From the outside looking in, the Nike KD 6 Elite feels and sounds like a better shoe than the Nike KD 6. It looks far more breathable than its regular season counterpart, the full-length Zoom Air implies a more cushioned ride and enhanced Flywire makes you believe that Nike really took into the consideration the data and feedback they got from Kevin Durant when they were designing a postseason shoe for KD. Think Batman after he got his ass kicked by some new villain and he had to go back to the Batcave and figure out how to upgrade his gear for the next time he had to face off against them.
Even the colorways that Nike has revealed of the KD 6 Elite so far, from the “Team” to the “Hero” to the “Gold” (especially the “Gold,” damn…) are far more exciting (at least from our perspective) than most of the colorways we’ve seen for nearly a year from the standard KD 6. And with Durant winning his first NBA MVP trophy this season, these playoffs could have been his “South Beach” moment, when the popularity of his signature shoe line finally caught up to where he is in the NBA hierarchy. It took almost eight tries with LeBron James for his signature shoe line to finally be considered “worthy” among the sneakerheads and the retailers and the analysts. Maybe KD was getting there just a little bit sooner than expected.
So why is he not wearing the Nike KD 6 Elite? And are we cool with that?
Out of a total of 11 playoff games so far, Durant has only worn the Nike KD 6 Elite for 2 of them and in both instances he switched back to his Nike KD 6 to finish the game. Regardless of how Durant or Nike might want to spin it, it has got to be concerning them that between Durant and James (whose own issues with the Nike LeBron 11 have been well-documented), they have no idea what their guys are going to wear next. And this problem is not only limited to Nike’s Big 3 because even Chris Paul has taken to wearing his Jordan CP3.VII from the regular season more often this AE kicks that were made for the postseason. You know we live in bizarro sneaker world when Dwyane Wade – a part-time Miami Heat player during the regular season – is wearing his own signature Li-Ning Way of Wade 2 Encores more consistently than James has rocked the Nike LeBron 11 Elite over the past few weeks.
The idea behind the playoff shoe is to create something that is built for the rigors of the postseason. While the regular season affords players the chance to catch their breath and put on exhibitions on the court from time to time, there is no room or time for those shenanigans during the playoffs. Each game can become a defensive struggle and as a series wears on, the game slows down because teams are making adjustments and figuring out how to crack the other side with the slightest of advantages. How that applies to footwear is that players might need kicks that are more suited to a grit and grind (©Memphis Grizzlies) style; closer to the ground, more padding and cushioning, etc. Whereas in the past you got mere palette swaps (see Air Jordan 11 “Playoffs” or even more recently, the Nike Zoom Kobe 5 “Big Stage”), these are entirely new SKUs. From a business perspective, this was another way for the brands to create new products that get kids and sneakerheads all over again to buy them, but for the players, these were supposed to be kicks that could take plenty of punishment, which is the calling card of the NBA Playoffs.
But if Durant is not wearing the Nike KD 6 Elite, what kind of message is being conveyed to the consumer? That the kicks that he wore during the regular season is “good enough?” Could it be that Nike needs to go back and “redefine” the KD 6 Elite? Or maybe this is going a little bit deeper because Durant famously never wanted his kicks to sell for over $100 so that his fans (and their parents) did not fuss over price. And now there are $200 kicks with his name on it. The performance benefits might justify the price bump in Nike’s eyes, but that is a hard pill to swallow if you’re a sneakerhead or maybe if you’re Kevin Durant…
In the three years of its existence, there have been rumors of Nike discontinuing the Elite Series in two of them. When it debuted during the 2012, there was plenty of buzz surrounding them because they kept it simple and only released a limited number of colorways. Last year they may have went a little bit overboard and now plenty of LeBron 10 and KD 5 Elites are sitting at clearance racks and Nike outlet stores just waiting to be bought. This year seems to be the happy medium where they are releasing them and selling them out at a brisk pace. But if Kevin Durant continues to not rock them on the court, will fans continue to justify purchasing them? It didn’t seem to hurt the sales of James’ LeBron 11 in the short-term, but what if that trend continues into future seasons? Let us know in the comments section and in the poll below what you think. Call us old-fashioned, but it seems a bit weird that Derek Fisher has worn the Nike KD 6 Elite more than anybody else this postseason.