Russell Westbrook & The AJ XXXII

Russell Westbrook & The AJ XXXII

Air Jordans have seamlessly combined innovative performance and iconic style ever since they burst onto the scene in the ’80s. Perhaps no shoe better represented that idea than the Air Jordan 2, which borrowed inspiration from luxury dress shoes to create a sophisticated Italian vibe, while also introducing a groundbreaking sole unit. The result? A shoe that offered a legendary look and feel both on and off the court.

The newest member of the iconic Air Jordan line, the AJ XXXII, takes inspiration from the AJ 2, striving for that same combination of performance and style. Our latest cover athlete, Russell Westbrook, is the perfect player to represent the AJ XXXII.

Russ AJ32 Featured

Westbrook is coming off an MVP season where he made triple-doubles look like just another day at the office. Off the court, Westbrook is also notorious for his unique sense of fashion. He’s a rare athlete that makes headlines both for what he does on the court, as well as what he wears off it.

Tate Kuerbis, the AJ XXXII’s designer, gave us the inside scoop on the design process behind the shoe, new tech features, why it’s the perfect shoe for Westbrook, and more.

The AJ XXXII takes inspiration from the iconic Air Jordan 2. What was the design process like and can you highlight some of the more notable elements of the shoe?

Russ AJ 32 Mid

“The Air Jordan XXXII is inspired by the essence of the AJ II, which was the first luxury basketball shoe and was crafted in Italy. We took cues from the Italian craft of the AJ 2 plus MJ’s love of Italian sports cars and combined that inspiration with the latest performance innovations to bring the AJ XXXII to life. One of the standout features of the XXXII is the use of high-tenacity yarn within Flyknit technology. This takes the greatness of Nike Flyknit and makes it uniquely Jordan. In addition to providing athletes with the ultimate flexibility, support, and protection, it also allowed us to create a lacing system within it that is hidden. This gives it an “under the hood” feel, which people have come to expect from Air Jordans.”

Jordan has always introduced innovative shoes focused of basketball performance. How is the AJ XXXII built for the modern age of basketball?

Athlete insights are at the heart of everything we do. We gained valuable insights from the best players in the world to help create the XXXII. This includes Jordan Brand family members at every position, from young rising stars to seasoned veterans. What we heard from them is that they covet fit, form, and function, so we brought those insights into the XXXII to make it a shoe optimized for today’s game and athlete.

Can you break down some of the tech features behind the shoe, from the Flyknit upper to the Flight Speed Technology, cushioning, and traction? How do all these features really help athletes excel?

“The AJ XXXII introduces new, luxury-inspired performance innovations. It features an unmasked Flyknit upper with high-tenacity yarn that seamlessly combines stretch, support, and zonal lockdown. The laces integrate into Flyknit construction for distraction-free lockdown, creating an under-the-hood-type experience. Tuned-up Flight Speed technology unleashes the energy of Zoom Air units for an explosive step.”

Russell Westbrook is on our cover wearing the AJ XXXII. How does this shoe fit the needs of Russell’s unique game?

“The XXXII is a great combination of performance and style. The way Russell plays demands that he has the best performing sneaker on his feet, and style is something that is engrained in him as a person and player.”

The AJ XXXI took after the AJ 1. Now the AJ XXXII is taking after the AJ 2. Can you talk about that idea of drawing back on historic Jordans and introducing refreshed versions of these classics to a younger generation of athletes?

Russ AJ32 Low

“Being able to draw inspiration from classic silhouettes is a tremendous benefit for our designers but not a mandatory formula the team leans on when designing the next Air Jordan. Our goal is to continue to celebrate the brand’s legacy while creating new classics for the next generation of athletes.”

Jordan shoes are famous for combining style and performance. The AJ 2 definitely went after that idea. Can you explain how the team worked to make the AJ XXXII not only perform great, but also create a fresh look that can be rocked off the court?

“The brand’s number one priority for every game shoe is to create the best performance shoe possible. Because of Michael Jordan’s culture-defining style, his shoes were adopted by fans off the court and have become staples in the fashion world. That legacy is engrained in the brand’s DNA which allows us to focus on performance while still incorporating style elements that people have grown to love.”

Jordan shoes have some of the most iconic colorways of all time. Can you give us any teasers for colorways we might be seeing with the XXXII?

“The “Bred” colorway will always have a special place in the brand’s heritage and be represented on Air Jordan silhouettes. For future colorways… stay tuned!”

Kevin Durant Named NBA MVP

Kevin Durant Named NBA MVP

Kevin Durant Named NBA MVP (1)

image via NBA

words // Brandon Richard

Kevin Durant is a five-time NBA All-Star, four-time scoring champion, FIBA World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist. Now, following today’s official announcement, we can call Durant the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

This season, Durant posted career highs in scoring (32.0 ppg) and assists (5.5 apg), also adding 7.4 rpg. He became one of only four players to ever average 32+ ppg, 7+ rpg and 5+ apg in a season, joining Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. Durant scored 40+ points in 14 games and 25+ in 41 consecutive games, the third longest streak of its kind.

Behind Durant’s leadership, the Thunder weathered Russell Westbrook’s injury woes and finished with 59 wins, second best in the tough Western Conference.

It’s been an uphill battle for Durant, who finished second in MVP voting to LeBron James in three of the last four seasons. With another piece of hardware added to his ever-growing collection, he now turns his attention to the final piece of the puzzle — an NBA Championship.

Durant’s preferred shoe for his MVP season was the Nike KD 6, which you can pick up in a variety of colorways now at Eastbay.

Kevin Durant Named NBA MVP (2)

image via NBA

Sneaker Watch // Thunderous Rally Gives OKC Edge in Game 1

Sneaker Watch // Thunderous Rally Gives OKC Edge in Game 1

Sneaker Watch // Thunderous Rally Gives OKC Edge in Game 1

words // Brandon Richard

By the numbers, Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Finals between Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder was the most watched series opener since ABC acquired rights in 2003. The game registered an 11.8 overnight, topping the previous record established by the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons in 2004. If last night’s game was any indication of the gameplay we can expect in the series, then expect those type of numbers to trend as we progress through this anticipated showdown.

The early stage of Game 1 was dominated by the Heat, led by a focused LeBron James and surprisingly hot-handed Shane Battier. Shane dropped a postseason high 13 first half points, helping Miami lead by as much as 13 and maintaining a 7 point advantage at halftime. However, the Thunder seized control in the third quarter, led by their two All-Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. The two outscored Miami 41-40 in the final two quarters, including another impressive late-game closeout by the 23-year-old three-time scoring champion. Stifling defense sealed the deal on a 105-94 win for the home team.

Also impressive in Game 1 was the footwear, particularly the Finals Player Exclusives worn by James and Durant. Westbrook continued to wear his old “Why Not?” Hyperfuse PE; Kendrick Perkins added gold laces to the recently released “Military Blue” Air Jordan Retro 4; Mario Chalmers broke out a new colorway of the Spalding Slash; Shane Battier shot well in his PEAK sig; Mike Miller understandably ditched his usual KDs for a new Hyperdunk 2011 Low PE; Chris Bosh laced up a Finals colorway of the Air Max Hyperdunk 2011; and D-Fish, Daequan Cook and Serge Ibaka all repped the Three-Stripes.

A full look at the sneakers worn in the game (and Lil’ Wayne!) in this installment of Sneaker Watch.

Sneaker Watch // Thunderous Rally Gives OKC Edge in Game 1

LeBron James wearing Nike LeBron 9 P.S. Elite Red Finals PELeBron James backs down Russell Westbrook in his red Nike LeBron 9 P.S. Elite.

LeBron James wearing Nike LeBron 9 P.S. Elite Red Finals PE (2)Another look at LeBron’s Finals Elite 9 PE.

Lil' Wayne wearing Nike Dunk High Black OrangeAfter all the hoopla, Lil’ Wayne doesn’t seem too excited to finally be at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Kevin Durant wearing Nike Zoom KD IV White Gold Finals PEKevin Durant dials up a shot from long distance in a White/Gold PE colorway of the Nike Zoom KD IV.

Kevin Durant wearing Nike Zoom KD IV White Gold Finals PE (2)A closer look at Durant’s Finals KD IV PE.

Kendrick Perkins wearing Air Jordan IV 4 Military BlueKendrick Perkins works the post in a golden-laced pair of the “Military Blue” Air Jordan Retro 4.

Mario Chalmers wearing Spalding SlashMario Chalmers runs the point in a red-based colorway of the Slash by Spalding.

Serge Ibaka wearing adidas adiZero Shadow PESerge Ibaka operates in the post wearing his ‘Home’ adidas adiZero Shadow PE.

Chris Bosh wearing Nike Air Max Hyperdunk 2011 Finals PEChris Bosh drives in a Finals PE colorway of the Nike Air Max Hyperdunk 2011.

Russell Westbrook wearing Nike Zoom HyperfuseRussell Westbrook had an explosive game in his PE colorway of the original Nike Zoom Hyperfuse.

Dwyane Wade wearing Jordan Fly Wade 2 EV FinalsDwyane Wade sizes up James Harden in a Finals PE colorway of the Jordan Fly Wade 2 EV.

Nick Collison wearing Nike Zoom KD IIINick Collison dunks in his Nike Zoom KD III PE.

Mike Miller wearing Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Low Finals PEMike Miller attempts to block Harden’s shot in a Finals PE colorway of the Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Low.

James Harden wearing Nike Hyperdunk 2011 Low Elite PEJames Harden shoots in his Nike Zoom Hyperdunk 2011 Low Elite PE.

Shane Battier wearing PEAK Battier VIShane Battier had a surprising offensive “explosion” in the PEAK Battier VI.

Thabo Sefolosha wearing Nike Zoom Kobe VI

Thabo Sefolosha attacks in the Nike Zoom Kobe VI.

Udonis Haslem wearing Converse SicksUdonis Haslem dunks in Converse Sicks.

Derek Fisher wearing adidas adizero Crazy Light LowDerek Fisher dishes in the adidas adiZero Crazy Light Low.

Daequan Cook wearing adidas adiZero Crazy Light 2Daequan Cook looks to score in the adidas adiZero Crazy Light 2.

Joel Anthony wearing Nike Air Max DestinyJoel Anthony joins KD’s poster in the Nike Air Max Destiny Finals.

Kevin Durant’s 35th Hour Ep. 2: Hard Work Beats Talent

Kevin Durant’s 35th Hour Ep. 2: Hard Work Beats Talent

Kevin Durant’s 35th Hour Ep. 2: Hard Work Beats Talent

words // Brandon Richard

Watching last night’s much talked about Team Melo vs. Team Philly game, I couldn’t help but think of how much the content missed what has been Kevin Durant’s offseason competitive fire. The definition of a “gym rat,” KD has been spotted in seemingly every gymnasium in the country this summer preparing for what we hope will be the 2011-2012 NBA season. Durant’s new web series, Kevin Durant’s 35th Hour, has given us a behind-the-scenes glimpse at his hectic summer and Episode 2 is available now.

Titled “Hard Work Beats Talent,” Episode 2 takes us to the gym, where we start off with a look at KD’s workout routine with friend and fellow NBA player Austin Daye. Then, Kevin gets in a little leisure time with friends at the mall and bowling alley, before squaring off with LeBron and company in the Goodman League vs. Melo League showdown in Baltimore.

View Episode 2 of 35th Hour below.

Kevin Durant’s 35th Hour Ep. 1: Capital Punishment

Kevin Durant’s 35th Hour Ep. 1: Capital Punishment

 Kevin Durant's 35th Hour Ep. 1: Capital Punishment

words // Brandon Richard

There’s currently no NBA star boosting their overall player profile more during offseasons than Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. Last summer, Durant cemented his place amongst the NBA elite when he led Team USA to a Gold Medal in the 2010 FIBA World Championship for the first time since 1994. Then, just when you thought he couldn’t get much better, he’s done just that this summer.

With the NBA locked out, Durant has displayed a new and improved skill set in various summer and Pro-Am league games, making unprecedented offseason headlines in the process. Scoring 66 points at Rucker Park in early August and 59 points against LeBron James and the Melo league last weekend are bookends to another headline-worthy performance during the highly anticipated Drew League vs. Goodman League Capital Punishment match-up toward the middle of the month.

Giving you a behind-the-scenes look at KD’s day leading up to and competing in Capital Punishment is the debut of his brand new web series, Kevin Durant’s 35th Hour. In Episode One, you’ll see how Durant prepared for the big game, as well as some highlights from his 44-point outburst in the Goodman League’s 135-134 win over Drew. Check out the clip below and stick with Eastbay for future episodes of 35th Hour.