In anticipation of the launch of the KD V, Sneaker Report had a chance to talk with Nike Basketball Design Director, Leo Chang, to discuss the technology and design process involved with the latest Kevin Durant signature sneaker. Chang touched on what Durant specifically asked for in his fifth installment as well as what the sneaker technology has to offer to a variety of positions on the court.
Following the success of the KDIV, the 5 is ready to take on its predecessor with Durant's teamwork mentality.
Thanks for talking with us, we’re eager to talk about the newest generation of the KD line. Can you walk us through the sneaker in terms of performance and key technology?
Sure, we can start with the upper, which is a pretty unique design. It’s really simple-looking, as it's fused to create one type of material. We actually integrated the way the lacing interacts with the Hyperfuse material so that on the outside, we have a kind of “skin” material (like a polyurethane type of film) and underneath there is a base layer made of a textile material, which is a lot lighter and more flexible than the 4. We fused those layers into webbed laces to integrate into upper, to give you a closer feel, something that Kevin Durant really wanted to have. For him, the sneaker is a really close 1-to-1 fit with his foot, so it’s like everything is on the outside of the shoe. So when you have these webbed laces on the outside of the foot, it doesn’t create as much pressure and creates a better fit. On top of that is the tongue construction, which is a stretchy upper that is stitched to the outside, forming a booty. One of the things I was really interested in doing was creating a multi-dimensional tongue, allowing a closer fit by eliminating the gap between the foot and the upper.
So going down to the midsole you can actually see that the midsole wraps up around the heel. The first time this has been done in Basketball, this flexible foam center that allows the foot to move more dynamically.
The sole was actually a request from KD himself. When we were talking about this last summer, he mentioned that wanted an Air Max heel. At first we thought that was really cool and unique, but for the long time we didn’t think his game would benefit from that technology. But as we watched him play last year, we saw his game evolve. He’s definitely making harder drives to the basket and taking these long galloping strides that have him coming down really hard on his heels so we thought “Wow, there’s a benefit from this.” He still plays on his toes, but I think his game can benefit from the Air Max bag in the back.
What do you think Kevin’s original intent was for wanting the Air Max? Was it the aesthetic of the bubble or the protective technology?
Both. I think that as a signature athlete, each year you want your product to be better and better and better, so he was looking at ways to make it better. Also, being a DC kid the bubble is an iconic thing, so for Kevin I think it’s a little of both.
What about the Zoom technology, how does that play in?
The Zoom in the forefoot is more of our staple because obviously you want responsive toe-offs for playing, running, and jumping. This time we actually upgraded the Air Max to a 10mm Air bag from the typical 6mm to enhance the cushioned heel.
What about the outsole?
The outsole actually has a lot more storytelling aspects to it, we started the repeated pattern based on the pentagon. Since it’s the 5, and he grew up in DC, I was able to work the patterns into a star and the star shape makes the pentagon. So that detail tells a great story and actually is super functional as well. It’s a really diverse story, a versatile pattern where it allow you to be impulse with your direction. We actually worked with wear testers on that and one of the guys wearing it said it felt like a gecko’s foot. We stick with herringbone because it's a tried-and-true material that a lot of hoopers can appreciate. We always want to make sure it works, and that pattern does.
The way I approach the outsole with Kevin, and with all of our signature guys, is that at any moment in time each one of them could land a championship, so that’s the type of thing we anticipate could happen and how to tell the basketball story as sort of a roadmap of a champion by showing the places he’s been and the places he’s going, along with his individual accomplishments. So the numbers on the forefront of the outsole are all his area codes, it starts out with Maryland, and then it goes to Austin, Seattle, and then OKC, so it follows his journey of where he’s been, where he’s going and where he is. We put his 3 scoring title accomplishments on the heel, and on the forefoot we have a nod to his parents, the “WT” which is a constant thing that we keep putting on the shoe, that his loyalty for family never changes.
Do these details come in at the end or considered initially with the full design?
I think there are some things like his parent’s logo and stuff like that we knew we’re going to put in there. But some elements, like the scoring title are down to the last minute. This past year it came down to like 1.1 points between him and Kobe, so that was a nail biter of a competition. This was also really close to the time the 5 was about to hit production, so we had to scramble to make that call. It was kind of cool, waiting it out, and holding a clear cut space for the title to go, should he get it. That was pretty cool.
We’ve come a long way. I always ask him, "Do you want anything else / Do you want to take anything away?" and with that back and forth we've evolved the process.
The first major difference you notice from the KDIV is the lack of lockdown strap, why the departure from the strap?
I think with KD, he just wanted to switch things up, you’ll also notice it’s a midtop. These where a few of the things he asked for, like an Air Bag, and then he was like this time let’s do without the strap and go midcut this time. I think he looks out for other guys on the team that will actually wear the shoe and what they would want in a shoe as well.
The strap was something he actually didn’t want it originally on the 4. It’s an interesting story, before we had started talking about the 4 and he was like “Yeah, let’s go without the strap,” and I was like “crap” because I had a sample in my bag the whole time that had a strap on the shoe so I was like, what am I going to do? But I showed him anyway and he fell in love with it. He went with it because he loved it so much. So that’s what happened with the 4, so I think with the 5 it was still in the back of his mind to get away from that and try something different.
And this is all around the notion of getting lighter, and on this shoe we’re just a little bit lighter that the 4 which is nice because this is a midtop, the 4 was a low. I think the last time I weighed this shoe is was 12 ounces, and the 4 was 12.5, so it’s definitely lighter.
How does performance play into the price point of this shoe? We see it’s about a $20 jump from the 4.
Yeah, I think the price now is about $115. That’s a result of the more technology you add into a sneaker, the more it costs. The Air Max bag does cost more to put in the shoe, and we’ve upgrade it to feature just the forefoot Zoom along with the heel cushioning system, so there are a lot of upgrades. And the midsole wrapping around the heel the way it does, that becomes a more expensive process as well.
What can you tell us about this Maryland colorway?
That one was kind of fun, in that I think Maryland is near his heart as a DC kid. So we looked at the Maryland colors, the historic red and the yellow hints and white and black and we took more of an artistic inteprestation with it to give it a little more energy to it, because those colors tend to be sort of typical. So we wanted to put some energy around that so took some super bright red which is that crimson color so that darker red for the color lining which makes the grey and a neon yellowy green is the twist on that in the flag.
This was definitely a very exciting shoe for us, it really put the KD line on the map, so we have others that we are really excited about that will give kids a chance to tell their own story. The ID really took off last year with the KD as well, offering really cool graphics like the "Year of the Dragon", so alot to look forward to for the 5.
Now that we have all of the technical details of the shoe, what type of player do you think is the best fit for the KD V?
I see this product as the center. It's like if you have to choose one and you don't know much about this line, this is a really versatile shoe that any player can play in that will provide the best protection with the Air Max, Zoom technology, the fit, and the responsiveness. It looks great and it's lightweight, so you'll see alot of players in this shoe. While I think the 4 is great and I'm really proud of that shoe, being a fickle person I noticed the fit was a little bit off. So looking back and hearing this response, I learned something from that and it was something to improve on this design. So the 5 is a little less narrow, less irration points at the forefoot, and we've smoothed out alot of things. It's a great first time shoe for positions 1 through 5. And that matches how we've always positioned Kevin too, from a team perspective. The team is such an important element to him. Russ [Westbrooke] used to play in this shoe, and Kevin is such a force on the team as a point guard, so having that versatility to fit this wide spectrum of guys was great. Have a shoe that is versatile enough for all players, 1 through 5, was really important to the concept of this sneaker.
At the Olympics, I asked Kevin why the number "5" was so important to him and he said “It takes 5 players on the court to win”. So this goes back to his DNA, not being a selfish leader but being a team leader, and that teamwork mentality is what is so neat about this superstar athlete.
We're ready to see them go all the way this year, how about you?
I was crushed last year when they got so close! But I think it’s one of those things that is painful, but will have them [OKC] coming back even more passionate to win it. They have a great team. And I think it's awesome that 3 guys were on the Olympic team together this summer, building that chemistry and playing on a high level with some of the other best athletes in world.
The Nike KDV will be available globally on NIKEiD on November 6th, will full availability on December 8th in Bright Crimson and Black / Blue. Stay tuned with Sneaker Report as we continue to bring you release reminders and the newest announcements for the KDV.