The Four Corners is a new weekly column, where we solicit four different opinions, from four experts on various topics.
This week we tasked Jason Tiangco, Co-Founder, Sole Shift @JustJayT, Sandy Dover, Contributor, ESPN & Senior Editor, Baller Mind Frame @sandy_dover, Colin Garraway, Contributor, Sole Shift @TheGarra_Way and Pasha Bains, Owner & Director, Drive Basketball @DRIVEBasketball to spread the floor.
What are your thoughts on Nike’s recent shoe/sockliner innovation in the KD8 Elite and the Hyperdunk?
Tiangco: I’m somewhat intrigued to see where and how far Nike goes with this new “movement.” They’ve made the decision to incorporate it into multiple categories (basketball, running, tennis & skateboarding) and it’s eye-catching right off the bat. Aesthetically, I’m a fan, from a performance standpoint I’m still on the fence. Let’s call a spade a spade, this type of compression technology isn’t necessarily new in the performance sneaker game, let alone within Nike. Yet, I won’t chalk it all up to just “wow” factor, and keep my full opinions with me until after I get a few runs in them.
Dover: From a performance standpoint, I think both Nike’s KD8 Elite and the Hyperdunk are going with the wave — that is to say that I believe uniformly that they are simultaneously in an arms race with adidas for the most avant-garde footwear, and evolving their own Flyknit technology. From an aesthetic point of view, I think the Hyperdunk 2016 is a failure; it lacks an attractive shape, it looks like a basketball UGG. The KD8 Elite, on the other hand, is more attractive, but if we’re talking streetwear, you might have to jump through a hoop or two to really be able to sport them casually.
Garraway: In short: An airball. I understand the role that innovation plays in the advancement of sneakers but Nike is way off the mark with this one. Even if the sock liner delivers from a performance standpoint, it’s not aesthetically pleasing enough for me to fork out the big bucks and give it a try.
Bains: I actually like the look and think it fits in well with the sock/tights generation that we are in. Kids these days wear a lot of layers and this gives them that layer feel all in one encompassing shoe. I know the shoes caught some flack but I think they will be popular among the youth and think the design is very current.
After the recent ESPN story on how Nike lost Stephen Curry to Under Armour, how far away are they from being a serious threat to the swoosh?
Tiangco: Let me be the first to say, that although Under Armour may not seem as “sexy” with their technological advancements, don’t mix my words when I say that they are already a player in the performance basketball sneaker game. They’ve got a good handle on what’s generally needed to make a great basketball sneaker; what’s missing is more brand exposure, trials, one or two marketable NBA stars and an additional full line of basketball offerings. If UA could bring all of that together, the “little brother” may not be so little for much longer.
Dover: Nike has a 30+-year headstart on Under Armour when it comes to the chronological gap in basketball and a brand that is known in every country on Earth. I’d say UA is at least 20 years from meeting the gap as a serious competitor globally. That said, UA has yet to create a technology in footwear that is incomparable, and that’s how a brand becomes a force. If they come with the next Air or BOOST, we’ll have to re-evaluate their standing in the marketplace.
Garraway: The Curry situation is no more than a wake-up call for the swoosh. Curry was a coup for UA but they need two or three more spokesmen on his level before we can really talk about true competition in the sneaker marketplace.
Bains: Stephen Curry is one of the most like-able people on the planet, so I think Under Armour is definitely gaining ground. We see it in our youth programs as more and more kids are showing up in Under Armour shoes and gear. They really identify with Steph and the fact that he is seen as leading his own brand of shoes in UA makes them proud to represent him and buck the trend of simply going with Nike.
– Check out The Curry Two: Recipe For Success in Sole Shift Issue II, Ed.
Which player has impressed you most in the NCAA Tournament so far?
Tiangco: Tyler Roberson of Syracuse is the hard-nosed/hardworking Cinderella on the tournament’s Cinderella team. From high flying put-back jams, to snatching up rebounds he had no business in getting, Roberson’s athleticism has placed the Orangemen’s tourney success nicely upon his athletic shoulders. With timely defensive stops, rebounds, energy and momentum shifting plays Roberson is Cuse’ unsung hero. Not a bad on-court response from a player that was publicly called out by his coach, telling the media “If I had anyone else he wouldn’t play a minute.”
Dover: Buddy Hield is a testament to staying in school as long as you know what your strengths and weaknesses are. He’s shining in such a way that informs experts of the game he knew what he was doing by staying in school. The worst thing for young players is when they don’t know what makes them special, or they don’t know what they need to make them special. Hield is whom March Madness is made for.
Garraway: I have been mocked unmercifully by friends in the past for being an ‘NBA only’ fan, however with the influx of Canadian talent over the last few years I have paid a lot more attention to the NCAA tournament. That said, it has to be Buddy Hield right? I was hoping fellow Mississauga native Dillon Brooks could end his run, but it seems as the lights shine brighter, so does Buddy.
Bains: I had the opportunity to coach Jamal Murray at last years BioSteel All Canadian Game and came away thoroughly impressed with not only his talent but his inner drive to be the best. He was my favorite player to watch in the NCAA this year and I was pulling for him in the tournament. Most impressive deeper into the tournament for me has been Buddy Hield, not only because of his shot making, but the passion that he plays with. Buddy is the quintessential college basketball player and should be remembered for this great run he has led Oklahoma on.