With the NBA regular season about to shift into a playoff stretch run, the heightened competition demands that Nike Basketball’s premier trio of athletes be fitted with footwear amplified and tuned to their exact specifications.
We went inside the Nike Elite Series Design Studio at Nike’s New York City headquarters for an in-depth talk with Charles Williams, Nike Basketball Product Director, and Brian Strong, Nike North America Media Relations Director, to learn how Nike Basketball’s design process — and the production samples and materials along the way — crafted the LeBron 11, KD VI, and Kobe 9 into this year’s Elite high-performance options fit for LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, and you.
Charles Williams: Where we should start is where the overall Elite concept came from. We’ve been doing it for a few years now. We started back in 2012, and the goal was at that point that as we were going into our second season, which would be the NBA Playoffs and Finals, we wanted to make sure that we were providing a competitive advantage, making sure that we were taking the footwear that we currently had and bolstering those in a way that makes sure that as these guys were thinking differently, as they were preparing differently and even playing differently, that we were giving them products that were giving them confidence and competitive advantage.
So we came with an Elite concept. Initially, what we set out to do was to look at certain innovations and material concepts to bring them to life in a way that we could spread them across all models At that point we were using carbon fiber across the board, we were using Kevlar, we were adding maybe more cushioning, and then the other piece was they need to be discernibly lighter in weight. What we found was we needed to make certain that as we evolve this, that we were being a lot more specific as it relates to the actual athlete and their insights. When we got to last year we found that the guys had a lot of success in these shoes but again, they started to give us information in terms of ‘That’s good but what I need specifically is this’ and that’s how we evolved into Elite 3.0. Making sure that we sat down with each of those guys and asked them what that 28-game playoff stretch was like, what did it represent, and what were some of the things that was most important to them.
I think the thing that was common across all the guys was that it wasn’t about — in our mind we thought, you know, 82-game marathon, 28-game sprint — for those guys it was moreso about 82-game marathon and then this 28-game war because the intensity got so much higher at that point and they had to do some things that were probably a bit more unconventional than the regular season because again, you’re going all out and you’ve got to do everything you can to reach that ultimate goal. So what we wanted to do was do the same with footwear, so we started with the process that says let’s just take each shoe and strip them down and figure out how we bring them back to life even better than its predecessor.