A readymade highlight reel from the time he was in high school, Zion Williamson can command the attention of an entire stadium with one dunk. “He comes in his very first game, and he’s knocking records down,” says Howard “H” White, VP, Jordan Brand Affairs. “It looks so natural.”
On January 22, 2020, Zion Williamson’s first NBA basket was a quiet one. He scored off a put-back, swimming around the box-out with ease, grabbing the rebound off two feet before taking two quick power dribbles and banking off the glass. But those are the kind of contrary descriptions — the nonchalant power, the agility on a whim — that make designing for an athlete of Williamson’s caliber so intriguing. That, and the fact that he would christen his opening shot by scoring 17 straight points in the fourth quarter, ending the night with the most points per minute in an NBA player’s debut in the shot-clock era.
The Zion 1, Williamson’s first signature shoe with Jordan Brand, was designed for the transcendent athletic possibility of the power forward’s game.
Williamson signed with Jordan Brand in July of 2019. Not long after, the work on his shoe began, adding to a signature roster that included the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook. Generationally, Williamson bridged a new, youthful signing roster that grew seemingly overnight. The new arrivals ushered in a fresh era for Jordan performance footwear in creating for players who, like Williamson, don’t just abide by a legacy of excellence, but create a new definition of it.
The Gen Zion colorway of the Zion 1, commemorating Williamson’s ascension to the spotlight and representation of the game’s next generation, releases beginning April 23. The colorway releases in limited quantities April 20 at the Nike Community Store in Elmwood (New Orleans).
The primary focus of the Zion 1 is the flexible, articulated tongue, which has targeted padding and unique stitching patterns to help ease lace pressure and to provide a snug fit. The function is inspired by superhero armor, and it provides protection, breathability and freedom of movement all at the same time.
The forefoot, contained by a two-loop internal strap, sits above a new cushioning combination: a full-length Air Strobel unit with an additional stacked, bottom-loaded Zoom Air unit. The extended construction of the shoe’s base, inspired by the massive tires on Williamson’s truck, provides extra stability to help keep the foot over the platform.
A herringbone pattern radiates around the pivot point of the forefoot.
Another look at the extended construction of the shoe’s tooling.
“From the time he was in high school, Zion keeps you right on the edge of your seat,” says Howard “H” White, VP, Jordan Brand Affairs. “You know that anything can happen. It’s like looking at a famous painting. No one’s really arguing about how special it is. All you can do is be in awe at what he does.”
In creating the Zion 1, Jordan Brand designers were taken by Williamson’s unique blend of star power. They looked to design a silhouette that both enabled his immense physical tools on the court while also illustrating personal traits that make him a one-of-a-kind superstar — and they didn’t have to look far. All they needed was to say his name.
“We knew that one of Zion’s main inspirations for the look of the shoe was superhero armor. But when we thought about an icon or symbol that could clearly draw out the shoe’s benefits, the “Z” made perfect sense to us,” says Vianney de Montgolfier, Senior Footwear Designer, Jordan Sport. “It’s the letter for speed, it has the base for power, and it’s maybe the most distinguishable letter in the alphabet. There’s nothing else like it.”
“The white and black colorway is important for me,” says Williamson. “Growing up, I was taught that your home base is your foundation. Whether it’s your family or your brothers, you need a solid base to start from, and that’s what the white and black colorway represents for me. If you can master the simple things, your potential is limitless.”
Williamson’s athletic force brings together speed and power to a level that, for White, puts him in rarified air. But Zion made an important impression on H and the brand in another way: his superstardom was joined by a down-to-earth nature rooted in values like love for his family, accountability to those who relied on him and a legacy of impact that should supersede any viral dunk montage viewed millions of times online. As the first Gen-Z athlete in Jordan Brand’s history, Williamson’s commitment to personal values has the cool poise of a veteran leader.
The Jordan x Zion apparel collection blends performance-inspired designs, materials and mobility with the comfort and versatility of everyday streetwear.
Graphics, such as the anime-inspired biceps pose with exclamation marks, express Williamson’s youthfulness and his out-of-this-world strength.
“I remember talking to Zion once when he was close to the draft, when he said that he needed to go back to class,” says White. “He said that he was in the middle of a few projects with his classmates and that they depended on him. He couldn’t leave them hanging. Boy, that sounds a lot like the Black Cat, doesn’t it? We all have a responsibility to a certain standard. When a mountain of a man stands with the common man, that’s when phenomenal things happen.”
The dual qualities that define Williamson’s game — powerful and graceful, strong and smooth, understated and dominant — inspires the ZNA colorway, celebrating the star’s meteoric rise. The colorway releases May 5.
Inspired by the unbreakable bond between Williamson and his little brother, the Noah colorway features drawings and doodles inspired by Noah’s visits to Nike’s world headquarters. The colorway releases May 19.
The Marion colorway represents Williamson’s home in South Carolina — the place that made him who he is today, and where he learned the value of family, friendship and hard work. The colorway releases May 26.