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How James Harden’s sneakers have fueled his MVP season

In just his fourth game wearing his new sneakers, the league’s likely Most Valuable Player gave the shoe a signature highlight.

Isolated on the perimeter, Clippers wing Wesley Johnson couldn’t sense the force with which the step-back move — and perhaps a forearm nudge — would soon entirely rearrange his defensive stance.

James Harden stepped, stopped and stared for a full second after the helpless Johnson crumbled to the floor, and then he splashed a seemingly routine 3-pointer in a game on Feb. 28.

Harden shot 44.8 percent on step-back 3-pointers this season, a full 10 percent better than on his other 3-point attempts. His ability to keep his balance after such a sudden halt and jerk is a credit to his uncanny ability to create separation from his defender.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

It was that ability that Adidas tapped into when designing Harden’s second signature sneaker, the Harden Vol. 2, a model seen on endless social media clips as the next generation of players tries to emulate Harden’s iconic step-back.

“I understand the responsibility of having a signature shoe,” Harden said. “It’s to inspire.”206

Harden’s unique style of play is easy to identify on the court, but when Adidas began the process of designing the Harden Vol. 2, the company wanted to dive further into the science behind the talents that have made Harden a six-time All-Star and perennial MVP candidate.

The first step of that process came at Peak Performance Project, a sports training facility in Santa Barbara, California, known simply as P3, for short. Adidas’ product, design and marketing teams combed through a sequence of tests that Harden underwent last summer.

Initially, Harden’s results were largely underwhelming, which didn’t come as a surprise. According to the team tasked with building out his signature collection, Harden measured out in average terms by most metrics, ranking nowhere near the explosiveness of Andrew Wiggins or the speed of John Wall.cheap nike nfl jerseys from china

He did, however, raise eyebrows when the lab noticed a key trait of his that stood out ahead of some of the world’s most gifted and fine-tuned athletes: his braking and deceleration. Harden ranked in the 99th percentile of athletes tested at P3 in how fast he could stop, then shift directions.