The NBA's All-Star Weekend is a yearly opportunity to celebrate the best and brightest on the hardwood, but it's also become a major source of commercialization for Nike and the Jordan brand.
Coinciding with each season's midwinter classic, the folks at Nike send out a slew of new releases for the rabid "sneakerhead" community. This year's All-Star collection includes shoes from LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant, not only three of the NBA's biggest stars but also massive presences in the basketball shoe realm.
However, there has never nor will there ever be a bigger signature shoe than the Air Jordans. And as a tack-on to the All-Star collection already announced, Nike has announced a special surprise for the 2013 festivities. Instead of simply releasing brand-new shoes for their All-Star collection, the Jordan brand will also be adding some retro sneakers to the mix.
Most notable among those shoes being released this weekend is the Jordan 3 "Joker" edition. Considered a classic shoe in the Jordan hierarchy, the re-releases of the 3s almost always come with massive amounts of hype. Based on the already glowing reception of this year's All-Star collection, the "Joker" kicks will undoubtedly be no different.
How do these kicks stack up among the rest of the releases? Here is a complete breakdown of the Air Jordan 3 "Joker" sneakers.
"Wow" Factor: 8/10
Though the "wow" factor tends to have a very fluid definition to each reviewer, I tend to grade shoes in this category based on how they would stand out in a crowd of shoes. As in, if we put the Jokers in a police lineup of other retro 3 colorways, would they stand out—whether as appallingly ugly or Kate Upton-level gorgeous—or simply blend into the crowd?
For the most part, the Jokers are somewhere in the middle.
Let's start with the black leather upper, because that's obviously the most mundane facet of the shoe. Other than "all-black everything" specialty releases or in a classic Jordan black-and-red color combination, keeping the upper a solid, common color is the very definition of "meh."
However, the designers were able to find a few eye-popping saving graces with their accentuating colors. The electric green will undoubtedly be the first thing anyone notices when looking at the Jokers, and the designers avoid going overboard by limiting it to the soles and around the laces.
When looking closer at the shoe, though, the real curiosity comes at the tongue and laces. Upon first glance, it looks like the same type of simplistic gray often seen as a slight contrast to an all-black look. Look closer. That's canyon purple, folks.
We'll get to whether or not that was a good choice, but it's certainly noteworthy. The Jokers certainly aren't the most outwardly intriguing shoe at first. However, for those who truly appreciate kicks, they will definitely get points over time as an interesting design concept.
Simplicity may not make a pair of kicks stand out in the crowd, but you'll almost always find the most iconic shoes aren't the ones that go with gaudy colorways. There's a reason black and university red is considered the quintessential Jordan colorway—and it's not just that the Chicago Bulls' team colors happened to be black and red.
Simplicity appeals to the masses. And while no one will confuse the Jokers with a new pair of Breds, they mostly stick to a tried-and-true script with a few winning variations.
The standout design "winner" here was the electric green color. More specifically, the designers' thoughtful use of electric green was truly commendable. It's easy for shoe brands to push designers to the brink of innovation with colorways, as there are so many releases that creating conversation (whether good or bad) is critical in making sure that your shoe doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
But instead of overusing the electric green, the designers eschewed recent trends and relegated it to what it should be: a secondary color.
The only bad decision the designers made was going with the canyon purple over a standard gray. Once you see the Jokers in real life rather than in pictures, the purple stands out as an off-putting and confusing aesthetic distraction. Purple and black are almost always a losing combination, and when put with the electric green, the contrasts do not work whatsoever.
Though it's a secondary fault, the purple is enough to knock these kicks down a couple of points in design.
While the purple may be off-putting to some (as it is to me), it's hard to deny that the Jokers are a worthy addition to the All-Star Weekend lineup. They aren't quite on the level of Nike's LeBron X release or anything, but the Jokers are undoubtedly a first-day buy for any Jordan collector.
The design adds some modern flair to a shoe that is more than two decades old while also staying true to the overall theme of the 3s.
How would you grade the Jordan 3 "Joker" shoes on a scale of 10?
As for the casual buyer, you'll have a hard time finding a better release among the All-Star Weekend collection. Gaudy colorways are the norm for these special releases, and that's especially the case this year with Houston inspiring a bevy of space-themed kicks.
The best part of the Jokers is that they can be worn with just about anything. While there are some consumers who will certainly use them for on-court wear—always a good decision for a pair of 3s—the overarching majority wear their kicks casually.
At $160, there are plenty of other kicks you could get for a better price. But if your heart is set on purchasing an All-Star collection release, the Jokers would be a solid buy for the everyday consumer.