were a little more angled all in one direction, and with Skinwire, we were finding that it was actually stretching up. So, we had to go back in and add more in a different direction, so that the interlocking of the two could really help to shore that material up.

NDP: Was it something that he had mentioned wanting, or was it something that you guys offered up to him?
Chnag: We had offered it up to him because we just wanted to give him more of a statement to work with. We had been in a leather and synthetic leather zone before, and that just wasn’t good enough for us, and we felt like we could give him the best of our current technologies that we have, again, using it purposefully where you need it for him and players like him. That brought us to focusing on the forefoot area, where you need it for lateral cutting, versus using it all over, which would put us in more of a Hyperdunk price point.

Nike KD III POP - Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD IIINike KD III POP Heel - Leo Chang Details the Zoom KD III

Nike Zoom KD III – Team Red/White-Del Sol

Nike Zoom KD III – Team Red/White-Del Sol

words // Brandon Richard

Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant is Washington D.C. born, so it should come as no surprise that he’s a die-hard Redskins fan. Durant’s Zoom KD III signature shoe has already dropped in a colorway said to be inspired by the Baltimore Orioles, which used to be the D.C. team by default until the Nationals stepped on the scene. Now the shoe is set to drop in a colorway linked to KD’s beloved Washington Redskins.

Sporting a team red leather upper, the “Redskins” KD III is accented by white on the Swoosh, Flywire notation, laces, upper tongue and rear midsole. Del Sol is used for the Swoosh border and textile along the inner liner. Finishing off the look below is a gum rubber outsole.

This excerpt from our exclusive interview with Leo Chang and the Nike Design Team explains how this colorway came about:

NDP: What about the Redskins burgundy and yellow colorway?
Leo Chang: That actually came from our trip to China with him, and we were asking him what other colors he wanted. Right away, he said, “I want a Redskins based colorway.” So we ran that version and it has a gumsole.
Will Eberhart: That was just insight from the athlete. And, not what’s your favorite team, but what’s your heritage? Where are you from? The kid represents DC all day, and what’s most notable about DC? Redskins. So we ran with the Redskins, and it was a fight, but it’s been well received.

Available: Nike Zoom KD III – Team Red/White-Del Sol “Redskins”

Nike Zoom KD III Team Red White Del Sol Washington Redskins 417279-600

Nike Zoom KD III Team Red White Del Sol Washington Redskins 417279-600

Nike Zoom KD III Team Red White Del Sol Washington Redskins 417279-600

Nike Zoom KD III Team Red White Del Sol Washington Redskins 417279-600

Nike Zoom KD III Team Red White Del Sol Washington Redskins 417279-600

Nike Zoom KD III – New Colorways Available

Nike Zoom KD III – New Colorways Available

words // Brandon Richard

With his team making a strong run heading into the NBA Playoffs, Kevin Durant’s third signature shoe is now available in two new colorways for spring. In addition to the photo blue and team orange Oklahoma City Thunder “home” colorway, an alternate look has surfaced. The shoe is black leather based with woven side panels, accented by hits of cool grey and team orange. Both styles are up now at Eastbay.

Available: Nike Zoom KD III

Click here for an in-depth performance review of the Zoom KD III by Sole Collector.

Nike Zoom KD III Black White Team Orange Cool Grey 417279-004

Nike Zoom KD III White White Team Orange Photo Blue 417279-107

Nike Zoom KD III – Wolf Grey/Del Sol-White

Nike Zoom KD III – Wolf Grey/Del Sol-White

words // Brandon Richard

Much like Kevin Durant’s game, the color palette for his third signature shoe continues to expand, now available in a spring-friendly colorway. This pair employs wolf grey nubuck for the majority of the upper, filling in the side panels and forefoot Flywire panel with del sol yellow. The tongue and side panel Swoosh logos are done in white, with del sol returning for duty on the textile inner liner. Wolf grey and yellow handle the midsole, while white rubber takes care of the outsole to finish off the look. Pick up a pair today over at Eastbay.

For more insight on the Zoom KD III, check out the video featuring designer Leo Chang here.

Available: Nike Zoom KD III – Wolf Grey/Del Sol-White

Nike Zoom KD III Wolf Grey Del Sol White 417279-003

Nike Zoom KD III Wolf Grey Del Sol White 417279-003