Dime Q&A: Behind The Scenes Of Nike’s New Hyper Elite Uniforms

By: 02.28.12
Kobe, LeBron, KD and Deron Williams Team USA

Kobe, LeBron, KD and Deron Williams Team USA (photo. Nike)

Last Tuesday marked day one of the Nike Olympic Innovation Summit in New York City. If you haven’t heard by now, the event was held to introduce Nike’s all new Hyper Elite uniforms for the upcoming Olympic games, as well as new footwear and technology. On Tuesday, Tracy Teague – creative director of Nike Basketball – was in the house to go over the new innovative improvements made to the uniforms, as well as the Hyperdunk.

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With a little bit of help from our friend Brian Strong, who did a great job running the event, we were able to chat with Tracy and get even more into detail about the design process, the technology in the Hyperdunk, and what’s planned for the future of Nike Basketball.

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Dime: How do the new uniforms compare to the ones from the previous Olympics?
Tracy Teague: Well the biggest thing is we’ve been able to evolve them over the past four years and just make them amazingly lighter. We started from the ground up with the uniforms, and the players kept telling us they want us to go lighter. We could’ve taken the approach to just make it as light as possible, but at the end of the day, basketball is a sport that requires a lot more than just lightweight. Particularly in footwear, but also in apparel as well. It’s a physical sport. It’s not like running where your on your own and nobody’s gonna touch you. On court apparel has to be durable, it has to be supportive and flexible. So what we’ve done over the past four years is just develop through new materials, with both our footwear and apparel and just make it incredibly light.

If you compare this uniform to where we were in Beijing you’ll find that it’s 58 percent lighter. So through the use of some new materials and just the way we’ve been putting things together we’ve been able to make it significantly lighter. Then you combine that with the Pro Combat stuff these guys are wearing which gives them the protection directly right next to the body. So that also has allowed us to basically make the shorts even more light, because they don’t need to provide the protection that shorts used to. So all of that has allowed us to make an incredibly light uniform.

Dime: Recently I just bought the Hyper Elite Platinum UConn shorts. They’re easily my favorite pair of ball shorts right now. These Olympic shorts feel really similar.
TT: Yeah absolutely. I don’t know if you were here three weeks ago when we unveiled those, but with the Platinum Elite uniforms, the design is a little different, but it’s basically the same uniform. So we used those Platinum Elite teams as sort of a showcase and now three weeks later we’re unveiling these. So yeah, the Platinum Elite uniforms and the Olympic uniforms are pretty much one in the same.

Dime: So tell me a little about the design process how long does it take to develop new uniforms from the previous ones?
TT: Well right now we work in about two year cycles. So we use big global moments to determine when we want to launch our new innovation. So we’ve already begun working on the new version of these to launch at the World Championships in two years come 2014. Then what you’ll see is this uniform – just like the Platinum Elite stuff – roll into college over the next two years. So the next generation of college uniforms will be based off of these. So in two years at the World Championships we’ll introduce the completely new version that will fuel the next wave of college uniforms. So you see how we operate in cycles.

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Team USA Road uniforms

Team USA Road uniforms (photo. Jaimie Canterbury)

Dime: So with the Hyperdunks, how do you think that the Lunar technology is going to affect the players on the court?
TT: Well Lunarlon was really developed for running. If you’ve worn any of our shoes with that Lunarlon foam it’s an amazing ride, super soft. But with basketball obviously we’re doing other stuff than just running straight. There is lateral movement, cutting and all that. So what we had to do was find that right line of stability, yet still give it that soft ride.

So the new Lunarlon system in the Hyperdunk was specifically designed for basketball. It’s a different formulation than what’s used in the running shoe. So with the new Hyperdunks we still get those great properties that the Lunarlon gives us, but yet it’s designed specifically for hoop. This Hyperdunk is 2 ounces lighter than what it originally was back in 2008 so we continue to get them lighter but still keep it strong and stable – especially with the new Flywire.

Dime: So would you say it’s an upgrade from Air Max and Zoom technology? Is this new Lunarlon supposed to perform the best for the court?
TT: Well you know of course we still do products with Zoom, still do products with Max, but this is our latest responsive cushion. We always try to continue to push that envelope to find the most lightweight and responsive products for our guys on the court. Also, the Lunarlon system interacts with the Nike + system that you’ll hear about come day two.

Dime: As far as developing goes with the Flywire particularly, how did you make it even more advanced and develop it even further?
TT: Well what’s interesting about this generation of Flywire, this is the original intent. When we first came out with it, this is what we wanted to do. The idea of the cables that would actually hug the foot and really move with the foot is what we first had in mind, but it’s taken us since 2008 to really bring it all the way to life. We launched it in 2008 and just continued to develop it and develop it and now we’ve actually got it to the point where this is a much truer expression of what the original Flywire system was meant to be. – the idea of real true dynamic containment. So we’ve now combined the Lunarlon with the Flywire.

Dime: Do the players experiment with prototypes before you decide on an official final shoe? Or do you bring them the final product?
TT: Well from the get-go when we first start developing, we do tons of wear testing. Some of our pro guys do wear testing for us but a lot of Division I college teams do a ton of wear testing for us. Everything we do runs through hours and hours of wear testing, especially when you’re trying to make these kind of quantum leaps. Like I said before we’d made tremendous strides with the Flywire, a lot of that was in response to the wear tests. If you look at the Flywire now, it’s loose. Before it was sandwiched between two layers of material. Now it’s much more breathable and flexible. So what we’ve done is just opened all that up, now it’s much more loose now so when you make your cuts these bands just lock.

It’s really cool to see this in high speed photography, where a guy will run and make a 45-degree plant it shows the bands tighten up. Then once he picks his foot up, they loosen right back up again, so it’s really just the true dynamic containment we’ve been looking for.

Dime: What other teams will be wearing Nike Hyper Elite uniforms in the Olympics?
TT: For sure we’ve got USA, China and Brazil. Then there was a list of other Nike sponsor federations that will still have to go through qualifying. The team most likely to qualify is probably Lithuania. Then you’ve got the Dominican Republic and there’s a good chance coach Calipari will be the coach. He was their coach at the World Championships so there’s been some talk that he’ll be coaching them again.

Angola, Nigeria, Korea and Puerto Rico still have to qualify but if they qualify they’ll all have their own versions of these.

Dime: Has a release date and price been set for the new gear/shoes yet?
TT: All the new Hyper Elite stuff will be released to retail from the authentics to the replicas right on down by the end of June, including the game warm-ups and the whole line of sportswear that goes right along with it. So look out for it.

Will you be getting the shorts and jerseys?

Follow Jaimie on Twitter at @SubZEROxPaste.

Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.

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