Summer is about half done and sneaker brands are almost at the point when the next season push begins for their latest wares, The Four Corners asks which Windy City’s baller will have the better season, if adidas’ strategy of 100 NBA endorsers and if we’re just waiting for another Under Armour Chef Curry situation. For this edition we tap Sandy Dover, ESPN writer and The BFM senior editor, Sole Shift contributor Colin Garraway, Toronto Star sports writer Chris O’Leary, and Sole Shift Associate Editor Ray Bala for their thoughts right here …
With images of the forthcoming Curry 3 surfacing online, is Under Armour continuing to make steps towards a more aesthetic pleasing pair for the reigning MVP, or do you see another “Chef Curry” backlash?
Dover – I believe the Curry Two Low ‘Chef Curry’ backlash was something of an Internet phenomenon. No one could plan something that random and hilarious, that’s not something that could easily be contrived by a company like Under Armour. They test markets, they go through PR, and it just happened to be the right kind of photo and right kind of meme culture we’re in. No company could do the Internet did to the Chef Curry, LOL.
That all said, Under Armour has been on record as to say that they continue to look to refine the aesthetic of their basketball footwear. That was happening in their plans and designs even before the Chef Curry controversy, and I actually believe they’ll end up with great-looking hoopers. Look at their knit running shoes and things. In fact, their running shoes, particularly in the Spine category, as always had an attractive flair. I think we can expect the same for their basketball shoes.
O’Leary – Judging by what we’ve seen the Curry 3, it looks like Steph’s line is finally branching out on its own. If you didn’t know the Curry 1 and 2 were Steph’s shoes, you’d think they were just another random pair of Under Armours on the shelves. The 3 is a sign of the line evolving, or at least UA realizing that they’ve got the most popular basketball player on the planet on their roster. It’s in their best interest to make the shoe about him, rather than sending him out on the court with a shoe that could be worn by any player in the league. You won’t see a Chef Curry backlash over these, but a side-by-side with the Jordan XX2 is revealing/a little disappointing. Still, this is a good move for UA and Steph.
Garraway – Based on the leaked images the Curry 3 is a step back, not forward for UA. They won’t get the “Chef Curry” meme treatment and I do expect them to perform very well but I expected much, much more. UA has already done the hard part: they’ve found a personality who connects with their market however their inability to balance aesthetics and performance is holding them back from taking the next step.
Bala – I’m still unsure about this. Do I think there will be another Chef Curry backlash with the MVP’s newest model? No. It’s not looking like “that” kind of sneaker. But do I think that the latest is aesthetically pleasing? My answer is no also. I get that there will be departures in look and feel from previous models and I’m sure that there are design reasons or Curry reasons for how it looks but I don’t think there is anything particularly great looking about the Curry 3. My first thought was that it looked kinda like a reimagined Chuck Taylor or Nike Sweet Lew. I’m sure they’re great on the court, fit well, feel soft off the bounce, breath well but they’re not striking me as a “Woah” pair. And despite that there will be NO backlash unless the trolls are really out roast SC3.
adidas is said to be looking to sign up to 100 NBA players to endorsement deals to help promote the brand and bring them back to the forefront of the basketball sneaker conversation. Do you think this is the best way for the Stripes to bring itself back into the forefront of the basketball sneakers landscape?
Garraway – I think it’s their only chance. “Throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” seems to be the approach adidas is taking here. They’re using the money they would have used in an NBA apparel deal and taking fliers on young and charismatic up and coming players and I can’t fault their logic in that.
O’Leary – Do you know what the most memorable adidas moment I had this year was? It came late in the Raptors season when we were waiting to talk with Kyle Lowry in the locker room. While he showered, a few reporters noticed a fresh pair of Yeezys by his stall and his shoes became a talking point in the locker room (among the media, anyway) for a good few minutes. When was the last time you’ve heard anyone talk about adidas in the way that many of us would react to a nice, hard-to-find pair of Jordans? I see where adidas is coming from in looking to sign 100 players, but I think sometimes you have to play to your strengths. It never hurts to have James Harden, Damian Lillard, Lowry, Andrew Wiggins, etc. on your roster, but nothing that those guys wear this year will carry the weight that Yeezys do. adidas can be on the basketball sneaker landscape, but I don’t see it being at the forefront, whether they have 20 guys on their roster or 100.
Bala – I think that volume in the case of adidas isn’t necessarily the way to go. I think signing 100 NBA players is a nice end goal but to have signed five of the top ten to twenty five players in the league, or best available or more prolific, is their best way to go. A small number of immediately recognizable talent and funnelling the brand through this core group is what could bring them back to the second spot above Under Armour. UA has been able to make gigantic leaps in two seasons with one star athlete so adidas should be able to make that same formula work utilizing their name and budget alone with multiple players. Plus, I think having 90 guys wearing the generic team shoe doesn’t speak the same way that five to ten players wearing individualized player models does to the sneaker buying public.
Dover – adidas’ plans to sign 100 NBA players are going to help push the brand presence, and I think it’s a great idea. This needs to be said — Nike became an elite company in its basketball innovation, and it continues to be the leader of hoops footwear. adidas has come a long way and is closing the gap, but I think the real strategy of signing 100 NBA pros is the lifestyle presence. It is without question that adidas is the leader of sports lifestyle apparel and footwear (and also a leader in the running category). You get 100 players to push the YEEZY BOOST, the Pharrell Williams Collection, and scores of Superstars and Stan Smiths, and no matter what kind of Crazylight Boost comes and goes, adidas will have those same 100 dudes rocking the Kanye West collection before and after games. That isn’t to say that the Crazylight Boost isn’t good — it is, but NBA players are style entities now more than ever. They crossover and they generate even more business in fashion. You don’t need an NBA uniform deal to make a difference, but you do need ambassadors, and the brand with the three stripes knows exactly what they’re doing to extend their reach.
Shout out to Jon Wexler, Andy Barr, and the great Margaret Bourn.
Though their careers have been great to this point Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade have been hampered with injuries and not so popular sneakers selections in the past. Which of these two Chicago natives will have a bigger season on the court and with sneaker sales?
Bala – Between the two I’m thinking that it’s going to be Derrick Rose on both accounts. Rose may have run his course in Chicago and New York, despite being a media fishbowl is still a good place to start a new chapter. He’s steadily played more games each of the last three years and has put up numbers that remind people of his pre-injury self. The new city could mean a rejuvenated man and could also mean rejuvenated sneaker line sales. It does help him that Wade’s sneakers are largely unavailable outside of certain retailers and online so Rose’s sales numbers, at least on this side of the Pacific, should outshine Flash’s. There have been a few bricks that Adidas has thrown Rose in the last three years but if this season plays out like it should for him he should be the bigger success on both sides of the lines.
Garraway – I’m giving the edge here in both categories to Rose. Rose has one year left in his deal and still needs to establish himself if he wants to secure a long-term deal next July. Dwayne Wade is nearing the end of a hall-of-fame career with his best days clearly behind him. Rose ‘should’ have a larger platform with adidas in New York than Wade does in Chicago with Li-Ning so unless the Rose 7s are hideous I expect Rose to outperform Wade in sales next season.
Dover – I actually believe D. Rose’s shoes have largely been pop favorites on the whole of his career; and in D. Wade’s case, he signed a deal that he should’ve never signed with Converse, and he should’ve never had his own signature shoe on Jordan (his Player Exclusives with the signature Air Jordans, in particularly the Air Jordan 2010, were magnificent). That all said, I believe Dwyane Wade will continue to fair great in his health, though his Li-Ning WoW series has failed to WoW me; D. Rose, I believe, will have a strong, but slightly-less healthier season than his Chicago replacement, but a superior signature sneaker to D. Wade.
O’Leary – Even though he’s the younger player (27 to D-Wade’s 34), it’s hard to put your faith in Derrick Rose’s health. That said, if you look at it on paper, shoe success is there for Rose’s taking. He played 66 games last year, his healthiest run in five seasons and he’s got an opportunity in a huge market — not that that means what it used to; look at KD’s shoe sales in OKC — to re-ignite that part of his career in New York. Accessibility factors in here too. You can buy Wade’s shoes online, but if D. Rose is having a good year and you’re in a store and see his shoes it’s much easier to buy them. There’s also a the factor of seeing a shoe in person and trying it on before buying it. An online purchase is always a leap of faith that some people won’t want to take.