words & interview by Nick DePaula
photography by Jotham Porzio and Zac Dubasik

By all accounts, sneaker collectors are perfectly happy that the NBA just so happened to schedule its newest All Star Weekend in Houston, just a year after taking over Orlando last February. Thanks to the space travel linked to both cities, that means more of 2012's biggest theme -- more galaxy.

As Nike Basketball once again began to build out their strategy for the league's showcase weekend of events and contests, they leaned on last year's theme initially, but they also wanted to dive even deeper into outer space, to really drive home just how superhuman their signature athletes truly are.

To hear about every last detail of this year's Nike Basketball and Nike Sportswear Area 72 Collection, we caught up with Graphic Designer Erick Goto earlier this afternoon at the brand's ridiculous Area 72 takeover space at the Houston Galleria Mall. Check all of the inspiration ahead in this exclusive interview.

Nick DePaula: Last year, the big story was Cape Canaveral, space exploration and galaxy. How far back did you guys start to discuss what you were going to do for All-Star this year, how early on did you identify that you wanted to carry over those concepts and what were you hoping to do differently?

Erick Goto: We started ideating on stuff last year right after All-Star Weekend had ended. All of the research led us back to this idea of space. At the end of the day, you couldn't really argue with it. You just had to find a different angle. A lot of it was looking back to our history, and the fact that Raygun was an alien. It was such a good entry point, with the fact that Nike Basketball had that campaign awhile back. Last year, we went to space, but we didn't go to deep space.

The signature differentiation between this year and last year, is that we're really playing up the idea that the athletes are really superhuman. They're extraterrestrial – they're aliens. No one else can really do what they do. With the performance collection, we focused on LeBron, Kobe and KD, and really playing up their attributes. For NSW, we played up the Rayguns and this Area 72 concept of finding things in a lab that people had abandoned. That's why you'll see a lot of plays on texture and materials and the NSW side is more of a toned-down version of what we did in performance.

NDP: Last year was the first time that you guys worked together on a pack with NSW. That was the same working process this time?

EG: Yeah, and Marc Dolce, Morgan Barnes and Sarah Miller definitely headed all of the stuff for NSW. We had creative sessions where we were all throwing out ideas, and everything came out really nicely. It doesn't come from a single person.

 

NDP: Last year, “Remove Before Flight” was a big tagline. What were some of the early taglines for you guys, or individual themes for each player that you guys wanted to highlight?

EG: We all tried to come up with different planets, and essentially, we played up all of their characteristics as players. Kobe definitely has this more fiery surface, because mentally and physically, he's super intense. You'll see textures from Saturn and Jupiter that we really looked at using for him.

On the Swoosh, we even have an alien language, almost like hieroglyphics. It's actually parts of a broken up basketball court. Aliens are said to communicate through crop circles even, and so you'll see that here with some basketball court shapes in that style.

With KD, it was really about what I like to call that “vapor” concept. As a really versatile player, we thought that his planet would be made of a substance that changes from vapor to liquid to solid. He's so fluid and able to do whatever on the court, so we definitely wanted to play up the color and versatility for his and you'll see the faded midsole. We also did more of a marble texture galaxy print and brought that outside to the tongue for him. On all of the shoes, you'll find the planets on the back of the tongue, and we really wanted to play up the whole alien theme and outer space.

As for LeBron, we continued the diamond story and took inspiration from the carbonado diamond, which is actually from outer space. It's the hardest substance known to man, and thinking about how LeBron is really this indestructible player, we wanted to play up on that and this whole molten surface that he came from. That's why you'll see this crackling in the midsole and a lot of the rough texture on the upper. To avoid doing just blue for the east coast, purple is definitely just more of a dialed up and toxic looking color.

NDP: That's something I've definitely noticed from you guys the last couple years from a directional standpoint. You're always looking to give each guy an entirely unique look.

EG: Yeah, and that comes back to each of these guys being so much different from eachother. You really want them to feel like we're taking stories directly from them and making it their own. They really appreciate that, and even when it comes to on-court stuff for all of our All-Star guys this year, each of our athletes are getting their own shoe and nobody will be wearing the same exact thing.

NDP: Oh, so David Lee and LaMarcus and those guys will all have their own shoe.

EG: Yeah, we'll have different color and materials for all of them.

NDP: How long ago did you guys first present the concept to the guys, and was there anything specifically that they were looking for?

EG: For the most part, they were super receptive. LeBron loved his. Kobe was like, “I want brighter. I want brighter.” We didn't have an actual sample for him to look at at the time, we just had a CAD, but we made sure to dial up some of the colors. We added the extra bright tongue and some of the teal accents. With KD, he was fully on board. You'll also see little hits of total crimson all throughout each of them to tie it all together, and you'll also see that over in NSW.

 

 

NDP: When you were going through the inspiration stages, how many times did you travel to Houston? What was that whole process like?
EG: Actually, we didn't.

NDP: Just Google?

EG: Yeah. [laughs] We'd go to [a Portland bookstore,] Powell's, and just nerd out on that stuff and try to find an angle that hasn't been explored yet. What are alien conspiracies that are out there? Things like that. That's where the newspaper concept came up. There used to be some classic tabloid papers that had reported sightings and things like that, so I thought it was really fun to play up the innovation. Is it really technology we found here, or stuff we found in outer space? [laughs] It was fun to create these fake stories that we could include in all of the packaging.

NDP: The last time Rayguns was done was about a decade ago, with Vince Carter in the commercial and quite a few other guys from Nike Basketball. Did you guys talk about building out a bigger campaign for that, or was that always more of a Sportswear piece?

EG: It was more of a Sportswear piece, because we thought that Sportswear is about the heritage of the brand, and we wanted to push these signature guys to a new space. It was definitely great to re-imagine the Raygun character, the jetpack and little gun and make it more fresh. It's a different generation that's getting exposed to it, but I know for me, I got super excited about it because I had the black Raygun SBs back in the day.

NDP: I'm still salty about those! They were supposed to come out on a Thursday, and I had called the store like three times in the weeks leading up just to double check. I was in class in the middle of Tuesday and I got a text like, “Yo, they just put 'em out on the floor!” They only got eight pairs at the spot by me and they were gone right away. Sucked.

EG: Man. [laughs] Those are one of my grails though. I was definitely happy to help resurrect that.

NDP: Do you have a favorite pair? I know Kobe is usually your guy.

EG: I really like the Kobe because we put a lot of detail into it, but LeBron just as much because it took a lot to make these hand made textures. We were over at the factory messing with effects, and there was a lot of experimenting to what we did. When you think of aliens, and you think of unknown types of things, that kind of gives you free reign to do something crazy.

NDP: Now that you've done a handful of collections, is there any one that really stands out for you? Last year was real huge, and then 2011 had to be exciting since you're from LA.

EG: You know what, I liked what we did last year, cause it was totally unexpected, but in terms of the entire collection coming to life, this one was so rewarding to work really closely with the brand team on. With all of the social media that's going on, there's such a great effort to help bring the story to life. Working with Marc's team was really awesome to amplify the NSW side too. I think my favorite though, is always the one we're currently working on. So, you'll have to just see next year.