words & images_Terence Tang A few years ago, Nike made huge strides in basketball shoe performance with the introduction of the Zoom BB. Worn by quick and explosive guards such as Tony Parker, Deron Williams, Steve Nash, Michael Redd and Jason Richardson, the BB quickly earned a reputation for elite performance among pro and street ballers alike. Pillowy-soft full-length Zoom Air cushioning, great lateral stability, superb lockdown, squeaky traction, and a luxurious fit made this shoe one of Nike's best guard-oriented performance creations since the Air Zoom Ultraflight. Attempting to push this great starting platform to the next level, the BB2 boasted a fresh new design while keeping the loaded features of its predecessor. Performance connoisseurs rejoiced; it appeared that Nike was on the path to creating the end-all, be-all guard sneaker. Both of these shoes were marketed aggressively by Nike, with heavy support via March Madness. Multiple NBA PE colorways of the BB were also released at the debut of New York's House of Hoops. A Tony Parker All-Star PE of the BB2 was released in limited quantities during the All-Star Weekend festivities in New Orleans. Nike Basketball was gearing up for something great. And then Kobe jumps over a speeding Aston Martin and the whole world forgets about the Zoom BB line. Well, almost. Although the introduction of the Hyperdunk and the success of Flywire technology has taken Nike footwear in a whole new direction, a loyal following has anxiously awaited the release of the BB3 - myself included. If you couldn't tell already, I rank the Zoom BB as my top basketball sneaker to date, ahead of the likes of the Air Zoom Ultraflight, Zoom LeBron Soldier III and the entire Huarache line. So when the BB3 released in Asia and Europe with no word of a stateside release, I was a little more than perturbed. Luckily, I had travel plans to visit Asia last month, so I didn't hesitate at the opportunity to bring a pair back to my home court. It's difficult to argue the fact that the BB3 appears to be a lazy re-hash of the original BB, possessing a nearly identical silhouette. Looking at both models closely, it seems to be the same shoe, except constructed with different cuts of materials. The tooling is exactly the same. The half-circular patch at the lateral front has been removed, and the rigid TPU piece along the heel has been replaced by an extra cut of patent leather. The toebox design is now more directly integrated into the upper, with a portion extending to the lace eyelets. It's still a clean shoe, but somehow it just doesn't have the same sexiness as the original BB. This is disappointing to say the least, but I trust Nike to make certain sacrifices in order to improve performance. Slipping the shoes on, the all-familiar feel of the BB returns. The inner bootie (still there) provides comfort while enforcing a great fit. Traction on the court is spectacular, as I experienced numerous ear-piercing squeaks while cutting back and forth. Lacing them all the way to the top is highly recommended; the collar hugs your ankles, providing excellent ankle support and aiding in lateral stability while not restricting any movement. Lockdown is superb with the shoes laced tightly, and I experienced no discomfort or rubbing. Zoom Air is as responsive as ever, cushioning the entire foot during every step. Breathability was quite good, as the entire medial panel has been perforated for excellent venting. The BB3's fit and performance was so similar to the BB that I couldn't resist lacing up both at the same time to reveal any differences - and I'm glad I did. With both shoes on, I immediately noticed an overwhelming difference in the plushness of the interior, with the BB winning easily. The BB's thicker inner bootie makes the shoe feel like a pillow wrapped around your foot, most notably in the toe box. I was literally wiggling my toes in amazement. Don't get me wrong; the BB3 is a very comfortable shoe - more comfortable than many basketball sneakers - but it simply doesn't feel as luxurious as the BB. Another major difference is in heel stability. The BB's plastic piece along the heel provides excellent lateral heel stabilization, while the BB3's patent leather panel buckled with every step. The lack of the external heel counter is surely a cost saving move, unfortunately. While I didn't experience any stability problems during play, the BB3's lack of heel stabilization and more precise lockdown opens the door for an ankle roll with just one wrong step. Fortunately, forefoot stability is still excellent with its wide stance and lateral outrigger. It's not as serious as, say, the Huarache 09, which has horrible forefoot AND heel stability, but connoisseurs will definitely lean towards the BB because of this downfall. It's a moot point now, but the BB3, with its more minimal construction, edges the BB in weight. The difference is very subtle though - it's easier to discern a weight difference holding them by hand than by wearing them on your feet. For luxury and heel stability, I'll gladly sacrifice a little weight. While the Zoom BB3 performed very well, it was also a great disappointment. Many expected a lot more from the BB3 and I'm sad to say that Nike delivered an afterthought shoe that, to their credit, still performs admirably. It seems as though the BB line is on its way out to make way for the "Hyper" and other Flywire models, and Sole Collector has confirmed that there will be no Zoom BB4 ahead. [Nick & Zac were excited for the potential confusion between Shox and Zoom models though!] However, it's still a solid guard shoe that deserves serious consideration over the plethora of available hoops shoes. The only problem for most will be simply tracking them down, and if you're left searching around online, you may want to look for the Zoom BB instead. Either way, both are great options. Who's worn it? Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)