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Looking down the barrel of a lens, Kevin Durant had a big smile on his face while recording an episode of his podcast.
“The 15 are the best in the line,” he said, his smile still widening. “I’m not just saying this because they’re new and I want you to buy them and I’m shamelessly pining for my KD15s, but these are the best.”
It’s a big statement. The pair, which debuted in 2011 with an incredibly cute “Nerf” colorway and are now Slim’s top pair, are arguably the best of the 4. And that’s now forgetting 7, 8, and 9, all of which are incredible performance figures, joints that felt damn fine for court action. And it’s telling that the 12, 13 and 14 models that are so popular in the NBA and WNBA can’t hold this new image. Big statement, of course, KD.
If there’s anyone who can lay claim to the greatest pair of KDs ever, it’s his name. He’s always been there, and the man now follows Mike and Bron for most of Nike’s signature basketball sneakers. He knows what he’s talking about.
The word “nerd” has had a bad reputation for a long time. But a line of demarcation can be drawn from “narcissists” to “lovers.” We are all fanatics about what we love, daydreaming of any means to achieve adoration at any moment. Durant loves basketball. He is one of the best basketball players on the planet. He studies, looks for ways to improve, and implements his findings. Human hoops is a scientist, a nerd so passionate that he becomes one of the greatest basketball players of all time. His nervous tendencies reached his shoes with Swoosh. In these 15 years, he has tried many experiments. Highs, Lows, Mids, Forefoot Straps, Flywire Uppers, Flyknit Uppers, Leather, Suedes, Zoom, Cushlon, Air Bubbles. All of that information led to this milestone sneaker, the 15th in the line and his favorite of all.
He went on to say in that podcast that 15 is neither too big, nor too small. It’s a perfect blend of everything he’s learned all this time.
“Inspiration was taken personally from KD,” Risa Beck, creative footwear designer at Nike, said of the 15. He wanted to mimic the calm you feel when you are next to the ocean and the ocean waves. You can begin to see how that has affected the language of the form. And another aspect of it was referencing old Nike basketball retro models for KD and modernizing the line.
With KD4, Durant, Beck and Ben Nethongkome, the lead designer at 15, he saw the flight of the Nike Air Jet, since 2001 the sneaker, among other NBA protections, was played by Steve Nash, the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. Durant told Netongkome he wanted to keep it simple and low-key. He has spent the last four years in high and mid. But the complicated part for Nethongkome is how much the Nets rely on KD. They want him to not only play crazy minutes, but to create for others, clog up the paint on defensive rotations, and hit 25-plus a night. It requires more of the lower.
With the basic idea and cues from Jet Flight and KD4, Netongkome and his team knew what they needed. Starting with a full-length Air Zoom Struble section, they do their job with a lightweight mesh stitched on top, an evolution from the 14 but with reduced layers. The outer heel counter was 3D-molded, the midfoot cage was injected with TPU, a common plastic material used in basketball kicks, and the traction pattern was created from scratch. Everything had to work together perfectly because Durant has qualities unmatched by anyone else.
“He was really engaged and engaged in the whole process,” says Beck. “We’ve been working with him specifically to make sure the heel grip system and underfoot feel is tailored to him.”
“KD is very involved in the creation of the shoe,” added Kreig Hozalski, shoe tech developer at Nike. “We saw in him [playoffs] He played every second of last year’s performance, from start to finish [Game 7 against the Bucks] And to overtime. We really want to keep him completely fresh. We’ve taken that inspiration to the 15 to make sure it has that ride and performance underfoot and that it’s very agile to handle and stay.
The 15 should stay intact because Durant is now 33 years old and has played over 40,000 minutes in his NBA career. No matter which team settles for the 16th year, he will continue to be responsible for putting a curse on everything on the floor. These later stages of his Hall of Fame journey showcased his passion and talent for cooking, his improved ball handling and his determination to work again. And all the unfair scoring skills he’s always had have hit some kind of new plane. That right arm is a stainless steel sword well-crafted by his scientific expeditions. He knows every corner of the floor and can attack from anywhere, using his weapons in a way the league has never seen before. His peers described him as unimpressed, a fraud. He is truly one of the biggest basketball nerds on the planet.
Photos via Getty Images.