by Chris Cason / @c4dunk
Sometimes, there are situations where forces beyond us come in to play and remarkable things happen. The timing is right, the execution is there and things just fall into place. When it happens, you know it.
The season that Derrick Rose is putting together can be looked at in that way.
“Why can’t I be MVP of the league?” said Rose during the Chicago Bulls media day back in September “Why can’t I be the best player in the league?”
Since that time those questions have become most difficult to answer against his favor as his elevation to elite point guard status has the Bulls not far from the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Coalescing with this season has been the marketing of him and his first signature shoe, the adiZero Rose.
Rose will honor his first half of the season shoe one last time during tonight’s All-Star game and will be revealing the adiZero Rose 1.5 in the second half.
In this final piece of a three-part interview with adidas basketball footwear designer Robbie Fuller, Fuller gives us a look into Rose’s line, the reasoning for the bright yellow kicks and a hint of what’s to come in the future for the third-year point guard, which as you may have noticed seems just as bright.
SLAM: When did adidas decide it was time to start focusing on making its shoes more light?
Robbie Fuller: I think it all started with Lawrence Norman. He’s our VP in Marketing. When he came in, his direction was ‘we have to make athletes one inch higher, one step faster.’ Once we started working with the IT and the rest of the experts that we have internally, we were just like, let’s attack light. But we wanted to do it in the right way, light done right. It’s plenty of shoes out there that are really light but that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily good basketball shoes. Our goal this whole time was how do we balance making superior product with incorporating that light weight fit? The shoe that we put out, [AdiZero] Rose was 12.8 ounces and the Rose 1.5, we trimmed another .3 off of that, so now 12.5.
We feel really confident that it’s a perfect blend of that light-weight you need for speed but also the added control and confidence you have to have to control that speed.
SLAM: What went behind the decision to release two signature shoes for Derrick and Dwight in the same season?
RF: I think for a couple of reasons. There are market needs where we’re hearing that there’s plenty in demand and people want to see something fresh throughout the season. But also, like pro athletes, how they start the season and they kind of tweak their game throughout the whole year and get ready for the Playoffs and they make adjustments to make sure they step up their game. I think by us providing two shoes, it gives us a chance to do the same thing. We can look at and take the feedback that we get throughout the first half of the year and then make the little tweaks, whether they’re small, just to get something more efficient and more in line with things. Continuous with some of the requests or if we need to make a bigger jump in performance, it gives us a chance to do that instead of having to wait six more months before we introduce the next breakthrough.
SLAM: What went behind the bright yellow coloring for the first half shoe because Rose always has talked about keeping things simple and clean and that’s probably the brightest shoe he’ll ever wear.
RF: I think the idea behind it was a few things. One, the first shoe that Rose started the season off with – when you think of all his career with us, it’s going to be like a book. The forward of the book is the intro – Fast Don’t Lie. So this whole thing is going to be about speed and being fast. Chapter one is the Rose 1.5, getting to know Derrick, what’s the background, you get the colorways of the Chicago Bears, the Saint Patrick Day colorway which kind of points to how lucky Chicago was to get that first pick. The yellow comes from Simeon, his high school team. That’s why you get that Yellow/Blue effect and it’s super bright.
The second part is we really launched that color at World Cup. If you remember watching the World Cup, there were loads and loads of bright yellow shoes everywhere and we feel like this is kind of like the World Cup of Basketball. It’s a chance to highlight and showcase what the brand is doing and since Rose is one of the main focuses of the brand, we wanted him to be part of that color story. Finally, it’s in L.A., the Golden State. Why not? Let’s make it bright.
RF: The first collar, I was in Asia working on it. I really wanted to kind of core it out and almost think of it as wanting to tell the story. This thing is going to be light; it’s going to be cored-out, more adaptable. That kind of goes along with the Pure Motion tooling and totally telling the story of hey, he wears the speedwraps. We know that everyone in the world is not going to have the speedwraps so this is your chance to kind of own a similar execution to the shoe. For the 1.5, he really likes us focusing on that ankle. He was like ‘hey, can I get a little more padding,’ so that’s why it’s more of a solid instead of having the little hole cut out in the ankle area. I think it will be every bit as supportive if not more so because it has the added foam. That’s the thing about this shoe is that we got it lighter in spite of that. So we added more ankle support, per se and still were able to trim of a couple of tenth of ounces off the weight.
SLAM: I remember the preseason game where he wore the 1.5 and he talked about how he didn’t feel it was ready yet, there were photos of several prototypes floating around the internet, what was the feedback he gave you on the shoe about what he wanted changed?
RF: We had samples and to be honest, I think it was craftsmanship. How can we dial it in and finish this right? We tried a couple of things on the toe. We tried to smooth that out a little more. Bring a little more of the story into it, like some of the architecture of the city and definitely some of the side paneling. Some of the final changes were kind breaking the skin up in three pieces to support the story of how his three brothers were his support growing up. That was a lot of the finalizing details.
Some of the very final things, if you look online, you can find like five versions of the shoe. A lot of those just speak to – it was color challenges with different places the shoe is going as far as the US and Asia. Other than that, it was just how to execute the shoe through the development process and get it to a place that was the best product we could make for him.
SLAM: Rose talks a lot about keeping things clean and simple in terms of his footwear, which would be the completely opposite of how you think of his play, but as a designer, does that make things difficult for you to try and keep things simple yet incorporate new tech?
RF: It’s kind of a blessing and a curse. The good thing is that you know that you want to incorporate a lot of the technology and things on the side, but you can always remember to keep that front clean. As long as you start with that, than you know where to innovate, try not to bring too much business into the front and really work on the sides. And to be honest, that’s where most of the performance challenges are, on the sides of the shoe and towards the back. The cool thing with these shoes and what we’ve done with him is given him a little more of a signature placement of the stripes with how they go down the heel, which gives us more room on the sides to innovate.
I think the curse side is maybe you get a little too consistent with a smooth toe. In future models, you’ll see how we continue to try and address a smooth look but still being innovative in the forefoot area.
SLAM: I’ve noticed a lot more vibrant colorways and makeups with the current and future models for special games and occasions, like Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day; is that something you guys wanted to focus on since this is almost sort of like a new beginning for the brand?
RF: Just like we said, athlete’s reevaluate their games and then step it up and that’s an area that we needed to as well. I think it coincides where we’re really focused on these guys, focused on the benefit of being fast. We’re so invested in the NBA; we want to make sure people know it. So, we’re using any and all opportunities to really highlight that we’re part of the culture. We understand the game, the players and we understand these are the memories. This is what’s going to happen 10 years from now when people talk about, ‘I remember when T-Mac had the red and blue shoe in the  All-Star Game.’ That’s what we’re thinking the entire time we’re doing this stuff. What is the memory that we’re creating? That’s why you have seen so many more special editions because we’re making memories.
SLAM: As his line continues to evolve in this chapter-by-chapter breakdown, what are you most looking forward to?
RF: I’m looking forward to making it lighter and faster. It’s great to have a focus that’s not all over the place. It’s focused on speed and there are loads of different avenues that we can look at of how to decrease the weight without losing any of the performance and cool ways to show that. I think that’s pretty exciting for me. Also, I just really think of it like the responsibility that we have to him. This is his legacy that we’re creating. What are we building right now that 10 years from now people are going to want to come back to?
The fun part is the challenge. This is it. This is his time. He’s off to an amazing start. We know that he’s only going to get better the more he works on his game. Same thing for us, we have to work on our game. What are the areas that we need to get right? So, I’m excited to see as he pushes himself, how we push ourselves to get to new heights for Derrick and Adidas.