Those around New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony believe he's in the best shape of his life entering training camp. He had a dominant summer, helping lead Team USA to the gold. And now he has the deepest and most seasoned supporting cast in his nine years in the NBA.
Perhaps his upcoming Melo M9 sneaker, debuting on Jan. 9, will elevate his game even closer to superhero status. Anthony compares the shoe to the "Iron Man suit."
"The idea came from just putting the shoe on and when you tie it, it just locks your foot in," he told Playbook last week at a preview event for the M9 in New York City. "When you put it on, you lock in, whether you're on the perimeter, making a move, in the post. That was the whole idea of it. And while we're making it durable to be able to play in, we keep getting lighter." (The M9 is 13 ounces, down from the M8's 14.7.)
The locking system was made possible by Nike's dynamic Flywire technology, which starts from the midsole and wraps around the sneaker. It was put into place by the lead architect of the Melo sneaker line, Justin Taylor.
The design process starts when Taylor first meets with Anthony about a year before each version's launch to discuss plans for the next design. For the M9, the two met last October and Taylor asked Melo about his latest inspirations. Melo spoke of his passion for collecting high-end watches, and Taylor focused on creating an aesthetic featuring different layers, starting with the "M" (for Melo) on the side lacing area, which represents pieces coming together like Melo's shiny trinkets.
"I'm big into the watch world, and I just wanted to play with the tourbillon movement in the watch," Anthony said. "So if you really look at the white colorway, you can see it more than any other one. To play with that movement, and still have that comfortability and that fit and that lock-in like that Iron Man suit, is great."
Anthony also shared with Jordan Brand his interest in art -- Tyson Chandler isn't the only Knick -- and they came up with the idea to incorporate that into Melo apparel for the first time. Previously, the clothing line only featured performance gear.
The JB team presented a few of its favorite artists to Melo, and he picked one from New York City named Craig Redman. He particularly liked a piece of Kanye West, part of Redman's "Protagonist" collection, which features a series of portraits in his colorful, modern graphical style. Redman then created an Anthony portrait for a T-shirt, which will be released Jan. 1.
"It's definitely that little art-deco in that T-shirt," Melo said. "The idea came from just trying to incorporate the art world into my world, into the sports world, because there are not that many people who really understand that I'm big into art. That was like one of the first ideas that came. Now, we give it that little lifestyle edge, bringing that artsy world into it."
Before the M9 launches, the M8 Advance hits stores on Oct. 17. The biggest change in the Advance from the regular M8 is that it's more of a low-top.
So what else is in store? Anthony said he already met last week with Taylor to brainstorm plans for the M10. Next year is not just any year for Jordan Brand. It's Michael Jordan's 50th birthday, so Melo and Taylor are thinking bigger than usual.
"With this one, I can't really give you too much," Anthony said. "But just getting that side of it, that whole MJ side and that team involved in the 10, it's going to be special. With the 10, we're definitely going to dive deep. Next year is a big year for the brand."
Anthony said that it's interesting to be involved with MJ because not only do they work together, but they're both tied to the league.
"I talk to him, but it's kind of hard to talk to him by him being an owner [of the Charlotte Bobcats]," Melo said. "I talk to him here and there when I see him. We have little conversations and things like that. But it's kind of a fine line because he's another competitor and still my boss at the same time."
Suffice to say, though, MJ will be pretty happy if the M9 sells out stores this winter.