Gone are the days of basic, color-blocked basketball shoes that were prominent for decades. Nike Basketball has raised the bar for creative storytelling through less than conventional colorways – taking athlete inspiration to a level that matches each shoe's technical design innovation.
Hometowns, favorite foods, childhood hobbies, alternate careers, rivalries and even clockwork have fueled unique colorways reflecting insights from LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, other athletes and teams throughout the world.
Leading the way on bringing stories to life through color is Nike Basketball’s color design lead Eugene Rogers, who works closely with graphics expert Erick Goto. Rogers has established a new standard for Nike Basketball’s palette, drawing from a range of 200+ colors across the spectrum. Goto’s custom graphics build on the hues identified by Rogers, complementing them in a unique way.
Since joining the Nike Basketball design team six years ago, Rogers continually mines insight directly from the athletes to bring their special stories and passions to the forefront.
“We’re not resting on our innovations, we’re bringing personalities to life through color and having fun,” said Eugene Rogers. “What started in our signature shoes will go to new places in 2014.”
2013 ushered in exciting colorway storylines behind Nike Basketball’s top signature shoes for Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. For the first time, personal stories inspired these lead colorways for each signature shoe, a move that goes beyond team colors of the past:
KD VI: Seat Pleasant is on the map
Launched in June, the KD VI lead colorway incorporated the signature blue and gold from the Seat Pleasant Activity Center, the Maryland rec center where KD learned to play basketball. Shoe designer Leo Chang and Rogers first visited KD's hometown of Seat Pleasant years ago; it was the trip that acted as a catalyst for this lead colorway. The storyline was authentic and connected to Durant’s roots.
Additional KD VI colorways reflect Durant's interest in meteorology, childhood love for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, collegiate days in Texas, taste for Maryland blue crab, along with others to come this year.
LEBRON 11: The pride of the pack
Launched in August, the LEBRON 11 lead colorway was representative of a jungle, home of the lion, which is the on-court alter ego of James. He plays with fearless determination and the King’s Pride colorway drew inspiration from the animal - its dark loden upper color and the floral print of the collar lining reflect wildlife-themed colors and graphics.
James's eleventh shoe brings personal tales to life including his fascination with the Terracotta Warrior Exhibition during his trip to Xi’An, China, devotion to his hometown of Akron, courage under pressure, love for his new life in Miami, with many surprise colorways on the horizon.
KOBE 9: 17-year masterpiece
Kobe Bryant’s 17-year pro career parallels a storybook. Five championships and record-breaking performances mixed with relentless drive. The lead KOBE 9 Elite colorway dubbed ‘Masterpiece’ is an ode to Bryant’s brilliant career accomplishments and is available February 8. The colorway weaves in purple, red, grey and volt, which became steady fixtures of annual ‘Chaos’ colorways beginning in 2009 and reflect Bryant’s interest in the joker.
Additional KOBE 9 Elite colorways are set to release in the coming months and will reflect Bryant's inspirations. The Kobe Prelude Pack features all eight of Bryant's signature shoes and celebrates his most defining career moments, with colors and art movements playing a prominent role.
Nike Basketball will remain in front of the curve, giving athletes and fans one-of-a-kind color choices they never knew existed. Color selection is an intricate process that takes months of refinement. The result of these efforts come to life through research and constant athlete interaction, with Nike Basketball continuing to shape the footwear industry.
"Inside Access" is a series providing an inside look at Nike Basketball through the lens of events, innovation and athletes. Look for new features the first Tuesday of each month throughout the basketball season.