Fashion

Nike's Filipino-Designed Giannis Immortality Is a Sneaker Fit for the Greek Freak

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IMAGE SHUTTERSTOCK, NIKE/KEVIN REYES
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Our favorite Filipino Nike footwear designer Kevin Reyes’ latest project presented him with the opportunity to work with yet another of the NBA’s biggest names in Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nike Giannis Immortality, set to release in Summer 2021, is the very first sub-line sneaker of Antetokounmpo after the huge success of his signature shoe, the Nike Zoom Freak.

Photo by Shutterstock.

The brand just very recently revealed the shoe’s third iteration, which we all caught a preview of when NBA sneaker king and fellow Milwaukee Buck PJ Tucker rocked them in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks. The Giannis Immortality is inspired by how Antetokounmpo plays ball, this brave new world of positionless basketball, and how Nike footwear continues to evolve together with the game.

As Milwaukee’s franchise star, Antetokounmpo is a six-foot-11-inch force of nature that defies all known conventions of the past and defines the future of how the game is to be played. Reyes took note of that while conceptualizing the Giannis Immortality.

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Photo by NIKE/KEVIN REYES.

Designed with Giannis' play in mind

“It’s not like before when you had the guy who’s down in the post so he needs this more supportive boot like a little bit more clunky and the guard needs the lighter shoe,” shares the 32-year-old Pinoy designer who has been working at Nike’s Beaverton, Oregon campus for the past five years. Watching Giannis attack the open court with the grace and agility of a guard and finishing at the basket with the force and fierceness of a big man is an absolute thing of beauty.

“It’s designed with Giannis’ style of play in mind. That said, every basketball position player can use it and it should perform well,” says Reyes. “Great cushioning, great traction, and lightweight. That’s the universal thing you need in all basketball shoes.”

The most noticeable feature of the shoe is its unique wavy midsole. More than just for aesthetics, the curved bottom profile which spans the length of the shoe enhances performance by maximizing the efficiency of every stride while providing a smooth ride. Rooted in running DNA, “crash pads” are typically found on running shoes that are designed to help the midsole foam compress and wrinkle to optimize cushioning upon impact whenever your foot hits the ground. 

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Photo by Nike / Kevin Reyes.

“Think of the heel groove on the original Presto,” Reyes says, “This is a twist on that to help the foam compress and guide you through your stride as you run up and down the court.”

Foam cutouts strategically located in the shoe’s sole are designed to reduce weight and give optimal responsiveness and cushioning. Going through Giannis’ arsenal of moves and taking cues from his killer euro-step, the rubber outsole is split by partial grooves to provide better articulation and flexibility for those side-to-side movements right before he puts yet another defender on a poster. 

For the shoe’s upper, the material used is a knit textile with fused synthetics for durability. A midfoot fit band provides superior lockdown during lateral movements, which Giannis does a lot of especially when playing D. The heel also employs a plush component that gives additional comfort and stability for the back of the foot.

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Meeting Giannis 

While working on the sneaker, Reyes was able to personally meet with Antetokounmpo on two separate occasions to get input from the two-time NBA MVP as well as his thumbs up on the final product. 

Photo by Nike / Kevin Reyes.

“The first time we showed it to him was in Milwaukee so we flew out to show him the shoe. This was pre-Covid so back when we could travel,” Reyes recalls of that trip which also served as somewhat of a homecoming for the designer. Wisconsin was where Reyes’ family first lived when they left Manila and migrated to the United States 12 years ago.

“We met Giannis after practice and I remember actually almost botching the presentation because I was so nervous and I couldn’t shake it,” Reyes says. “The person I was with was smart and just clicked through all the slides and put the picture of the shoe up on screen behind me. I just took the prototype out of the bag and put it in front of him and said I’m just gonna shut up and show him this.

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Photo by NIKE/KEVIN REYES.

Nerves may have gotten the best of Reyes but the sneaker was all it took to get Antetokounmpo’s full undivided attention and more importantly, his approval. Reyes remembers, “Giannis had a spoon in his hand and just dropped it.” Probably around the same time his jaw did. “He kind of had a little jump when he first saw the shoe and that’s when I knew, I think we have him,” Reyes recalls. “He really loved it and asked if he could wear it right away. He was like, man, why you gotta do this to me? I want to wear it now,” Reyes shares with a laugh. “He was just super all in. Thank God that ended up way better than where it was going.”

Reyes’ body of work at Nike famously includes the Mamba Focus, another takedown model he designed for the late Kobe Bryant a few years ago and although that counts as one of his all-time favorite memories at work, designing the Giannis Immortality is definitely up in that list as well.

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Photo by Nike / Kevin Reyes.

“I’m so excited for people to just get it on their feet because we poured a lot into it,” Reyes says. “The Mamba Focus had sentimental value to me, but this one’s different because it’s the first in its line so I felt that I was able to just run away with it and I really hope people feel that when they see it and feel great when they play with it on the court.”

With the Bucks making it to this year’s NBA Finals, Milwaukee’s first since 1974, and Antetokounmpo quite possibly making it back from a hyperextended knee injury, Reyes’ latest creation just might make an appearance on basketball’s biggest stage. The soft-spoken UST alum takes this possibility in stride.

“I hope so, he says. “That would be monumental to see him wear it in a game.”

Watch out for the Nike Giannis Immortality releasing in just a few weeks with an $80 (about P3,940) price tag.

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