Jordan 16.5 | Greater Than The Sum of Its Parts words & images_Zac Dubasik Sometimes a shoe has such a great feature that you are able to overlook some glaring omissions. The Hyperdunk was supremely lightweight, but had awful durability in its forefoot cushioning, and less than stellar traction on even a slightly dusty court. The Zoom LeBron VI had awesome cushioning, but wasn't exactly form fitting to my foot. In contrast, the Jordan Brand 16.5 doesn't have any specific truly exceptional features, but is very good at everything. Which in turn, makes for an exceptional shoe. The .5 series from Jordan Brand has had its share of criticism. Certain fans of the Air Jordan line don't like seeing any alterations made to the classic models. The majority of these naysayers probably never played in the .5s though (or the originals from which they were spawned for that matter), because on the performance front, most notably with the XII.5, they have delivered. But the 16.5 takes the series to a new high point in playability. The first thing you'll notice when examining the 16.5 is the quality of materials and construction. This is a well-made shoe. Forget your Retro Military IVs, who's leather cracked the first time you wore them - performance shoes as of late from the brand, like the Melo and CP lines as well, are well made from top to bottom. The skepticism has been hard earned by Jordan Brand, thanks to years of disappointment with Retro models, but this shoe was made for the courts. Try-on comfort is the next area the 16.5 excels in. We all know that many hoops kicks feel better once broken in, but if they feel bad enough from the start, you may not take them home in the first place. From the moment you slip the 16.5 on though, the heel blow-molded Air and forefoot Zoom Air feel soft and responsive. The interior has a plush feel, with minimal seams to irritate, and a well-shaped collar. The shoe's substantial upper is part of what leads to the aforementioned sense of quality. Rolled edges and thick leather make up the shoe's main panel. This makes the upper a bit stiff feeling the first couple of wearings, but is kept as minimal as possible thanks to the large allotment of mesh between the primary panel and midsole. The combination works very well at providing support, without being too much. It also helps keep the weight down. It's not the lightest shoe you will ever play in, but it's reasonable, and plays lighter than it actually is thanks to the smooth transition (despite the square-ish shape of the heel). The other drawback with all of that nice leather is that it doesn't excel in breathability. The mesh panels and heavy mesh tongue help keep things manageable, but my feet still dropped some serious sweat in these. They don't feel overly warm while playing in them, which is a good thing, but some additional ventilation would have been nice. My biggest criticism of the upper though is that the lacing system lacks the friction needed to easily tighten up the shoes. The large eyelets, with their Air Jordan XVII design cues, allow the laces to slip back through as you tighten up to playing-level support. Make no mistake - the XVI.5 snugs up for a very good fit. It's just a pain to hold things as tight as possible as you attempt to tie your laces. One saving grace in the system is a deeply hidden lace loop between the top two large eyelets. Without adding too much lace pressure (as with a similarly placed loop in the Hyperdunk), it provides a heightened level of lockdown. Moving to the midsole of the XVI.5, the aforementioned blow-molded Air unit in the heel and Zoom Air in the forefoot deliver just as you'd hope. The low and responsive cushioning up front, with some extra impact protection in the back, make for an ideal performance combo. I felt a sense of confidence in the setup whether I was on my toes playing defense, or landing after crashing the boards. It's my personal favorite setup for the hardwood, delivering the ideal compromise between court feel and protection time and time again. Passing pretty much every category with flying colors so far, the last major area to cover is the traction. And once again, the Jordan Brand XVI.5 excels. Playing in a shoe with good traction makes me feel like a different player. I'm much more likely to cut to the basket or drive when I'm not worried about ice skating around the court. Even on a dusty court though, the XVI.5 felt very sticky (not to mention sounding squeaky). The raised herringbone pods gave me traction in all directions from wearing one, and got even better after my first few runs in the shoe. The only potential negative with the traction might be the fact that the herringbone stops well short of the edges of the outsole. Players making the harshest of cuts may favor traction reaching further out or even wrapping up the midsole, as seen in the CP line, but it was never a factor for my less-dynamic game. That doesn't take away from the traction that is there though, which is very good. If you ask a Mac user why they like their computer so much, many times their answer is "Because it just works." And that's a good comparison to why I liked the 16.5s so much. No frills, just well-rounded, reliable performance. Even during my first run, I quickly felt I knew how the 16.5 was going to respond when pressed. That confidence makes a shoe truly stand out to me. The 16.5 may not be the best at anything, but it's good enough at it all to be one of my favorite shoes of the season. Who's Worn It? DJ Augustin (Charlotte Bobcats), Gerald Wallace (Charlotte Bobcats), Stephen Jackson (Charlotte Bobcats), Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat), Juwan Howard (Portland Trail Blazers), Mike Bibby (Atlanta Hawks), Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks), Josh Howard (Dallas Mavericks), Ray Allen (Boston Celtics), the University of North Carolina, Georgetown and Cal Berkeley Men's Basketball teams and many more.