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The NBA playoffs are just around the corner and Nike is ensuring that their athletes on the court are prepared for “battle” by creating an “elite” series of basketball shoes that raise the bar by using premium materials and constructions that not only benefit the athlete but also return the games to the bare essentials in color.

The new 2012 Nike Elite Series of basketball shoes raise the bar for their their top tier models – the LEBRON 9 PS, Nike Kobe VII and Nike Zoom Hyperdunk – by incorporating carbon fiber into the shoes as well as Nike Pro Combat technology, Flywire, and Kevlar – all strategically placed to help with response, proprioception and performance.

We sat down with Nike’s Jason Petrie and Leo Chang to discuss the Nike Elite Series basketball pack for insight into the under the hood changes that make this trifecta of shoes some of the best Nike has ever placed on the court.

Photography: Robert Wunsch/

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One of the first indicators that the Nike Basketball Elite Series of shoes is re-interpreting the on court experience is in colorway – all three shoes in the pack are available in black or white with gold accents – which play into the simple idea of home and away colors. On court models worn by athletes will also include Swoosh designs in their team colors. Nike will replace the team colored swoosh with gold for the Finals.

From there, the gains are all in the tech while keeping the original form the LEBRON 9 PS, Nike Kobe VII and Nike Zoom Hyperdunk. “For us its finding a balance of not completely re-gutting the shoes to where they are unfamiliar… [while] pushing it forward,” comments Leo Chang when discussing the additions in tech that make up the Elite Series.

At the heart of all the technical additions to the Nike Elite Basketball series is the use of carbon fiber as a replacement to many components of the shoes with the heel counter being one of the more visual hits. For Petrie and Chang, being able to use carbon fiber material – with its higher pricepoint – was a barrier worth taking down when thinking about NBA Playoff performance footwear. As Petrie mentions, “The performance of the material dictated much of what we did. Because of pricepoint and notion of being unshackled [as designers], it allowed us to think opening about the construction of the shoes. It opens up the door to entertain the thought of using carbon fiber which under normal price constraints we would not be able to do.”

Other gains in the Nike Elite Basketball Series came in the use of the ultra-high tensile strength Flywire made from Kevlar. Used for structural support throughout the pack, Flywire helps decrease not only the weight of the shoe but the amount of materials used in construction. Again, a very subtle addition that is noticeable on close inspection but pays back in spades in terms of gain.

Our favorite addition through the Elite Series is the further incorporation of Nike Pro Combat which is used on the tongue and innersleeve of the shoes. Kobe fans will certainly recognize Pro Combat on the collar of the Kobe VII. Chang refers to the “proprioceptive” benefits on the fit of the shoes. Pro Combat addition add to the “feel” athletes have when wearing the shoes. It comes down to response and understanding where your foot sites inside the shoes.

All of these additions to the Nike Basketball Elite Series do put the shoes at a premium when compared to their in-line brothers: the Nike LEBRON 9 PS comes in at $250 while both the Nike Kobe VII and Nike Zoom Hyperdunk sit at $200 per pair. As mentioned, those purchasing the shoes may choose between either Black or White in color base.

We should also note that the special Elite series box shown throughout this story is not for retail sale. This “friends and family” display box helps share the unique story and vision of the Elite series while showcasing the three models that make up the collection.

All three Nike Basketball Elite Series shoes – the LEBRON 9 PS, Nike Kobe VII and Nike Zoom Hyperdunk – are available at retail and at beginning April 28, 2012.

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