At every media event, the journalist basketball game goes the same way: It’s one of the highlights of the weekend, perhaps the only time everyone gets a chance to truly vent, and after spending so much time watching, talking and writing about basketball, it all comes pouring onto the court in a wave of reckless energy, frenetic excitement and predictably ugly basketball.
I’ve seen it happen in Miami, seen it in L.A., seen it in New Jersey, seen it just about everywhere. Where does all that energy come from? I’m assuming it’s because we always get laced with the hottest new gear, bags and lockers with our names on them, and most importantly, the new kicks we are there to wear test. Normally, that’s enough. But recently at the World Basketball Festival, Nike had us test out their newest technology, the Nike Hyperdunk+, the shoe that could transform future generations of sneakers, and for two solid hours on a Monday morning in Washington, D.C., it turned us all into first graders in front of the Christmas tree.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve covered my time spent at the WBF in just about every way possible. I recapped the event in both words and photos, posted interviews and even my impressions of some of the highlights from the weekend. But I knew I eventually needed to shed some more light on the wear testing event with Nike Basketball.
Upon arriving at the Armory, the same building that had hosted both the men’s and women’s US National teams earlier that week, we were split up into groups to head into locker rooms. There, we found bags with our names, and inside of them, the real prize: full Nike workout clothes with navy blue elite socks, yes, but also a pair of the Hyperdunk+.
From there, we were split up into three different stations to test out the ground-breaking technology used in the sneaker. My group went to an area off to the side of the court where we were split up into stations and giving pressure sensors for the sneakers (The sensors look like small USB discs. There’s a tiny space below the sock liner where they fit. Once you download the free Nike+ app, your phone and sneakers will then sync together.). The responsiveness is incredible. When the sneakers and phone first sync, you can test the connection with a screen that shows your two feet and where the most pressure from your feet is coming from. Move around, and the marks change.
With the sneakers on, the shoes tested our vertical and our quickness. The vertical leap test was easy; the pressure sensors time how long your feet are off the ground. The ensuing reading is normally pretty accurate… unless of course you decide to cheat. For quickness, the Nike reps had us do foot fires for a minute, and the entire time that’s happening, the app is keeping a running track of your steps per second.
At the next station, we tested out the “Track My Game” portion of the app. Upon going through ballhandling and shooting drills, the app took three or four minutes to create a statistical spreadsheet of our performance. The analysis is almost over-the-top. There are percentage measures of how often you sprinted, how often you walked, how much energy you used, and among others, how often you moved laterally. There are statistical readouts on your quickness â€“ how often it was steady as opposed to explosive â€“ as well as your vertical leap. Literally every single jump you make is inserted into a bar graph to help illustrate when you were jumping your highest. Everything is logged, saved, and you can share any of the info or results on Facebook and Twitter through the free app. The app saves all of your records, and a cool, little LeBron James video hits you with a message whenever you break one of your all-time highs.
The people at Nike even gave us a chance to try out the dunk station in the “Showcase Mode”. The rims were lowered to nine feet, and we got a chance to have 30 seconds of dunk footage streamed to a projector and a flatscreen on the wall. Have you seen the videos of Jus Fly where the statistics of his jumps pop up on screen? That was us… except the dunks were on nine feet… and we didn’t really jump that high. But it was still cool.
As for the sneaker itself, the fit was snug, and thankfully for me, offered some breathability around the ankle. What I found interesting was a few of the other media members felt they ran small. I actually ran with a half-size smaller than normal. But the shoes definitely do have a narrow fit. Luckily, I prefer my shoe to be tight around the toes and the mid-foot while providing some room to move around the ankle.
The shoe features the most advanced version of Nike Flywire ever on the upper. Depending on the movement, the visible cables tense and relax to help support the foot, and while most synthetic shoes are very stiff and rigged, this Flywire differs in that regard. It’s a big step up, and nearly everyone I talked to at the event was impressed by it (even if after a few wears, the cables can begin to sit loosely along the side of the shoe).
The outsole is solid rubber in order to offer the best performance on a number of different surfaces. The modified tracking pattern and forefoot pivot circle enhance the multi-directional grip.
The collar, lower in the back and higher in the front, as well as the open mesh tongue and inner sleeve, combine to create a very secure fit while still maintaining breathability. The Lunarlon foam at the base of the sneaker left my calves â€“ always a problem whenever I play for longer than two hours â€“ feeling bouncy and alive.
With most players my age, even ones who grew up playing the game like I did, having a system that tracks your data is relatively unnecessary. It’s cool at first, but the benefits don’t completely outweigh the price tag of $250. With that being said, I knew almost instantly that this could be a hit amongst teenagers and young players looking to take the next step.
Growing up, I lifted. I did sprint workouts. I did sessions twice a week with strength and conditioning trainers in order to become quicker, faster and stronger. I LIVED basketball. There wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t thinking about how to get better, how to improve my body, how to take it to the next level. If the Hyperdunk+ had come around 10 years earlier, I probably would’ve eaten it up. Paying $250 for a pair of shoes seems crazy, but not after you realize you’ll be paying $100-150 for a decent pair of sneakers anyways. The technology here is definitely worth the investment if you are truly into becoming the best athlete you can while treating your body as a machine as I did.
During my first run-through with the technology, something popped out at me immediately: how often you start and stop in basketball, and how you are only going full-tilt for small portions of your time on the court. Growing up, I was always pushed by coaches to play harder and more aggressive, and rightfully so. But with information like this, where it actually SPELLS it out for you through sheer numbers, coaches will now have another way to motivate their kids.
Whether it sticks or not amongst young basketball fans, Nike has definitely pushed the limits of what we thought possible with footwear within the Hyperdunk+.
Will this technology catch on?
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