On March 28, someone in Chicago sent Lawrence Norman a text message. The adidas vice president of global basketball picked it up, read it, and starting getting chills. It read “48 out of 48.” Four words were all he needed to realize adidas struck gold with the adiZero Crazy Light 2. This was the first year they had partnered with the McDonald’s All-American Game, and between both the girls’ and boys’ games, 48 of the most accomplished players in the country were chosen to represent the very best of high school basketball. Adidas supplied the sneakers, outfitting every locker with their as-yet unreleased Crazy Light 2s, hoping, but not entirely believing that every player would wear them. People have different tastes. You can’t please all. A backup plan was in place with backup sneakers just in case a few players didn’t take so quickly to the bright and stylish new shoes.
Instead, every single kid in the games – all 48 of them – emerged onto the United Center floor wearing the lightest basketball sneaker ever made.
“They all wanted that extra confidence,” Norman says looking back.
Earlier this week, adidas invited myself and other select media out to Los Angeles to take in the launch of those shoes, the Crazy Light 2. At 9.5 ounces, it is more than 10 percent lighter than the nearest competition, and was the talk of the NCAA Tournament after players from Kansas, Louisville, Wisconsin, Indiana and especially Baylor were all rocking this super light sneaker. The sneaker is also more aerodynamic thanks to an enlarged asymmetrical SPRINTFRAME. There’s added volume in the midsole for a more supportive base, and the three-layer SPRINTWEB, which took three years to design, is the thinnest ever.
“This season, this design season, we were really inspired by aerodynamics,” says the sneaker’s designer, Robbie Fuller. “If you look at the new SPRINTWEB, the last one was a little bit more raised and you saw seams. This one is completely smooth, only .1 millimeter of a raise from the SPRINTWEB to this base.”
Upon going out to L.A., I wasn’t so much excited to check out the sneaker as I was the presentation. I still wear the Crazy Lights from last year, and still enjoy them. I knew the Crazy Light 2, which will go on sale on May 24 for $140, was going to be an improvement. But as Norman told me, it’s the stories behind every sneaker that truly make it what it is. For the Crazy Light 2, it’s a mantra aptly described by Fuller as “light done bright, light done right.”
“It’s not a trend to be lighter,” adds Norman. “It’s something that’s going to be here forever.”
Fuller says there are parts of the shoe that have been in the making for two years. He made sure there was more breathability in this sneaker, and believes it looks and feels more textured because of it.
“It’s such an amazing performance shoe,” says Fuller. “It’s the ultimate. It’s the best, and we wanted to celebrate that.”
And that we did. After commemorating our arrival with dinner and drinks by the pool at the Viceroy in Santa Monica on Monday night, we shuttled over to the Clippers practice facility on Tuesday morning. The team was away fighting for homecourt advantage in the playoffs, so we had the entire place to ourselves. Adidas did it up big with a laser show and Gus Johnson, who came in to MC the event. They not only had design samples and drawings available to check out, but there were a number of unique colorways of the Crazy Light 2 on hand that were specifically designed by football players. One in particular, put together by Robert Griffin III, was super dope.
I got a tour of the place, saw the locker rooms, the trainer’s rooms and even the whirlpools the players use for rehab. The team’s personal chefs cooked us up some lunch in the players’ lounge as well. I also got to hoop. But perhaps the coolest thing of the day came when I was led into the locker room, and found my locker stuffed with gear. Above it on a brown plague read the name “Sean Sweeney.” You know I had to hit up my boys immediately to tell them I had myself a locker with an NBA team.
Afterwards, we headed out for a party on Abbott Kinney in Venice, which was named “The coolest block in America” by GQ. It was. Adidas hooked up the party with tons of great food, specialty drinks and even brought Gus Johnson back for a little awards ceremony and roast session. I went up on stage at one point and Gus had to give it to me for being from Baltimore, the home of “The Wire.”
To cap off the night, a few of us hit up some bars along the street, and actually ran into Pau Gasol. Small world.
As for the sneakers themselves, when I first put them on, they were incredibly snug, almost too much so. But after around 30 minutes, I didn’t even notice them, and to me, that’s the greatest praise you can give a sneaker. Once they broke in around my foot, I knew I had a keeper. I played in the Clippers’ training facility for close to three hours and felt quick, explosive and secure the entire time.
The marketplace is changing. In the past, it was more traditionally right to have a home and away colorway for new sneakers. That isn’t the case anymore. Energy colors are more than just a trend amongst teenagers. They want to showcase what they’re wearing, an expression of their own personal style. They want people to know who they are.
“In March Madness when Baylor came out in neon and Cincinnati and Louisville came out in infrared, it was the talk of the tournament,” says Norman. “We were so proud to see these three teams… not only did they look good but they played with extra confidence and extra swagger.”
They studied the trends, listened to their researchers and upped the ante on how eye-popping they could go. Last year with the release of the Crazy Lights, which were a bright blue, adidas thought they had an explosive color. But yet, players everywhere told them they should’ve gone even brighter. This year’s electricity colorway definitely did that.
Adidas wants to be at the forefront of this new wave, and with the Crazy Light 2, they’ve done it. Meanwhile for myself, I’m just happy I’ll always be able to say I once had my own locker with an NBA team.
All photos courtesy of Sean Sweeney