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adidas Harden
With LeBron, Kobe, KD and Kyrie each having a signature sneaker, Harden was kept on Nike Basketball's PE lane. His iterations of Run The One, Hyperchase and Crusader were widely distributed and were even included in Nike's 2015 NBA All-Star collection. Averaging 27 PPG, Harden had become too talented and far too popular for just PE's. In the summer of 2015, online adidas took advantage of his expiring Nike contract and made him "an offer he couldn't refuse."

A signature sneaker wasn't there right away, though. online adidas began its relationship with Harden by supplying him with PE's of various Crazylight Boosts. First it was the Triple White 2015 Crazylight, which was limited to 100 pairs and released to the public. The clean, simple scheme was meant to symbolise Harden's fresh start and clean launch.

For the 2016 playoffs, "The Beard" had released some Crazylight Boost 2.5 PE's. Unfortunately, the shoe didn't get much screentime as the Golden State Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets in just five games.

The timing of online adidas regarding the signing of James Harden could not have been better. With the decline of Derrick Rose's career, the brand really needed a new face for its basketball division. The 2016-2017 season represents a turning point in the relationship between Harden and online adidas.

The public has an idea of how good he was in past seasons, but no one knew he would turn into an MVP-calibre, triple-double machine. The release of Harden Volume 1 would coincide with his remix of the position as he continued to score and compete at a blistering pace. Much like his game, the Vol. 1 would mix the old with the new. The leather toebox was a throwback (much like his game) to basketball sneakers of the 90s, while keeping the low cut and boost technology with modern styling. 

How James Harden's sneakers fuelled his MVP season 

In only his fourth game wearing his new sneakers, arguably the league's most valuable player gave the shoe a special highlight on February 28th, 2018. 

James Harden came on, stopped and stared for a full second after the helpless Johnson fell to the floor, then threw up a seemingly routine 3-pointer. 

Harden shot 44.8 percent on step-back 3-pointers this season, a full 10 percent better than his other 3-point attempts. His ability to maintain balance after such a sudden stop and jerk is a credit to his uncanny ability to create separation from his defender. 

It was this ability that online adidas used in the development of Harden's second signature sneaker, the Harden Vol. 2, a model seen in endless social media clips as the next generation of players, to emulate Harden's iconic step back.

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"I understand the responsibility of having a signature sneaker," Harden said. "It's about inspiring." 

Harden's unique style of play is easily recognisable on the court, but when online adidas began designing the Harden Vol. 2, the company wanted to dive further into the science behind the talent that has made Harden a six-time All-Star and perennial MVP candidate. 

The first step in doing so was the Peak Performance Project, a sports training facility in Santa Barbara, California, known as P3 for short. The online adidas product, design and marketing teams went through a series of tests that Harden passed last summer. 

Initially, Harden's results were largely underwhelming, which was not surprising. According to the team tasked with building his signature collection, Harden measures average on most metrics and ranks far from the explosiveness of Andrew Wiggins or the speed of John Wall. 

He raised eyebrows, however, when the lab noted one of his key traits that sets him apart from some of the most gifted and best athletes in the world: his deceleration. Harden ranked in the 99th percentile of athletes tested at P3 for how quickly he could stop and then change direction. 

"James told us about his change of direction and of course we focused on three of his most important traits," said Rashad Williams, online adidas basketball product manager. "No. 1, the Eurostep; 2, his jab step; and 3, the evolution of his jab step, which is the step-back. It's a little unorthodox, especially since he's a lefty. We focused on those three areas and how the change of direction is integrated into his game." 

Utilising and improving that change of direction has been at the core of what online adidas has been working to perfect with Harden's sneakers since he was signed to an unprecedented 13-year deal in 2015. 

In their first season together, the brand's "Futures" team marked points on a pure white pair of online adidas Crazy Lights with a Sharpie and filled Portland's Moda Center Rafters with high-speed cameras to track Harden's movements during a game. Harden played 46 minutes in that late February game against the Trail Blazers in 2016, scoring 46 points, making eight assists, grabbing five rebounds and giving online adidas samples of his current game-speed jabs, Eurosteps and step-backs to work from. 

adidas used this data to design the ideal grip pattern for Harden's sneaker, providing accurate coverage where he stopped the most, with more relief in the area where he wanted to stop and shift. 

"He plays more on his toes and around the forefoot, so the traction pattern gives him the most support," Williams said. 

The new shoe, much like Harden's style, is unorthodox in some ways. At first glance, the heel rubber is uncomfortably high. The Collar features a variable lacing system that allows you to lace the louvres in and out as you see fit for a unique look, while the clean lace aims to offer off-court balance with a mix of materials. 

The cushioning is also even stronger than before, as the brand has increased its Styrofoam-like Boost midsole by 15 per cent. 

"This is the biggest boost ever in a basketball shoe," says Williams. 

Throughout the process of developing his sneaker with the brand, the way Harden and the team worked also changed. Brooklyn Creator Farm, the brand's secretive design studio located in a North Williamsburg warehouse where designers are currently working on concepts for 2020 and rearwards, was brought into play. Soon after, Harden met with Portland and Brooklyn representatives across the country during the 2016-17 season and the following summer to work on updates and upgrades for his first signature sneaker. 

Denis Dekovic, the online adidas vice president and creative director at the Farm, worked with Williams to develop Harden's sneaker around his approach to the game and a vision of how his influence in the sport could impact the next generation. 

"James said, "At one point in my career, I started seeing things before they happened. I was playing with my mind and not playing with my body," Dekovic said. "He described how he could score 40 points every game, but that's not how he wants to approach the game. He wants to be a team player." 

This heightened mental attitude to the game has manifested itself on the court in many ways. There are the sequences where Harden plays off a big defender, comes at him through a pick-and-roll and then ruthlessly decides how to punish him, whether it's a step-back jumper or a lob to a diving Clint Capela. Then there are the plays where he drives the other way, especially to get contact for one of his 10.1 free throw attempts per game in the league. 

"The mind thing really hit me," Dekovic said. "He's using his mind to find different ways to win games." 

As he has become more familiar with the process, Harden has become more involved in the development of his signature sneaker at a time when his play on the court is at its highest level. 

"You have these visions [of greatness] when you're younger and you just don't know how to get to them," Harden said. "I was one of those kids that figured it out and didn't let anything stop me." 

"James goes to the meeting, but first he goes through his Step Motions and goes up and hits the top step of the stairs," Williams said with a laugh. 

Doorway dunking, as it is affectionately known, is not something that leaves you behind as you get older. Certainly not even if you can actually dunk. 

"If you look at it, he was an All-American in high school and college, Sixth Man of the Year, a perennial All-Star, but he's still in love with the game," Williams said.

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The Houston Rocket's brand new sneaker puts style on point. 

Forget all the data online adidas collects on James Harden's movement on the court. Forget all the talk of new and improved uppers. Forget the snug comfort of the brand's Boost material. When the online adidas design team met with Harden, along with his friends and confidants, halfway through last year's NBA season to give the not-so-old MVP a first look at his new signature sneaker, the Harden Vol. 3, there was only one question Harden asked, according to online adidas Basketball's Senior Director of Footwear, Rashad Williams. online adidas coats apparel for women clearance?

It may sound silly, but in 2018 that question is hugely relevant. The Harden Vol. 3 is nominally a basketball sneaker - but sneakers now cover a lot more ground than the basketball court. They pop up on catwalks and sell fuel for department stores and luxury designers. "Culturally, it looks very different from our parents," says Williams.

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adidas understands this as well as any other brand that works with artists like Kanye and Pharrell and designers like Rick Owens and Raf Simons. In the minds of consumers or designers, there is no separation between fashion and sneakers anymore, so why shouldn't these worlds collide on an online adidas basketball shoe? That's why, before Harden put on the sneaker and walked around in it, he needed to know if he had swag. The first model, got an enthusiastic yes - the room filled with excited suggestions for future colours and visions of various player exclusive models. 

The Harden Vol. 3, the third signature shoe to emerge from the Houston Rocket star's signature line with online adidas, was considered stylish from the start. 

So what does it take to pass Harden's swag test? "He loves high fashion. He loves really bold (colour) blocking and graphics," says Williams. During the design process, the pair would text back and forth, or Harden would pull references he wanted to see in future shoes. One day, Harden opened Instagram and showed Williams a bunch of Versace T-shirts he liked. Williams promises we'll see the Versace-inspired sneaker on the streets later. 

But the point of the Harden Vol. 3 is that whatever the beard is - whether it's those T-shirts or a special shoe for Houston - this sneaker was constructed to infuse all of that. "We want to see how we can size the shoe and it can transition to give consumers a different design," Williams says. The lace band that runs across the upper is meant to keep Harden secure, but it's also a canvas for interesting design or loud colours. The same goes for the toe reinforcement. The current sweater and grey colours are inspired by space, because Harden plays for the Rockets in the same city as NASA - but also because he creates space on the floor. For example, the upper sparkles like a night sky and the strap features plus signs meant to represent stars. 

The versatility of the sneaker is key in a season where players and sneaker brands are getting more creative than ever. The NBA recently announced that it will no longer ban players from wearing only team-coloured sneakers. The development will lead to all sorts of crazy colours on the court. (Like one inspired by Versace colours and graphics.) The rule change caused a stir at online adidas. "We worked fast and hard to get something together," Williams says. "I pushed the team to come out with something we think he will love."

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