New Balance has made major investments in the world of basketball, with the largest being its sponsorship of the current best player in the world, Kawhi Leonard (or 2nd best player in the world, depending on who you talk to). Initially, Leonard inherited the OMNI1S New Balance basketball shoe, but now the former Finals MVP and NB have revealed his signature shoe, the New Balance KAWHI. Kawhi debuted the shoe during the 2020 All-Star game, which he ended as MVP.
The New Balance Kawhi is simple, like the player himself, with different details throughout. White mesh and synthetic material serve as the base for the upper. The side panels infuse a mix of red, orange, and blues in an abstract mosaic pattern. The tongue mimics similar, lighter colors to the side panel. Along the ankle a red frequency stitching overlays light blue gridding. Kawhi’s branding can be found on the tongue, as well as his signature on the heel of the shoe, along with a bulky heel counter that features ‘NB’ branding. Finally the shoe is finished off with a foam midsole and multi-colored icey rubber outsole.
Overall this shoe is about what you would expect from the brand known for ‘dad shoes’ and a quiet, but incredibly effective player in Kawhi Leonard. While some details are on the flashy side (icey sole, special stitching on side panels + heel frequency stitch), is a relatively blank canvas to be manipulated in future iterations. Whether that is new colorways this year, or future models, this base is a good start for Leonard and NB. The NB OMN1 released in a variety of different quickstrike colorways in 2019, and the same can be expected for the NB KAWHI.
One interesting aspect of this whole process is the continued decline of the basketball footwear category from a sales-perspective. NBA players are vastly important cultural characters, but the sport is not growing in the United States, leading to declining sales of performance footwear. Will New Balance’s investment be worth all of the time and money? How many more signature shoes does Kawhi have left in him, with his nagging knee injuries and already being in his prime at 28 years old?
The New Balance KAWHI will experience a limited release in Spring 2020, with a full release slated for Fall 2020. We’ll keep you updated with more details as they arise.