Kawhi Leonard’s game is all about balance.
There’s a reason why he’s considered a robot. It seems as if every moment on the court, he’s analyzing and computing. He breaks down the defense with the right amount of dribbles to make space for his patented midrange pull-up. He reads the offensive player’s movements and then reacts accordingly to step into their space, ripping away the ball.
Kawhi’s game is exact. Every move is measured. It only makes sense that his first signature with New Balance would feature the same kind of balance that would enable him to be at his best on court. Here are three things I liked about the KAWHI:
The most obvious quality of the KAWHI is how stable it felt when moving around on court. That’s because New Balance built it that way.
The shoe is built on a wide base giving it a stable foundation to start with. Then, on top of that base, they added a firm textile on the lateral and medial sides that kept the foot locked in place. New Balance also put a sizable plastic heel cup that extends up to the midsole of the sneaker. Finally, they inserted a torsional plate between the midsole and outsole to prevent any unnecessary flexing by the foot.
All those performance features added up into one of the most balanced sneakers I’ve ever played in. I felt secure when making hard cuts and side-steps because I knew the shoe wouldn’t tip over and my foot was locked into place.
FuelCell on its own is a balanced foam. It’s soft yet bouncy, providing the right amount of impact protection and responsiveness. But how they implemented the FuelCell on the KAWHI was creative and helped with the overall performance of the shoe.
The midsole is a bit thicker in the heel area but was slightly encased by the extension of the heel cup. It provided great cushioning on hard landings but didn’t compress too much to make it feel unstable. New Balance gradually thinned out the FuelCell moving into the forefoot, giving it the right mix of court feel and responsiveness.
The KAWHI’s cushioning system was one smooth ride. There was no lag when landing from a rebound and then going right into running because of how the whole set-up adapted to each move easily. It was a fun shoe to play in because of how comfortable and springy the FuelCell was.
Kawhi isn’t the most open book. It’s hard to get a read on him, especially when he’s locked in during games. He’s actually an enigma who gives short, direct answers during media sessions and doesn’t have a social media account fans can follow.
That’s why his first signature helps balance out his serious in-game persona through interesting storytelling details on the shoe.
The colorway itself might come as a shock, since Kawhi seems like the type of guy to go for a more basic color blocking. But the KAWHI ‘Jolly Rancher’ is a throwback to his favorite childhood candy. New Balance made the colorway even more fun with the deadpan fruit characters on the tongue, mimicking Kawhi’s expression.
The other details of the KAWHI are pretty cool too. There’s an embossed cornrow detail on the collar which is a nod to Kawhi’s hairstyle, there’s the number 2 on the forefoot lace loop and his achievements are printed on the tongue. The M at the heel stands for his hometown of Moreno Valley, California.
I really liked all these little details. It not only separates a signature sneaker from a team model but it also gives a nice look into Kawhi’s personal life, something he rarely showcases when he’s out in public.
The New Balance KAWHI ‘Jolly Rancher’ retails for PHP 8,495. The sneaker and tee collection will be released in New Balance BHS, Glorietta 4 and Trinoma, as well as TITAN22.com this Saturday, December 19. Follow New Balance Philippines on Facebook for more drop details.