words & images // Zac Dubasik
“We always start with performance. We always start with trying to make a better basketball shoe. We are always trying to improve performance for the best basketball players in the world, knowing that if we can achieve that, then of course people at all levels in the world of basketball will get a better shoe.” – Tinker Hatfield
Jordan Brand may be best known these days for their frantic, riot-inducing Retro releases, but even those shoes were the performers of their day. So it’s always refreshing to hear that the direction of their modern on-court shoes has kept that performance focus. But while modularity certainly has performance potential, it still feels like a bit of a gimmick. In practice, though, does it actually offer performance options that are as good as its non-modular competition? Because if not, is there really any point in being able to switch out a single shoe when you could buy two different shoes for the same price? It doesn’t matter if it’s simply a good modular shoe when there are such outstanding standard shoes out there.
When rumors and leaks started, indicating that Jordan Brand would take their dual-midsole Air Jordan 2011 to a whole new level of modularity, I’ll admit I was skeptical. As details started to emerge that there would be six different combinations rather than two, it just seemed like a bit much. Who really needs all those options on a single shoe? The basketball world has been surviving on single-option shoes forever, and I can’t really recall an outcry of complaints from players about their lack of modular choices. In fact, most of the previous attempts at modularity have either been shunned (Nike MORF), or short lived (Air Jordans XX1 and XX2). But that doesn’t mean options are a bad thing. If it could be done right, it’s easy to see potential. But again – these shoes can’t be judged on the fact that they are modular. They have to play as well as their competitors. And from my very first run, all that skepticism was put to rest. The only thing that reminded me that they were modular was the fact that I was excited to try out more combinations and options.