Apr 25, 2011, 3:53 PM EDT
Pro Basketball Talk was in Miami for the release of the Nike LeBron 8 PS, the playoff series edition of LeBron James‘ signature shoe. In this third and final part of of our profile, we break down how the shoe performed on the court … the Miami Heat’s home court, at American Airlines Arena.
This is where it all comes together. We told you about the concept and the creative process behind the LeBron 8 series, and we told you about the differences in the construction of the shoes that Nike created for LeBron James this season. Now, it’s performance time.
Nike flew a group of media members to Miami for the weekend for the release of the LeBron 8 PS. The shoes were globally released to the public last Saturday, the same day that the Heat opened the playoffs with a Game 1 home win over the Sixers. The whole experience, as you might imagine, was pretty insane.
After everyone got into town and checked into a hotel that was far, far nicer than necessary — and after everyone somehow found their way out of their ridiculously large, multi-room individual suites — it was time for a trip to the American Airlines arena, where the group was led through the underbelly of the massive building and into an auxiliary locker room. Waiting for us when we got there was a full compliment of basketball gear to prepare us for the actual wear test.
Once the presentation from Nike lead designer Jason Petrie was finished, and the question and answer session with the media was complete, it was time to hit the floor for some hoops to test the footwear out. But not in the PS 8s just yet.
Nike wanted us to feel the difference between the V2s and the latest edition, both in terms of the weight difference and in how the different technology feels while wearing them in a basketball situation. We all put on a new pair of the V2s and headed out of the locker room, through the tunnel, and onto the Heat’s home court.
As we walked onto the floor, a group of “coaches” was there waiting for us. The first extended his hand to me and introduced himself: “Hey. Kenny.” No big deal. It was only Kenny Anderson.
They started things off by leading us in some warmup stretching, then put us through some fairly standard basketball practice drills (three-man weave, screen and pop, two-man full court fast break, etc.) so we could get a feel for the shoe’s performance.
(Side note: This was actually pretty hilarious, for a couple of reasons. First off, it was immediately clear that not everyone in the group had experienced playing organized team basketball, and for a couple of players, it seemed as though they hadn’t played basketball in any capacity in a long, long time. Now, this is not a knock on anyone, because really, any fan of shoes or the game of basketball in any capacity likely would have killed for this experience. But the coaches running us through the drills didn’t seem to recognize this, because they just shouted a few vague instructions — “Hey! No! Behind!” — instead of running through a demo of each drill so that those unfamiliar could see how it was supposed to be done. It’s probably safe to say that we won’t see Anderson roaming the sidelines in a coaching capacity anytime soon.)
The V2s felt great — comfortable, bouncy (thanks to the full-length air bag), and supportive. After the drills were finished, we heeded to the bench to change into the new PSs, then broke into teams for half-court scrimmages.
The quality of basketball in these pickup games wasn’t the best; we had a wide mix of basketball ability, combined with the fact that everyone was playing in a professional arena for the first time, so it took some getting used to. The biggest issues in playing on an NBA floor for the first time are adjusting to shooting against such a huge backdrop, and obviously the size of the court, which came into play near the end of our time when we got to run full for the last 20 minutes or so. But eventually, guys were knocking down shots and making some decent plays out there.
As for the PS editions, they handled well, and were much lighter and really just completely different than the V2s. The weight difference was immediately noticeable, but the way the shoe provides overall support was also extremely different, and if you’re someone who has traditionally played in heavier shoes, these will take some getting used to. But once you do, the shoe feels exactly like that slimmed-down, high-performance edition that Petrie was going for.
The support is definitely there, even if the shoe’s lightness may not make you feel like it at first. There’s plenty of heel cushion, and the pad in the front of the shoe that’s there to compensate for dropping the full length airbag provides more than enough spring.
As with all basketball shoes, it’s all going to come down to personal preference: some people like a tighter fit, some need more ankle support, some like a heavier shoe to feel like they’re being fully protected. But whatever your preferences might be, it’s hard to imagine anyone being dissatisfied with the overall look, feel, and performance of the Nike LeBron 8 PS.
At this point, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “Well, what’s he going to say? Look at the experience Nike gave these guys!” And there’s some truth to that — it was a first-class weekend that was a blast to be a part of. But at the same time, Nike makes quality products, plain and simple. You know this, and they know this. So even if these shoes don’t end up being your favorites or you find that you prefer a different model or brand to play in consistently, as I said, it would simply come down to personal preference. Because from a quality standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything to truly complain about when it comes to these ones.
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