The city of Houston is known for being connected to space exploration. There’s the mission control center, as well as the Comets, Rockets and Astros. It’s part of the culture here, just as the Raygun character speaks to Nike‘s heritage. The two converged and met this weekend for NBA All-Star Weekend, and the people at Nike Basketball were kind enough to bring me along for the ride.
For this year’s midseason classic, Nike built off space exploration and went way beyond it, stopping at extraterrestrial. I’m talking an alternative galaxy, and brand new planets where different alien species can be discovered. You might know these life forms by their real names: LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant. But really, outside of that identification, they might as well be alien to all of us.
“At the end of the day, they do shit that nobody else can do,” says Erick Goto, the graphics lead for the team behind the Area 72 performance footwear vision.
To amp up the idea of being superhuman, Nike created an entirely new universe, including an alphabet, planets and matter. Each planet has its own unique characteristics that are outlined and explained within the sneaker and apparel. For instance, LeBron comes from the planet NSP-LJ6. There, he originated from Carbonado, also called the “black diamond.”
“It’s the hardest diamond known to man,” says Goto.
The whole shoe is a play on textures, and the idea that LeBron is indestructible, whereas Durant’s sneaker is defined by a color that is supposed to look simultaneously like solid, liquid, and gas. He’s versatile, and someone like him has never been seen before. That all shines through in his new shoe.
Kobe’s sneaker is explosive and fiery, like the surface of his planet, NSP-KB24.
The All-Star Game is a chance to show off creativity, and for the players, it’s the ultimate stage (because there are no color restrictions) to flaunt their personal style. Nike created an entire consumer experience around the idea of an alternate universe, and inside their showcase at Houston’s Galleria Mall, it felt like a different world. Literally.
Goto says he doesn’t have a favorite, but admits the Kobe 8 System was the most fun to work on, while his favorite on-court product in the KD V. He shouldn’t worry. We can’t name a favorite either.