When Nike and Jordan Brand unveiled the Air Jordan XX8, the latest iteration of their most iconic basketball shoe, the immediate, gut-level response from many observers was mixed, to say the least. My colleague Eric Freeman noted the controversy surrounding the XX8's appearance on Monday evening, describing it as "something like a black rain overshoe," thanks to the big black zip-up shroud encasing the outside. Arguments abounded as to how the sneaker — which will reportedly retail for $250, have a special release on Feb. 15, 2013 in Houston during the NBA's All-Star Weekend, and be available for general consumption nationwide on Feb. 16, according to Nikeblog — would look both on the street and on the court, how players would choose to handle that zipped upper, and whether the Tinker Hatfield/Josh Heard design represented a landmark advancement, a swing and a miss, or somewhere in the middle.
The long walk toward answering at least the first two questions began Tuesday night, when point guard Russell Westbrook — who signed an endorsement deal with Jordan Brand two months ago — became the first player to wear them on the floor during an NBA game when his Oklahoma City Thunder took on the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. As you can see in the shot above, Westbrook opted for a mostly zipped-up look that left a bit of an opening at the top, allowing the neon-green tongue to pop through.
He sure seemed comfortable in the performance shoe, dropping 25 points on 9-for-17 shooting with nine assists and three steals in 34 minutes as the Thunder hung a 117-111 loss on Brooklyn to move to 15-4 on the season. Then again, Westbrook's been playing sharp of late even before changing his kicks, averaging 19.4 points, 9.4 assists, six rebounds and 3.4 steals per game over his previous five games (all Thunder wins) while shooting nearly 39 percent from 3-point range and 80 percent from the foul line. So while we don't know that the XX8 makes you better, I guess we at least know it doesn't make you worse.
Check out some more photos of the XX8 in action after the jump, and let us know what you think about the shoe's on-court look in the comments below.
Because I know you're all waiting for it, my #HotShoesTake as a lifelong non-sneakerhead? They look slick (like, literally, to the touch), comfortable and not as weird as I thought they would when worn by someone who rocks calf-high socks. If I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for these Tuesday night, I'm not sure they would have stood out to me at first blush; I'm not sure that's what Jordan Brand's going for, necessarily, but they sure didn't seem to me like an all-out assault on style and good taste. (For whatever that's worth.)
Outside the Game from Yahoo! Sports:
Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
• Rockets' radio announcer's all-time zing on Lakers
• Nate Diaz emerged from rough upbringing to contend for a UFC title
• Y! News blog: The most looked-up words of 2012