Aug 25, 2014, 11:12 AM EDT
Jordan Brand touted ground-breaking performance and innovative design when the company unveiled the latest version of its flagship basketball shoe back in April, and now that we’re less than a month away from the release of the Air Jordan XX9, it was time to see if the company kept its promise.
A group of media members were invited to Chicago recently to get a first look at the shoes in person and test them on the court — but this was no ordinary wear test experience.
We were told to dress for basketball in the base layers that were provided the night before, even though we would be outfitted in additional gear once we arrived to the court. After breakfast at Wishbone, a spot in Chicago’s West Loop frequented by Michael Jordan in his playing days and one which came personally recommended by the brand’s namesake, we were loaded onto a minibus to be transported to what turned out to be a very special location.
The ride of more than 40 minutes out of town didn’t seem suspicious, considering that Jordan Brand’s open run they hosted in New Orleans during All-Star weekend was a similar distance from the town’s center. Once we exited the freeway and took a couple of turns into a residential area, however, things began to fall into place — especially once we came to our stop.
We had arrived at Michael Jordan’s house.
Jordan no longer lives here, and his former home is currently on the market; he spends his time these days in Charlotte in an ownership role with the Hornets. But the sprawling estate still has many of his personalized touches — including a regulation-sized indoor basketball gym where the day’s festivities would take place.
As we walked down the long and winding pathway, we passed the main home and were ushered into a guest house. Once inside, two quick right turns landed us into a locker room space that was specifically created for our special event.
Once everyone was in uniform, it was time to head into Jordan’s personal gym, where he spent so many hours perfecting his game. It was left untouched by the folks handling the event, because as one staffer quipped, “you don’t paint the Sistine Chapel.”
The Jordan XX9 had big shoes to fill, so to speak, because it was going to be extremely difficult to improve upon the performance provided by the Jordan XX8. The company introduced its Flight Plate technology into the sole of the shoe, and by almost all accounts, the XX8 and XX8 SE were routinely reviewed as some of the best basketball shoes to play in over the past 18 months.
The Flight Plate returned for the XX9, but was rotated and adjusted slightly in hopes of providing even better overall cushioning in the forefoot of the shoe. And, a “tendril” was added to bridge the front and the back of the sole to provide what the company hoped would be a smoother heel-to-toe transition. You can see the differences here, with the XX8 on the left and the XX9 on the right.
The adjustments to the Flight Plate gave the shoe a different feel than its predecessor, but that was only a minor tweak from the previous iteration. The real change in the XX9 is the woven upper, which feels more like a snug slipper than it does a traditional sneaker.
“The performance-woven upper delivers superior abrasion resistance, along with an entirely new look on the outside of the shoe,” the company described at April’s unveiling. “The structure and fit of the shoe are engineered through Flight Web tunnels, and strategic panels of stiffer and softer flex to enhance natural motion. The absence of numerous layers and adhesion technologies creates an incredibly comfortable, sock-like interior lining with superior breathability.”
Michael Jordan and the shoe’s designer, Tinker Hatfield, discussed the woven upper at April’s event, while explaining its significance and the way it affects performance.
My initial impressions of the Jordan XX9 haven’t changed much since the first couple of games I played in them, even though I’ve tested them out many times since.
I originally thought my normal size might have been too small when I first put them on, and actually checked to see if a half-size up was available. It wasn’t, and that was fine, because it didn’t take more than a few minutes for the upper to stretch a bit, to the point where it was extremely comfortable and didn’t feel like there was anything there at all.
The word “sock” was thrown around a lot that day to describe the feel of the upper, but after discussing it with others at the event, we agreed that term simply doesn’t do it justice. The fabric is firm enough to provide support when you need it, but doesn’t feel too tight or constricting, and it’s undoubtedly the shoe’s key feature.
As previously mentioned, the Flight Plate has changed a bit in the XX9, and for those who enjoyed the feel of the extreme level of forefoot bounce in the XX8, it’s worth noting that in the newest model, that has been downgraded a bit, and is much more subtle. There isn’t a greatly noticeable difference once you begin playing in them from a performance standpoint, but you will notice it when first putting the shoes on, which may be viewed as a negative by some.
While the Flight Plate was the game-changer in the previous version, the fact that it’s now combined with this woven upper is what will keep players reaching for this shoe time and again when heading to the court. There are obviously tons of factors that go into declaring which shoe is the best to play in, and ultimately, it comes down to a player’s individual game, body type, and personal preference. But it’s tough to envision anyone playing in the Jordan XX9 and coming away with anything other than positive overall thoughts.
Sep 30, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
We could see a lot more of this during the season.
Sep 30, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
When will Lakers star retire?
Sep 30, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
What about Chris Paul?
Sep 30, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
When will John Wall join his Mohawked teammates?
Sep 30, 2014, 12:15 AM EDT
Lakers might need Kobe’s scoring, but they shouldn’t count on that much from aging star
Sep 29, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Orlando’s new uniform a dud
Sep 29, 2014, 10:15 PM EDT
Road tickets to see the Cavaliers are $131.33 higher per seat than the second most expensive team, the Lakers.
Sep 29, 2014, 9:15 PM EDT
Well, will he?
Sep 29, 2014, 8:25 PM EDT
Daryl Morey has way better hair than Trump.
Sep 29, 2014, 7:37 PM EDT
Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey disappointed in what he’s learned so far about photos
Sep 29, 2014, 6:42 PM EDT
If James Harden doesn’t play focused defense this season it’s Kevin McHale that pays the price.
Sep 29, 2014, 5:44 PM EDT
Anthony said it wouldn’t have felt right leaving after he forced his way to New York midway through the 2011 season.
Sep 29, 2014, 4:52 PM EDT
Spoelstra applied only on a bet with his German teammates
Sep 29, 2014, 4:05 PM EDT
KD has some words for those that questioned his motivation this summer, and they are not the words of Mr. Nice Guy.
Sep 29, 2014, 3:31 PM EDT
Sounds like fun
Sep 29, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT
Can he fit in the Celtics’ system better than he did in Indiana?
Sep 29, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT
Without LeBron James, how many setbacks – even small ones – can the Heat overcome?
Hornets GM: It was important for franchise to act “decisively and quickly” on Jeff Taylor domestic assault arrest
Sep 29, 2014, 1:29 PM EDT
The Hornets made the right move so far, keeping Taylor away from team activities while the investigation goes forward.
Sep 29, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT
New York coming off a 37-45 season
Sep 29, 2014, 12:06 PM EDT
Magic guard swishes trick shot
- Kobe Bryant thinks he could physically play beyond contract extension 0
- Trey Burke, in wake of nude-photo scandal: ‘My judgments will be much better’ 11
- Report: Kevin Durant says he wants to play in 2016 Olympics (his free agent summer) 5
- Morris twins sign four-year extensions with Suns 11
- ProBasketballTalk 2014-15 Preview: Washington Wizards 3
- Rockets’ Daryl Morey fires back at Mark Cuban: If you care about chemistry, why break up a title team? 35
- Deron Williams fires back at Kobe: “If I’m 0-for-f******-9, I’m not shooting 20 more shots” 43
- LeBron James on running the Cavaliers offense: ‘This is Kyrie’s show’ 28