It’s not very often that football and basketball cross paths, in fact, pretty much the only instance that it ever happens is when Premier League stars are spotted courtside at an NBA game. Now, the people at Nike and Jordan Brand bridge these two disparate sporting disciplines with the NJR x Jordan collection.
Fronted by Neymar Jr., one third of Barcelona’s ruthless striking trinity that many consider the greatest partnership to have ever graced the game, the centerpiece of the collection is the NJR x Jordan Hypervenom – a football boot that takes inspiration from the iconic Air Jordan V, which Neymar picked out himself.
We got the opportunity to talk to Nike designer Nathan Vanhook, who you might know as the creative brains behind the Air Yeezy 2, to find out more about this boundary crossing collab.
So was there a particular reason why Neymar was chosen for this project?
This project started really organically. In late 2014 I had this amazing opportunity through Nike Football. We go out to meet in Barcelona often and I was out there with Max Blau, our VP, and we noticed that Neymar was wearing a lot of Jordan hats wherever we were going. We started chatting with him about Jordan and how he loved Jordan and the greatness of Michael Jordan and how he’s a champion.
We started thinking about how we could do something special with Neymar this summer, during this summer of football we have here now, so we presented the idea to Neymar as well as Michael Jordan, the Jordan Brand, and everybody was really excited.
Do you see any similarities between Jordan and Neymar?
We really looked at the idea of how Neymar has already done so much in his career even though he’s super young at 24. Also how he plays the game is very similar to Michael Jordan when he was early in his career – they both do stuff that you haven’t seen before, between Jordan scoring at will and winning all his slam dunk titles, and Neymar also plays at this kind of amazing level, doing stuff that you’ve only really seen before in video games. And how they’re both these kind of creative geniuses and also these deadly finishers and it just made great sense.
How involved was he in the design process?
We went out to Barcelona very often and we were out there and we rolled out this sheet of the history of all the Jordans, and we chatting with him about the ones he really likes and he kind of gravitated towards the Jordan V. It really made great sense because the fighter jet teeth on the Jordan V really harks back to the Hypervenom 2 that Neymar wears, the teeth in that design as well.
We were out there for the Hypervenom 2 launch in Barcelona and we had a meeting off the side with Neymar and showed him samples, the samples had both his iconic 10 for Brazil and he was saying “Oh it would be great to have 23 on it as well to pay respect to Jordan.” Those kind of comments come out of really organic interactions with Neymar over the last year-and-a-half, two years.
Was Neymar a plentiful source of inspiration?
Neymar performs at such a high level and is doing stuff that we really haven’t seen before on the pitch but he also has this kind of free flowing style as well and this really sharp eye and that’s what’s kind of brought this idea together, and the fact that he’s going to wear it out on the pitch is amazing.
How do you think that’s going to affect his performances on the pitch?
One thing we always talk about at Nike is this concept of style innovation and giving these players this confidence on pitch so when he’s out there and he’s got the sign-off from MJ and he’s in his boots, giving him this confidence.
Now check out the reverse tribute, the Air Jordan V Low “Neymar”.