A Recap Of LA: What Kicks Did Basketball’s Best Rock?

A Recap Of LA: What Kicks Did Basketball’s Best Rock?

From insane dunks to incredible shots, this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles lived up to all the hype. And while Devin Booker won the 3-Point Contest, Donovan Mitchell claimed the Dunk Contest title, and LeBron James hosted the All-Star Game MVP trophy, everything off the court was just as exciting. The biggest brands in basketball held exclusive, celebrity-packed events, showcasing the freshest kicks and latest gear. If you love sneakers and basketball, there was no better place to be.

Lucky for you, Detroit guard Langston Galloway and Chris Chase (Nightwing2303 from Weartesters.com) were on the ground in the City of Angels and they got VIP access to all the action. Check it out below:

 

Sneaker Events

Langston took to his YouTube Channel, LG Kicks, to let his fans know that he would be on the scene at the weekend’s big events.

Nike LeBron 9 Elite Performance Review

Nike LeBron 9 Elite Performance Review

words // Nick DePaula
images // Ryan Unruh & Justing Ji

As I’ve learned through the years, not every shoe is for every position. In the running world, specific running styles, gait motions and support needs can direct people to some very specialized options that are designed to meet a set criteria of performance demands. If your foot veers inward every time you hit the pavement during your stride, there are shoes available that help to offer up more support and perhaps even motion control. In hoops, pretty much none of those variables are ever factored into the equation at retail, and the average person often picks a shoe based on the player that wears it, the way it looks, or because of a familiar cushioning unit or technology incorporated into it.

Well, basketball sneakers aren’t all that unlike running shoes, in that some models work better for specific needs than others. As I found out while playing in the LeBron 9 Elite, this is simply a case where what could be a great shoe for someone else doesn’t quite line up with my wants, preferences or on-court musts.

That’s largely been the biggest downside of the LeBron James signature series up to this point. He’s an absolute beast that needs support at the expense of weight, and protection far beyond what the average consumer demands. In turn, his sneakers have oftentimes been less adoptable for players of all positions. In the grand scheme of things, it’s an impossible problem to balance for Nike Basketball, as they have to first meet the needs of the athlete himself, but don’t want to run the risk of alienating less physically gifted fans of a guy who’s so universally admired for his skills, power and speed. They could never approach things the other way around, either, and make a shoe accommodating for his fans that would never work on-court for James. It’s an odd reality and dilemma that’s plagued the series now for years.

The $250 LeBron 9 Elite, the category’s most expensive sneaker ever at retail, is a shoe that has all of the makings and specs to be a tremendous performance sneaker, but just not for me. I’m 6’-3” and around 185 pounds, and these days, I value light weight, traction, court feel, transition and low-to-the-ground, resilient cushioning — roughly in that order. As you can visibly tell, the 9 Elite is jam-packed with a long list of innovations and specs, like its heel Max Air unit, forefoot Zoom Air unit, abundance of carbon fiber everywhere and its Kevlar Flywire cables. There’s even Kevlar in the laces, which is literally unheard of.

While that might be awesome for LeBron’s needs – and from what I’ve heard, he’s been waiting all year to wear them and thinks they’re perfect – it’s simply too much shoe for me and for most other people. Just like how if you’re after a barefoot runner you wouldn’t pick up the Brooks Beast, if you’re after a lightweight sneaker that can glide through a full-court game, this isn’t the answer. In the category’s eyes, that’s the idea behind building a full product portfolio in the first place.

“A smaller guy that doesn’t need as much support is not going to wear the LeBron anyway,” says Leo Chang, Nike Basketball Design Director. “They would wear a Hyperdunk or a Kobe. That’s why we’ve created a spectrum of product from most supportive and protective to something very lightweight and accommodating for all.”

As you can probably tell, I’m a guy that would rather wear a Hyperdunk or a Kobe. (The Hyperdunk Elite is seriously, seriously good too. My favorite shoe of the year. Check back for that review next week.) They’re lighter, more nimble and flexible, and they emphasize court feel and transition over maximum protection and added materials. That’s not to say the LeBron 9 Elite isn’t a potentially great shoe if the right player has it on, it just isn’t a great shoe for me.

With the shoe’s $250 price tag, there is one very noticeable upgrade from the $170 LeBron 9 that stands out beyond the rest. There’s a HUGE carbon fiber wing that slopes along the lateral side, and it truthfully can lay claim to a good fraction of the price increase. It’s sizable, firm to the touch and clearly engineered, contoured and placed in a targeted zone, but when I really got to playing in it, I couldn’t really feel either a noticeable level of hold or any points of discomfort. Because it was neither impressive nor painful, that’s still disappointing. I was expecting it to feel more rigid when cutting and really enhance the shoe’s lockdown, unlike any standard material I’ve worn before, but it just wasn’t all that noticeable. Is it worth paying a huge jump in price for a component that is perhaps more looks than true performance? It’s hard to say from my experience, and it might take a player much more powerful and sizable to really feel the benefit of the carbon fiber wing. The most impressive element support-wise of the shoe was actually the, in this case, pink harness that you lace through right before moving into the collar’s eyelets. The placement and feel is outstanding, and it’s probably the single piece most responsible for locking the foot into place.

Above: An isolated look at the LeBron 9 Elite’s midfoot harness, which offered up quite a bit of lockdown.

While the carbon fiber was a bit of a disappointment right from the start, something else I was extremely curious about was the way in which the group, as designer Jason Petrie called it, just “flooded” the whole upper of the shoe with Pro Combat padding. It’s real impressive, and it evolves the story that began at the start of the season when we saw the plush padding system normally found in the Nike Training line incorporated into minor zones around the ankle bones of the launch LeBron 9. While the Pro Combat system fully engulfs your foot immediately as you slip the shoe on, which feels awesome to the touch, I did notice that it also worked to basically trap air in while you’re playing. The feel is great, but they need to take a look at how they can get the liner to manage moisture a bit better. The shoe heats up quickly, and only gets worse as the games continue on.

The sheer lack of breathability and the carbon fiber wing that doesn’t quite provide all of the value you’d expect from its spendy cost were two big downsides right away for the 9 Elite, and another is certainly its weight. At 15.6 ounces, it’s actually .6 ounces heavier than the launch version of the 9, and with great shoes now on the market in the 10- to 11-ounce range for the past year, you’ll feel each one of those additional ounces.

For a guy like LeBron, the 15.6 mark is actually fairly light in comparison to his earlier signature sneakers that once veered as high as 19 ounces. With his playing style and needs in mind all along, getting the weight down wasn’t much of a concern. “The goal here was more about protection,” explains Petrie. “We’ve tried to go that lightweight route with the last two PS models, and what we ended up having to do with the 8 PS was actually add more foam and protection into LeBron’s version because it had gotten a little bit too thin and light. We wanted to add in all of that protection here and not have him worry about the shoe at all. He has not stopped talking about it since we got them to him.”

There is absolutely quite a bit of protection, both in terms of traditional support and lockdown, as well as in the form of impact protection underfoot on landings. The cushioning is a huge bright spot of the shoe, giving you a ride far more tuned for performance than most shoes that are focusing more on lighter and lighter weights. With a huge Max Air unit in the heel that really softens your landings and an 8-millimeter Zoom Air unit – two more than most other embedded forefoot units – for unparalleled responsiveness up front, the cushioning package is top notch. Many shoes on the market are getting lighter and lighter as they thin out the tooling and rely more on pure foam for cushioning. This isn’t that shoe, and if weight doesn’t mean much to you, it might be worth taking a look at the 9 Elite’s on the merits of its substantially robust cushioning setup alone.

Another upgrade that I also happened to like was the shoe’s traction. For the past few years, one of the worst trends to happen in footwear was a reliance on “design storytelling” in traction patterns. The Kobe IV’s herringbone pattern worked better than the traction stories found in the V and VI, just as the herringbone in the KD II and III worked far better than the lightning bolt pattern on the KD IV. I thought the LeBron 9, too, fell victim to some classic over-thinking, and luckily, Jason Petrie looked to re-design the forefoot pod of rubber here where you make the most ground contact. While it still tells a story of sorts – you’ll notice the rubber is actually an interlocking “6” and “9” that was inspired by one of LeBron’s doodles during a meeting – the traction is far improved right out of the box. It’s not the best traction ever, but it’s much improved and definitely reliable.

If you’re keeping score at home, the traction, cushioning and overall plush feel of the shoe are all great, while the weight, breathability and price of entry are definitely drawbacks that should be taken into account before buying. To some, the weight and price might each be enough of a factor to force you to look elsewhere. The LeBron 9 Elite is a fine shoe to play in when you take into account its total package of support and comfort, but at $250, I would assume most people are looking for the absolute best of all elements. It’s just such a lofty and outrageous price point for a hoop shoe that I couldn’t help but feel let down when the shoe played well, but wasn’t out-of-this-world impressive. Things like Kevlar laces, an upgraded and beefed up anatomic insole and that much real carbon fiber really do cost money, but is it all necessary if you just want to get in some runs at the gym? I’ll leave that up to you.

If you’re an active larger player that really puts a pounding on his shoes and needs an extreme level of support and impact protection, then they’re worth a look and might be one of the better shoes you’ve played in lately. Much like most experts at your nearby running specialty store who recommend exact models for exact needs, it’s just hard to recommend the LeBron 9 Elite unless your game and your wallet are a perfect match for it.

Grade Breakout //

designed by: Jason Petrie

best for: bigger forwards

colorway tested: Wolf Grey/New Green/Flash Pink

key tech: Carbon fiber support wing, heel Max Air unit, 8 mm forefoot Zoom Air unit, Pro Combat tongue sleeve, Kevlar Flywire cables, carbon fiber midfoot shank, Kevlar threaded lacing, anatomic upgraded insole

pros: outstanding cushioning and step-in comfort thanks to Max Air/Zoom Air combo and plush-feeling Pro Combat liner; build quality is impressive and materials are exceptional

cons: expensive; has seriously bad breathability; is far heavier than many options available; stiff to start and needs break-in period

improvements: Improve breathability and perhaps reduce weight from tooling.

buying advice: At $250, the LeBron 9 Elite is simply a tough recommendation. There are tons of shoes at more than half its price (like the Hyperenforcer, for example) that are definitely capable and enjoyable options for everyday playing. If you’re a guard that places a premium on light weight and court feel, forget it. Take a look at them if you’re a larger forward that values impact protection, plush and padded comfort throughout, and doesn’t mind a shoe on the heavier and expensive side.

Available Now: Nike LeBron 9 Elite

Jordan Retro 14 Performance Review

Jordan Retro 14 Performance Review

Jordan Retro 14 Performance Review | A Game Of Performance Telephone
words & images by Nick DePaula

In 1998, the Air Jordan XIV was top-of-the-line performance. Much like the Ferrari 550 that inspired its look and build, the shoe took every last consideration into consideration. The fit was exacting along both sides of the shoe. The asymmetrical collar was far improved from the variation incorporated a year before it on the XIII. And most of all, it was no-frills performance with as blueprint-worthy a chassis, traction pattern and cushioning setup as you’ll find.

All of that is hugely important, because in 2012, many of those details and construction intricacies are now oversights. While the retail price may have jumped just $10, even though inflation would suggest a $200+ price tag in today’s market, the shoe in its re-retroed form no longer goes through a stringent D1 weartesting program, no longer offers quite the same hug and flex that real full-grain leather and natural suedes of the original will afford, and it no longer performs as a best-in-market sneaker. It’s still a nice playing shoe, but that slide is disappointing and to be expected from nearly all other retroes that the brand is currently releasing.

For that reason alone, while it might be fun to break them out from time to time casually, the Retro 14 left a lot to be desired on the hardwood. For starters, the general shape of the shoe isn’t on par with the original, and there’s a huge drop in overall fit because of it. The shoe is comfortable enough along the sidewall and interior, although the upper’s thick materials are extremely outdated by today’s standards, but the fit is certainly nothing that’ll blow you away. The asymmetrical collar appears to be a bit lower than the original, which isn’t an ideal placement, but it works well enough to provide nice ankle support and collar lockdown. The one thing that is still fairly similar to the original in terms of the upper is the damn bar that extends out from the top of the tongue. It still hurts, too. Unless you wear extremely thick socks, look forward to the edges of the bar rubbing and irritating your foot. Perhaps a rubberized bar instead of using plastic would’ve worked better. Either way, the bar is still annoying.

While the fit is a bit sloppy and largely a letdown, the difference in the shoe’s general shape pales in comparison to the shockingly lower-quality materials. In its day, the XIV used the absolute best full-grain leather on the signature footwear market. It was soft to the touch and buttery smooth. Today’s version features some seriously weak pleather. If you’ve been following along with Retro Jordans for a few years now, suspect quality isn’t really anything new compared to the original shoes that actually took to heart the “quality inspired by the greatest player ever” tagline, but it’s the XII, XIII and XIV where the drop off is most disappointing. Considering that those models could still be taken to the court and perform well if some actual effort were put into their construction, you’re left hoping the brand cared that the on-court legacy of the shoes actually still translates on court. If you happen to have an original pair, a side-by-side and up-close comparison might be a sad sight. With the retail price jumping $10 from the original, the build quality and poor materials are definitely a hard recommendation at that price point. Unfortunately, Retro models are still flying off shelves and worn almost exclusively off court, so perhaps the brand is taking their focus off of performance simply because they can. The time will come that that approach catches up to them.

Because the original was so very good to play in, not all is terrible in the Retro. The ride is still as good as you may remember, keeping your foot seriously low to the ground and offering up some sweet and nimble court feel. The foam wings along the midsole of both sides of the shoe act as a nice harness of sorts to keep you over the footbed on cuts, and the support and traction is definitely a bright spot of the shoe. To go along with the low-to-the-ground feel and stance, the full-herringbone traction pattern works perfectly, gripping nicely on even an average hardwood floor. Don’t even act like you aren’t going to try MJ’s “Last Shot” move in these, either. It’s a must down the stretch of any close pickup game, and luckily the traction and hold is still there for the step-back cross. Of course I tried. Multiple times. Free scouting report, too, you guys: If you’re ever guarding someone wearing “Last Shots” and they’re going for a game-winner, don’t bite the fake. You’re better than that.

Moving back to the actual shoe, another aspect of the tooling that I found to be pretty solid, even by today’s standards, was the cushioning. A full-Phylon midsole, heel Air sole unit and forefoot Zoom Air unit can still do the job. While much else on the shoe might’ve been lost in translation or may now feel dated since its debut in 1998, the cushioning platform is still the preferred setup of most ballers almost 15 years later. The Zoom unit could have a bit more volume to it, but the tradeoff for some exceptional court feel is worth it. The entire system working together, which would include the heel Air bag, midfoot TPU shank and responsive Zoom bag up front, make for a great blend of impact protection, pure cushioning and court feel.

It might not seem like it’s been almost 15 years since Michael last donned a Bulls uni and a pair of Air Jordans on the hardwood at the same time – but it has. Because of the fact that the ’98 version of the XIV slipped a bit on the ’06 Retro version, and then once again now on the 2012 re-issue, the shoe’s performance suffers from that game of telephone accordingly. While a few specs and details of the XIV may still hold up in today’s era of lightweight- and synthetic-driven sneakers, the old fashioned leather and suede body of the shoe, coupled with a seriously flawed and unfaithful reproduction process, means the shoe will fall a bit short of your on-court expectations. There’re far better shoes out there hovering right around the $100 level that offer better fit, lighter weight, actual breathability and much, much more targeted fit and attention to detail. If it’s worth a full $160 of your cash to play in a shoe that might be remembered more for a single legacy-framing jumper than its actual hardwood merits today, that’s your call. I just can’t make that recommendation.

Grade Breakout:

designed by: Tinker Hatfield

best for: Guards and forwards

colorway tested: Black/Varsity Red/Black

worn by: Dwyane Wade, Monta Ellis, Jared Sullinger and others

key tech: Heel Air sole unit, forefoot Zoom Air, herringbone traction pattern, Phylon midsole, foam support chassis, TPU midfoot shank, asymmetrical collar

pros: Great traction and ride; court feel is tremendous; solid cushioning that still is among everyone’s favorite setup today.

cons: Fit is less targeted than original; plays slightly heavy in modern era; poor materials, build and value for price; irritable bar on top of tongue; non-existent breathability.

improvements: Pay more attention to areas of fit and quality in order to preserve what was once a best-in-class performance masterpiece.

buying advice: Take the Retro 14 to the court if you fall under two categories: 1.) You’re simply a nostalgic dude. 2.) You’re a current pro athlete who doesn’t care for his own signature shoe. Otherwise, you can definitely find a better modern sneaker for a better price than $160 that’s lighter, more breathable and more well-built. If court feel is your very favorite thing in a shoe, then they might be worth checking out, too.

Available: Air Jordan Retro 14 Footwear & Apparel

Performance Review: Nike Zoom Kobe VII

Performance Review: Nike Zoom Kobe VII

Kobe VII Performance Review | Two Isn’t Always Better Than One

words  & image // Nick DePaula

The Kobe VII is a polarizing shoe for me. All I’ve been asking for from the Kobe line for the past two years was a herringbone traction pattern, heel Zoom Air and a full-wide forefoot Zoom Air unit. That was it. They could literally carry over every other element from the Zoom Kobe V and VI and the result would be one of the best-playing basketball shoes of all time. The lockdown, lightweight, transition and court feel were already there.

The good news is that every last thing I asked for was incorporated into the VII. The only problem is, I got even more than I asked for in the form of quite a convoluted modularity story, and that’s where my issues with the Kobe VII began.

While the shoe’s “Kobe System” ad campaign targeted a pretty mass audience, thanks in part to quite a few wide-ranging and diverse celebrity cameos, the actual componentry and sneaker itself are rather complex to digest. The two interchangeable midsole options the “Supreme” version is offered with isn’t an entirely new concept, as it first debuted on last year’s Air Jordan 2011. The difference with the Kobe VII is that not only is the midsole interchangeable, but there’s also an affixed tongue option that slides right on out with it. There’s a traditional (for the Kobe series at least) tongue height and Phylon-based “Play Fast” midsole housing a 14 mm Zoom Air unit in the heel and a full-wide 6mm Zoom bag up front. And then there’s a “Play Strong” midsole made of full-length Cushlon that comes along with a Velcro-strapping neoprene quarter sleeve. The concept of “attacking strong” versus “attacking fast” is kind of lost on me in terms of which version might be better suited for such a style of play, but understandably there’s a huge noticeable difference right away between the two midsoles from a cushioning standpoint.

Over the past two months, I absolutely preferred the Zoom-based “Fast” midsole, mainly because of its more responsive and targeted cushioning. The “Strong” midsole is soft to the step (though the sleeve isn’t quite casual friendly),
but in a game of high-paced basketball, there was never really a perceived bounce and comfort quite like what Zoom Air allows for. The cushioning in the “Fast” midsole ended up being one of the shoe’s bright spots, but it’s definitely worth pointing out that each midsole absolutely will take you at least two nights of games to break in. Because of the
non-traditional construction and the fact that the cushioning is housed directly in the sockliner, as compared to underneath the footbed in most other fixed-midsole shoes, the sockliner itself is by most standards humongous and feels extremely thick and stiff through the midfoot the first time out. The firmness only gets slightly better on day two, and over time the shoe will begin to soften and break in better.

My biggest issue with the VII is the fact that it relies on a modular midsole when it’s so very obvious that a fixed
midsole would provide better play right out of the box, better transition, improved court feel and lighter weight. The Zoom Kobe VI was about as nimble as it gets and weighed only 10.6 ounces in a size 9. This year, the shoe has gone surprisingly backwards in weight, clocking in at around the 13.5-ounce mark, depending on which midsole you go with. That’s a huge sacrifice in weight for a low-top sneaker, and it comes along with a sacrifice in transition and court feel. I’m not sure it’s worth it for the ability to switch between two midsoles.

Mostly because, and I think this is likely the case for nearly everyone, there’s going to be a midsole you prefer between the two, and you’ll never even use the other. That was my experience playing in the Air Jordan 2011, and it was no different here. After three weeks, I felt more confident in the lockdown and cushioning provided by the “Play Fast” midsole, and I simply never went back to the “Play Strong” version. I didn’t particularly care for the “Strong” sleeve either, as my foot never felt precisely secure and there was sliding within the shoe at times. If it weren’t for the sake of comparison and writing this performance review, I would’ve played in the “Strong” midsole even less than I did. Is it worth $180 to find out you don’t quite care to play in both midsoles and would rather stick with one? That’s a hard
recommendation to make.

Luckily, there isn’t just the $180 version of the Zoom Kobe VII available at retail; several other colorways of the shoe are now releasing that include the “Fast” midsole for the price of $140. Of course, a fixed-midsole version of the VII would definitely be preferred at that price, but then you wouldn’t be able to switch tongues between colorways, or perhaps hop onto NIKEiD.com and customize your own midsole and tongue combination. The VII is an extremely capable performer and has a lengthy list of positives that hardly any sneakers are currently competing with, but it’s fairly safe to say that the modularity concept is driven by marketing more so than performance, and that’s just one of those realities of life and business that sometimes overtake the story. I’d love to see a more straightforward approach for the Kobe line – which has up to this point been strictly performance-centric – going forward as the series progresses.

Above: A look at the “Play Fast” midsole.

While the modularity concept presents a few issues that I, and everyone I know currently playing in the VII, faced, nearly every other facet of the shoe ranks highly on my list. The traction, while not offering any perceptible squeak, holds well on even the most suspect of courts and works great with the shoe’s sizable outrigger. A softer durometer and stickier rubber would’ve helped even more, but the hold and reassurance is still great for a slashing style of play.

Another aspect of the shoe that I really liked was its lockdown. Flywire once again makes up the upper, anchored to the shoe’s eyestay and housed in a hotmelt panel of mesh and pliable synthetic similar to what was found atop the Kobe VI. When using the “Fast” midsole, the tongue is well positioned, and thanks to a nicely contoured midfoot fit, a beefy exposed TPU heel counter and a straightforward lacing system, you’re harnessed right into place. I think the fit and lockdown are much improved from the VI, as some people didn’t feel the heel counter covered enough area to really hold you in. Along with both the cushioning and lockdown, the overall support was once again right on par with the industry-leading Zoom Kobe models of years past. There’s a nice blend of lateral support, traction and lockdown throughout the whole shoe that holds you right over the footbed all game long.

The Zoom Kobe VII might’ve scored well in nearly every category to on paper receive an A grade, but there’s just something about the firmness of the midsole, the added weight and the reduced nimbleness that comes with it that holds it back for me. I wanted to love it so very badly, and perhaps that’s because when I first learned it incorporated both heel and forefoot Zoom Air and a herringbone traction pattern, my expectations were exceptionally high. To put it simply, they just didn’t live up to the bar I had in mind. Were it not for the modular midsole system, perhaps they would’ve.

Grade Breakout:

designed by: Eric Avar

best for: Guards and forwards

colorway tested: Black / White / Del Sol

key tech: interchangeable “Play Fast” and “Play Strong” midsole system with full-length Cushlon or heel and forefoot Zoom Air, depending on modular preference; herringbone traction pattern, Flywire upper, glass fiber midfoot support shank, molded heel counter, vented neoprene tongue sleeve

pros: outstanding cushioning, lockdown and support, solid traction for most courts

cons: expensive (if a bit gimmicky), midsole are difficult to switch in and out, required break-in period, heavier than previous Zoom Kobe models

improvements: fixed midsole would make a world of difference; herringbone traction pattern could be stickier, but still holds sufficiently.

buying advice: The Zoom Kobe VII offers tons to be excited about, like great cushioning, lockdown, support and traction. Unfortunately, it gets a bit overzealous in its offerings and the modular midsole system perhaps does more harm than good. There’s a required break-in time and not quite the ideal court feel that we’ve come to expect from the Kobe line. Grab them as your next playing shoe if you want maximum cushioning, support and lockdown, but aren’t after the lightest or smoothest flexing sneaker.

Available Now : Nike Zoom Kobe VII Supreme

Performance Review: Jordan CP3.V

Performance Review: Jordan CP3.V

Jordan CP3.V | The Low For Everybody

words // Zac Dubasik
images // Nick DePaula

At first glance, the changes from last year’s CP3.IV to this year’s CP3.V seem minimal. The CP3.IV almost appears like it could have been an earlier sample for the V. And in a way, I guess that’s accurate. This is much more of an evolutionary than revolutionary design. It may not be a major design shift or breakthrough, but the V’s small tweaks have led to improved performance in pretty much every possible area. The IV had potential, but was flawed. The V nailed just about everything.

One of my biggest gripes with the IV was its collar cut. It fell somewhere in that area of not low or high enough, and ended up just being uncomfortable. It didn’t offer the range-of-motion benefits of a low, nor the perceived support benefits of a mid. It kind of just fell in a no-mans land of 5/8ths discomfort. The collar on the V isn’t drastically lower, and unless you hold them next to each other, it may be hard to even see a difference. But the change is huge on the court. The CP3.V offered outstanding range of motion. The collar foam isn’t as secure and perfect as the gold standard – the Kobe line – but when laced tightly, offered excellent lockdown.

The entire Flywire upper provided excellent lockdown, and over 3 ounces in weight reduction compared to last year’s CP3.IV. The shape of its last is more generally accommodating, and less sleek, than that of the best fitting shoes out there, but in turn, it should fit a wider range of players. The only real issue caused was that when laced extremely tight to get the best fit, I had comfort issues with too much lace pressure. The only other negative with the upper was some minor pinching at the flex point, which, thanks to the materials and pattern, was reminiscent of the Hyperdunk 2010’s flex point issue. This one isn’t nearly as much of an issue, but worth noting.

The next area of improvement over the IV was the traction. It’s not that the pattern or materials were bad on the IV, but thanks to the bi-level design, aimed at highlighting the Podulon cushioning system, there just wasn’t enough rubber touching the floor at times. This has been completely corrected with a flat and leveled forefoot outsole on the V, which provided excellent traction in all directions. I felt like I wanted to cut in them – always a sign of confidence in traction.

Cushioning wise, I’m a big fan of Podulon. As far as foam-based cushionings go, it’s probably my favorite. The dual-density based Podulon is extremely smooth, and offers just the right amount of protection, without being too soft. It’s not exactly responsive, but about as close as it gets in a foam. Both the heel and forefoot cushioning provided excellent protection, but also maintained a high level of court feel. Add to that a large TPU midfoot shank, and you’ve got an outstanding tooling that is fast, has excellent transition, and is still very supportive.

The Zoom Kobe IV launched a low-top revolution. It wasn’t the first low-top signature shoe, but it was the first one to be so widely accepted. And if you’ve been paying any attention to the NBA over the past few seasons, you’ve seen players of all shapes and sizes hitting the courts in lows. The CP3.V may not be the fastest and most minimal of its low-top siblings, but I did find it to be the most supportive – and in a good way. For small and fast players, it offers the speed and range of motion that lows are known for. What’s so impressive though is that for larger players, it offers a level of support and security not typically found in a low. The CP3.V is an easy recommendation for all players who favor low-tops, but an especially strong recommendation for larger and stronger players who do.

Grade Breakout:

designed by: Tom Luedecke

best for: Players of all sizes who prefer a low-top

colorway tested: Black / White / Stealth

key tech: TPU midfoot shank, Flywire upper, dual-density Podulon cushioning system, 3/4-length innersleeve

pros: Cushioning, weight, range of motion, stability

cons: Lace pressure, flex point pressure

improvements: Thin and targeted padding on tongue to aid in comfort; more refined last

buying advice: The CP3.V may have the logo of one of the game’s fastest players, but this shoe isn’t exclusively for speedy point guards. The Zoom Kobe IV made it acceptable for players of all positions to start wearing low-tops

Available: Jordan CP3.V