Kevin Durant’s signature Nike shoe has faced challenges with becoming the “cool” shoe when compared to LeBron James and Kobe Bryant’s signature lines. Is the reason because Durant is not as good as King James and the Black Mamba? Of course not. Kevin is without a doubt one of the best players in the NBA, and he won his third consecutive scoring title this year. Clearly KD’s on-court performance was not the issue. So, what was the issue? Opinions may differ, but most people would say KD’s line was lacking the “it” factor. It’s safe to say that Nike Basketball finally found the missing link to Durant’s signature line.
The man responsible for taking KD’s line to a new playing field is Leo Chang. When he’s not busy working on the Hyperdunk, Hyperfuse or other Nike Basketball projects, his attention is dedicated to improving KD’s signature shoe. How did TSG catch up with one of the busiest guys in the footwear biz? Let’s just call it perfect timing.
Read our interview below as Leo Chang speaks on the success of the KD IV, future KD IV releases, his favorite KD IV colorway, the Zoom KD V (5), and much more.
What’s up, Leo? How are you?
Leo Chang: Things are busy at Nike but great! Really excited about the playoffs so far and looking forward to an OKC vs MIA finals!!!!
Before we talk about the Zoom KD IV, what are you currently working on?
LC: A lot of stuff I can’t get into much detail about. We’re well on our way with Fall 2013 designs and beyond. The KD V is getting close to completion, and the KD VI is in the works.
The KD line is finally getting a lot of attention and respect. How does it feel to see the shoe doing so well?
LC: When we were creating the shoe and the samples started to look really good, I remember a conversation I had with some guys from the sports marketing and product teams. We all had a feeling this was the one that would take his signature shoe to the next level. After making it to the Western Conference Finals last year, then having an incredible summer of basketball during the lockout, KD set himself up for success this season.
Did you expect the KD IV to get this much attention and respect?
LC: I did because we had a good feeling about it as the shoe was developing. We also have to anticipate that our products will be successful, otherwise we aren’t giving it 100%.
The Nerf KD IV is still my favorite colorway. You guys killed it with the overall presentation. What’s your favorite colorway?
LC: It varies from day to day. Some days it’s the “Easter” because that mint candy color is just so nice with that finish. Other days, it’s the “Year of the Dragon.” The Galaxy is up there on the list too. That was a little more understated, but the reflective strap, midsole finish, and the glow sole really set it off. I’m a sucker for “reflective” and “glow.” I almost drove off the road one day because I was so distracted looking down at my feet!
I noticed that Nike Basketball didn’t make a KD IV Elite. Why is that? I know Kevin wants his shoes to be affordable. Did the retail price play a part in that decision?
LC: We actually did make an Elite version but at the end of the day, I think I probably changed too much on the shoe for KD. At this stage in the game, altering too much when he’s been killing it all season in something he already loves, was tough. As you probably saw in previous years, he hardly changed out shoes. He would go a whole season in 3 maybe 4 pairs. This year, it was great that he switched out a little more often. Anyhow, we went through a few rounds of design and were never planning to go to retail with it, but we wanted to give KD, as one of our signature guys, an opportunity to try something different.
KD is a beast on the court and as you know he won the scoring title again. Can we expect to see a special Scoring Title KD IV? If so, TSG wants the exclusive.
LC: We’ll keep you posted on any news with that.
Are there anymore exciting launches for the KD IV that you can speak on?
LC: Yes… there will be a few more colorways coming out. Unfortunately, I can’t speak about most of them! I can tell you the story behind the Think Pink/Aunt Pearls, since they have already hit in some places. As you probably know, family is really important to KD, so this one actually has a lot of meaning behind it. We wanted to honor Aunt Pearl who passed away from lung cancer when Kevin was 11 years old. Wanda Pratt, Kevin’s mother, was a single mom with a job at the post office, so Barbara (KD’s grandmother) and Aunt Pearl would take care of KD and Tony, whenever Wanda was at work. If I recall the story that Wanda told me correctly, Aunt Pearl actually never let the boys know she had cancer. She remained strong, fun, loving and happy while battling it. When she passed away, KD was devastated. He actually has a tattoo of an angel on his back to symbolize her.
Nike Basketball has a long-running relationship with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund for breast cancer awareness. So, while it focuses on a different type of the disease than the one that affected Aunt Pearl, it’s our way of using an established program, with roots in basketball, to honor the struggle that cancer creates for so many.
To run through the details on the shoe: you’ll see that the pink color is complimented with a pearl graphic in the heel. The graphic is printed on a pearlescent white material, in reference to her name. It also appears on the inside of the strap along with a message that reads: “In memory of Aunt Pearl, who inspired us all to continue the fight for a cure.” The aglets on the laces, you’ll find “Aunt Pearl” is written on them. You can also find the names “Tina” and “Tia” on the 2 smaller straps on the medial side. Wanda asked us to put the nicknames of Aunt Pearl’s daughter and granddaughter on the shoe as a little surprise for them. To finish off the shoe, we used a translucent pink sole to give the outsole more depth and dimension, versus just doing a solid pink sole.
Let’s talk NBA Finals. It’s a great possibility that OKC may be playing on the Big Stage this year. Are you and the rest of the Nike Basketball team prepared for that?
LC: Of course! We always expect our signature guys will have a shot at the ring. I can’t wait for a OKC vs Heat battle in the finals!! OKC will have the toughest run, but that’s how you want to win it anyway. Getting redemption on the Mavs, going thru the Lakers, and then the Spurs… then there’s no argument of who the best is.
Speaking of the NBA Finals means basketball is slowly coming to an end, with a new season starting in October. That said, Kevin will be wearing the KD V. What can you tell us about his fifth signature shoe?
LC: I really can’t tell you a whole lot! Sorry man! I think KD might have dropped some hints a while back, but let’s just say it’ll be different.
What was your main focus when designing the KD V?
LC: Each time we work on the next shoe, I’m always looking to get more and more out of KD. I like to start with a blank slate each time, so that his ideas are the inspiration and foundation of the design. I don’t like going in with a shoe already designed and ready to go, it’s just not as meaningful. There are definitely things I’m thinking about from a performance, construction and story standpoint that I start the conversation with, but it’s not really pre-“designed.”
I heard the KD V will be strapless. Is that true?
LC: Again, I can’t talk about any of the details on the KD V just yet.
I can only imagine that Kevin was very excited to see all the buzz around the KD IV. So likewise he wants the same for his fifth shoe. What was some of his requests for the KD V?
LC: Other than what KD hinted at, I won’t say any more.
I’ve been digging around for KD V colors, retail price and launch dates, but no dice so far. Can you share any insight?
LC: I’m glad to hear the info on the shoe hasn’t leaked! We’re looking forward to sharing all of that when the time comes.
Well, we are definitely looking forward to seeing the KD V. Any last words or anything else you want to share with our readers?
LC: Thanks for supporting the KDs!! We all love what we do so much, so when we hear about people really embracing our product, it’s the ultimate reward for us. It makes all the nights we’re still working at 2-3am worth it! Ha. Thanks again!
Interview by Gerard “G-Roc” Smith