Hybrid. Whether we're talking about a Ford or a forward, the word can describe an entity flexing between two distinct categories. Nike basketball sneaker designer Leo Chang took that thinking to the sketch pad with the design of the KD8, the latest signature sneaker from the Oklahoma City Thunder's hybrid forward, Kevin Durant.
The 6'10" forward plays faster than a typical big man, requiring footwear that allow for versatility, both lightweight and strong. He needs kicks that off the freedom to execute both creative, guard-style play and are sturdy enough for low-post moves. So Chang opted to utilize similarly hybrid technology, even borrowing some design cues from the automotive world to help drive the new shoe’s aesthetic.
In a major change for the KD8—and a first for any Nike basketball sneaker—the new shoe uses Nike’s fresh Flyweave technology, an engineered textile built stronger than the similar Flyknit we’ve grown accustomed to.
Weaving instead of knitting allows Nike to use the same single piece of material, letting designers account for the specific durability, strength and stability requirements of differing movements, engineering those in through the woven construction. While a knit produces consecutive rows of interlocking loops, a weave proves stronger with two distinct sets of thread forming a seam to connect every yarn. Aided by computer-based engineering, designers can modify the weave’s size to allow for the inclusion of other materials, whether foam, or in the case of the KD8, Flywire cabling for support.
“It is the most technically precise shoe we’ve designed for Kevin,” Chang says. “Flyweave is optimal for his multidimensional skillset and footwork as he jumps, cuts, jabs and accelerates.”
With a completely new upper—sans the strap—for the low-top KD8, Chang also opted for a new cushioning system, using full-length Zoom Air with notches to allow for greater movement.
Beyond the automotive industry, Chang used the saber-toothed tiger—Durant has a tattoo of the cat on his right leg—as a lead design cue, seen in the sharp rise of the shoe’s heel up the side of the rear of the shoe. For further color cues, Chang ranged through a mix of personal stories. The initial colorway, dubbed the V8, uses Durant’s first high-end car, a Camaro, for inspiration. As more colorways launch, expect to see shoes inspired by the hill he ran while training as a kid and even the suit he wore during his MVP speech a year ago. The first special edition, though, will come in a patriotic way with a Fourth of July design.
The true inspiration, though, comes from Durant’s hybrid playing style.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.