The jump to a second signature shoe is a case study in player observation. For Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Zoom Freak 2 is built on identifying his most unstoppable moves and creating ways to make them even more effective.
“What Giannis does in space is directly connected to his body proportions,” says Ross Klein, Senior Creative Director for Nike Basketball. “What’s different about his movements is that he’s causing so much pressure when he hits those steps, like the Eurostep, that we need to help propel him and contain him further near the toe.”
Much of the story in Nike Basketball’s signature line history is based on studying signature movement (take the Kyrie 2, a shoe that was born from studying the intense, banked angles of Irving’s cuts). Proportionately, Antetokounmpo is a unicorn, possessing the ability to control the ball like a guard and yet bruise his way into the lane with the physicality of a center. The combination of those two skill sets help make his secret sauce for the Eurostep, one of the most unbeatable moves in his arsenal.
Antetokounmpo’s mastery of the Eurostep begins with his ability to stride out to create space. His long limbs give the impression that he’s shrinking the court, and in a sense, that’s true: at full, open-court speed, he needs only a few dribbles to comfortably make it from basket to basket. The move starts on the “gather,” or the two steps after a player picks up the dribble. What happens next depends on the defender’s reaction. If defenders maintain their stance, Antetokounmpo moves straight ahead, outstepping them by clearing their open hips and getting past their upper bodies with his wide shoulders.
If a defender tries to cut off Antetokounmpo, the ensuing Eurostep — taking the two steps in different directions while transferring the ball across the body — often leaves the opponent behind, giving Antetokounmpo an easy dunk.
How the Shoe Unlocks His Play
1. Help Create Fluid Movement
The decoupled outsole, separated into two areas with a supportive shank embedded in the midsole, keeps Antetokounmpo grounded as he drives off the forefoot and lands in unorthodox ways on the heel. A reinforced forefoot outrigger on the shoe’s lateral side near the pinky toe is placed where Antetokounmpo lands as he gathers his dribble. The outrigger fortifies a high-wear area, and gives Antetokounmpo more ground contact, which equals a more stable platform when he’s stretching and scaling his body to get to the basket.
“There’s so much about his use of space that’s changed the paradigm of his sport,” says Klein.
2. Advance and Support
The cushioning includes Zoom Air in the forefoot and a soft, lightweight foam in the heel to help support Antetokounmpo through the tremendous physical force he generates as he plants his feet to get into the key. The set-up works with the shoe’s supportive features so Antetokounmpo can control his footwork in phases; think explosion in the forefoot and support in the heel.
“In the Freak 1, we focused on how frequently Giannis gets vertical for rebounds, blocks and dunks,” says Klein. “For the Freak 2, we shifted our attention to more planes of movement, because Giannis can command every spot on the floor.”
3. Control His Quickness
The same insights around control appear in the upper construction. Putting the foot through such dynamic positions requires a bending and flexing in critical areas.
“When athletes like Giannis produce so much pressure through their movement, the foot naturally wants to slide out of the footbed,” says Klein. “That’s why we re-thought this boundary zone of the shoe, the portion from the second eyelit down to the bottom of the throat. We raised the containment on the upper, but it disconnects right at the point where he needs ultimate flex. The shoe shouldn’t restrict him, but help him move as naturally as possible.”
Press release from Nike Basketball