Tag: Nike Elite

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Training like the Pros: Recapping a month-long Nike Basketball workout experience



NEW YORK — Being a professional basketball player goes well beyond attending team-mandated practices and workouts. For the best of the best, it also involves going through hardcore training sessions designed to finely hone their skill set, both from a physical as well as from a basketball perspective.

Nike Basketball gave a group of media members the chance to see just what this was like, by putting us through a month-long training experience designed to mimic what the professionals go through in every way possible.

We met once a week for 8AM workouts, except during All-Star week where there were a few additional responsibilities. Car service was provided to and from the facilities, as was all of the clothing and footwear necessary to go through the complete training experience. And, a meal prepared by Chef Max — the personal chef of Amar’e Stoudemire — was waiting for us after each session was finished.

It was set up so that the only thing you had to focus on was giving your all during each workout session, just like the professionals. And the trainers that were enlisted to put us through the paces were demanding enough to ensure they got the most from all of us.


The first week coincided with the launch of the Kobe X, so it only made sense that Kobe Bryant’s (and Michael Jordan’s) personal trainer, Tim Grover, ran our initial workout. The drills were a combination of conditioning and basketball, with little time to rest in between at any point during the 45-minute session. There were core exercises mixed in with plenty of cardio and leg-strengthening drills, and we held a basketball during all of them, because Bryant does during his workouts — as Grover said, “Kobe likes to feel the ball in his hands.”


Week 2 was a slight departure from the full training experience, but there was still plenty to keep us busy. As part of the All-Star festivities, our group participated in Nike’s Zoom City Classic, which was a six-team basketball tournament that also featured actors and entertainers like Common, Stalley, Eddie Huang and Ansel Elgort, as well as semi-professional players like Brian Kortovich, who lit it up from everywhere and walked away with MVP honors. The tournament was played at Nike’s Zoom City arena that was specifically constructed to host All-Star week activities, and featured an insane LED court that provided a truly one-of-a-kind experience.


The day before the tournament, we were put through a series of tests modeled after the NBA’s Draft Combine, where BAM testing-like measurements were taken in order to create even teams. Players like Kortovich added to the mix made that somewhat impossible, but the games were mostly competitive nonetheless, and a couple ended with some very intense buzzer-beating finishes.

Weeks 3 and 4 were more like the first, with early-morning workouts run by the game’s elite trainers. Jerry Powell has worked with the likes of Paul George, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, and his drills had us focused primarily on honing our fundamental basketball skills, while teaching us ways to improve upon them at the very same time.

The last workout was run by Idan Ravin, who boasts a similarly impressive client list and is known in the industry as being somewhat secretive about his practices. He authored a book called The Hoops Whisperer, and his workout was the most intense of the bunch, as the drills involved the targeting of specific muscle groups to support the moves most commonly made on the court by the game’s top athletes. There was non-stop cardio training in between, and the combination of that and the knowledge that was imparted made for an extremely enlightening (and completely exhausting) final session.


The month-long journey was a perfect way to experience just how much hard work goes into training at an elite level. While it’s true that the vast majority of those in the NBA have genetic gifts that most of us could only dream of, to those who consistently seek to outperform their peers or hope to emerge as one of the game’s greats, the additional training sessions aren’t merely an occasional luxury — they’re an absolute necessity.



A recap of all the footwear that was tested during the month-long Nike Basketball training experience, along with a brief performance review of each.




The tenth signature model for Kobe Bryant has been improved over its predecessor in two significant ways. The cushioning system is now a hybrid of multiple technologies, which makes for a much bouncier feel and a solid and comfortable ride from forefoot to heel. The traction is brand new, and uses nodules that grip the court similar to those that appear on performance race car tires. The fit is comfortable from the moment you put these on, with zero break-in required. These lived up to expectations, with the overall performance ranking right up there with any basketball shoes currently on the market.




The first time I got a chance to try these was at the LeBron 12 launch in Portland back in September, and I’ve been a fan ever since. The hex zoom pods on the sole are excellent for multi-directional training workouts, like those we were put through as part of our NBA Combine experience. The shoe features a snug and lightweight fit, and the cushioning is there wherever you need it, thanks to the pods passing you seamlessly from one to the next as your foot changes positions throughout your training session.



The Hyperchase is a new model, designed for playmakers like James Harden who was the inspiration for the way this one performs. The stylings are more interesting than most, thanks to an asymmetrical design and the angular position of the Swoosh, which was placed that way intentionally so that “it would read accurately when an athlete, like Harden, is on his toes – a position that’s common for quick, dynamic athletes.” These ones fit nicely, with little-to-no noticeable slippage once you’re locked in. The shoes feature above-average traction, and plenty of forefoot cushioning, which helps immensely when attempting to make that explosive first step.




These are surprisingly good basketball shoes, and maybe even the best of the bunch. The cushioning and lockdown are both very impressive, the latter made possible by a foam collar construction that provides a snug and comfortable fit. Traction and breathability are well above average, too, and I’ve found myself reaching for these time and again when heading to subsequent workouts. I recommend a half-size up from what you normally wear due to the way these fit, and while I don’t want to oversell these too hard, they really provide an extremely solid level of overall performance.




This was a very cool surprise.

It’s not often you can shock members of the basketball sneaker media with something unexpected, but when we were told we’d be getting to play in the Kobe X Elite the day of our final training session — a shoe that hadn’t yet been announced, and wasn’t even on anyone’s radar considering the Elite series usually doesn’t drop until near the end of the regular season — there was a palpable sense of excitement.

The Kobe X Elite goes with the highest of high-top silhouettes, much like its predecessor, the Kobe 9. The cushioning system is improved over the previous year’s model, and is the same that’s found in the Kobe X low version we demo’d the first week. The Flyknit upper makes for a more sturdy and locked-in feel that stops just short of being rigid, and players who value ankle support will certainly appreciate it. If you liked the high-top 9s, then you’ll like these, too — they take a significant step forward in that particular design’s evolutionary process.

The Extra Pass: Nike Elite series meets the performance demands of Kevin Durant and LeBron James

Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers

NEW YORK — The folks at Nike Basketball have once again rolled out Elite versions of the signature shoes for LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant, just as they’ve done in advance of every postseason since 2012.

But the team faced perhaps its greatest challenge this season.

Bryant’s shoes didn’t need any modifications, considering the high-top, Kobe 9 Elite was already in its final stage the moment it was released. James and Durant, however, each had specific requests in terms of the improvements they wanted to see made to their shoes before the playoffs began.

Getting LeBron back into his more high-profile model wasn’t necessarily a priority for the Nike design team, but providing a performance improvement that James would feel comfortable with was definitely the goal that was in place.

The LeBron 11 was a huge success in terms of overall design and fan interest, but James himself caused a mild commotion when he ditched them early on in favor of one of his other models, the Zoom Soldier VII. Charles Williams, Senior Product Director for Nike Basketball, explained exactly what the issues were that James was experiencing.

“Early on, it was less about the components of the shoe, and more about fit,” Williams told NBCSports.com. “We went to a double-lasting proposition on the 11 that was a little bit different, so it was just more about forefoot fit, and making sure that when he cut, he wasn’t bumping up against anything, that he had enough volume.”

The fact that this was the first time one of LeBron’s shoes had an insert in it may have messed with the overall feel when taking his orthotic into account, which is essentially an additional layer of medical protection.

“When you’ve got an athlete that’s putting an orthotic in the shoe, it changes everything,” Williams said. “It changes the actual internal shape, it changes the actual internal volume and things of that nature. Players like KD and Kobe, they come right out of the box. But LeBron puts an orthotic in there, so that started to change things a little bit, especially because we had a drop-in. We’ve never had a drop-in (insert) before (on a LeBron signature shoe). So when you have a drop-in, something that kind of comes in and out — not unlike his orthotic — I think for him, mentally it was just a little difficult to get around.”

Along with the fit of the orthotic, James wasn’t feeling the level of lockdown in the 11s that he requires, and when he made cuts, he felt his foot sliding around in the shoe — another area which was unacceptable for the style that he plays.

All of that has been addressed with the LeBron 11 Elite, and the early results have been positive, if LeBron’s on-court decision to wear the model multiple times earlier than usual are to be believed.

“That’s why you’ve seen him wear the Elite model probably four or five times, and he’s never done that during the years that we’ve had the Elite project,” Williams said. “He typically starts April 17 when the playoffs start.”

The Nike design team went to Kevlar to increase the lockdown, which reduced the stretch in the material from 30 percent down to about two percent. LeBron laces up his shoes as tightly as possible on the bench before tip-off, to the point where he’s been known to break shoelaces. The lockdown aspect has been the most consistently important feature to him over the years, and it seems as though the team was able to address those concerns with the adjustment in the Elite materials.

A slightly lower cut to the Elite model (LeBron prefers a mid- as opposed to a high-top), along with added support on the outside that the design team refers to as a “roll bar” all helped to keep him from moving around inside the shoe, while providing the ultimate support for when he cuts. That extra support on the outside was by far the Elite version’s biggest overall enhancement.

“We knew that once we put that “roll bar” on it he was going to be able to have that confidence that when he cuts, he was on the foot bag,” Williams said. “And that way, we would be able to give him more of a free range of motion.”

A lot seemingly went into LeBron’s concerns. With Durant, it was a little less complicated.

His biggest request was to increase the cushioning on his shoe to the maximum level possible, while keeping a low-to-the-floor profile that is a perfect match for the complexities of his game.

“One of the big things for KD is really about impact protection,” Williams said. “As his game has evolved and as he’s really catapulted himself to be the best player in the world on any given night, we wanted to make sure that we were providing him with those things that he’s always asked us for. And one of them was this notion of cushioning, to make sure that the underfoot cushioning was something that night in and night out, he got consistently. And on a lot of the previous models he did what we would call a hybrid cushioning, where we had a max bag in the heel which gives you that protection when you’re coming down six, eight times your body weight. And then we would put zoom air in the forefoot, (which) literally gives you that instant response, that instantaneous gratification. So with KD, we said we’re going to go to a bag that will provide him with consistency across the board. It was ultimately what he’s been asking us for — maybe not specifically for the bag, but for that level of performance.”

The players, obviously, have little to do with the execution. They simply know what they want, and it’s up to the design team to figure out how to make that happen.

“KD wanted that cushioning, but he also wanted to feel very low to the ground based on the game that he plays,” Williams said. “So we made the bag lower by removing a lot of the foam that we would typically have in between the bag and the shoe.”

The Elite series has traditionally featured mostly black and white models, but this year’s class has all kinds of colors added to the project. There are three sets of colorways currently in the works, with the Gold series being the one that most resembles the past projects, but just barely.

Still, the team is driven by the performance aspect of the shoes above all else, and that’s the message that they ultimately want to get across.

“As much as we want to be provocative, we just want consumers to know that there’s a performance benefit rooted in that,” Williams said. “If I could just have consumers not view these as aesthetic propositions, if they could truly understand the competitive advantage that we’re looking to give them every time we create one of these shoes, that would be my dream.”

“This is about making sure that the best players in the world go into battle for the most esteemed goal that they’re trying to reach,” Williams said. “We give them products that really measure up to that.”

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