The NBA playoffs start Saturday, and Nike is ready with the Elite Series, three updated signature hoops shoes—the LeBron 9 ($250), Nike Kobe VII ($200) and Nike Zoom Hyperdunk ($200)—that take both your game and your style to the next level. We got a sneak peek at all three in the backroom of a Nike showcase, and thanks to high-tech materials (Kevlar, carbon fiber) and high-end construction, they look ready to fly. But don’t take our word for it. We also spoke to the designers behind them.
“The premise behind the Elite Series was to take our existing best of the best product and make it even better,” says Leo Chang, design director for Nike Basketball Footwear. “Using the best technologies for the best performance when it matters most—getting that championship trophy.”
A few cool features that all three shoes share: home and away colors (white and black). Carbon fiber-infused shanks and heel counters to keep them light and responsive. Nike Pro Combat inspired padded collar protection for support and a no-slip sock liner for internal traction. Ultra-high tensile strength Flywire (those gold wires you see in the Hyperdunk, above) for the ultimate combination of low weight and high durability. And while you can pick up the gold Swoosh version this weekend, the players themselves only move from a white Swoosh to a gold one if their team makes the NBA Finals.
So, which shoe is for you? “Always get the LeBrons,” jokes Jason Petrie, the designer behind, yes, the Lebrons. “I would look at what your game is like. You know, Lebron is really all about strength, so his shoe is better for a bigger, stronger guy. Whereas the Hyperdunk is all about lightweight performance, it’s kind of that weapon anybody can go to. And the Kobe is about that dynamic ride, that super light, low, soccer-esque silhouette.” Add to your arsenal the day the playoffs begin at store.nike.com.