As kids, Kevin Durant and Leo Chang both admired trendy Nike sneakers. Now they make such shoes together. Durant, the reigning NBA MVP, is one of the elite athletes whose endorsement deal with Nike includes a line of signature kicks. Chang, a top designer at Nike, brings the kicks to life, sending Durant's ideas to shoe-lovers all over the world.
"We look nothing alike; our backgrounds are very different," Chang says. "But we've had very similar things happen to us, like growing up with single parents and not having the easiest life."
Durant's latest signature shoe — the KD7 — is all about telling the story of his life. The theme of the shoe, lightning, evokes Durant's team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, and also his childhood aspirations of being a weatherman. The main colorway (or color theme) is called 35,000 Degrees, referring to the temperature at which lightning strikes Earth. The loud bright-mango color reflects both the color of lightning and Durant's sense of style. "I love standing out," Durant says. "I love wearing all black and then having a pair of green shoes or orange shoes."
Chang's job involves taking Durant's feedback on how a shoe should look and how it should feel on the court, then creating a sneaker that balances fashion and function. The end product combines innovative technologies with design elements that subtly hint at the star's personality. Check out our breakdown to make sure you don't miss a single important detail.
When the shoe was first revealed, sneakerheads immediately noticed the return of the strap to Durant's line. Notably absent from the KD5 and KD6 models, the KD7 features a strap over the laces that further secures the shoe on the wearer's foot. Durant claims to enjoy both the look and feel of the strap, and he had his family's names inscribed on the inside: Wanda (his mother), Barbara (grandmother), Wayne (father), and Tony (brother).
The KD7's sole contains nods to Durant's life growing up. The shape of Maryland is embedded under the flex grooves in the heel. Beneath the map are the words BIG CHUCKY, the nickname of Durant's first basketball coach, Charles Craig, who died at age 35. (Durant wears the number 35 in his honor.)
In addition to the bright-mango hue, the rest of the 35,000 Degrees colorway includes a "volt"-colored outsole to represent lightning's electric properties and dark gray accents that evoke a storm cloud. Alternate color themes include Calm Before the Storm (mostly gray), July 4th (red, white, and blue, which is meant to evoke fireworks), and Easy Money (mostly green, a reference to both Durant's nickname and Benjamin Franklin's experiments involving lightning).
The stiffer Hyperposite material in the heel is new to the KD7 and will give Durant, according to Nike, "support for his evolved post moves and rebounding." The material also pays tribute to the scorer's Washington, D.C-area roots. Hyperposite is an updated version of Foamposite, which was introduced to the Nike Air line in 1997. The Foamposite sneakers were a hit in D.C., and introducing the material into the KD line fulfills a long-term goal for Durant. "That's what we love," says Durant of the foam sneakers. "It's just a part of us."
Photos: Scott K. Brown for Sports Illustrated (Durant), Don Penny for Sports Illustrated/Styled by Bill Laughlin (shoe)