Embiid One | $90-120 | Under Armour
I hate Joel Embiid. I hate Joel Embiid as much as one is capable of hating a total stranger who hasn’t done like, war crimes or something. Hating Joel Embiid comes easy to me. When he’s good he’s an infuriating presence on the court (my blood pressure is still suffering from his airplane antics in last year’s NBA playoffs) and when he’s bad—like, say, when he’s held scoreless by Marc Gasol when playing against my beloved Toronto Raptors—it’s so easy to chalk him up as a transparently fraudulent player, as a would-be great who can’t get his act all the way together for his team
For what it’s worth, it’s also easy to hate him because there’s very little to actually get mad at him over off-court. Embiid, my general hatred/Raptors bias aside, seems like a perfectly decent dude who’s charming off-court and genuinely funny in those goofy Hulu commercials.
Still. Rivalries are rivalries and after Embiid’s Sixers took on my Raptors in a highly competitive playoffs series full of trash talk last year (which, I’ll remind you, they lost via Game 7 buzzer-beater to the eventual champions, my beloved Toronto Raptors, leaving Embiid literally weeping in Marc Gasol’s arms) I knew I had a Number One Enemy For Life in the Sixers’ gigantic center.
So when Embiid’s first signature shoe via Under Armour, the Embiid One, was announced earlier this year I couldn’t have been less interested. Joel Embiid, the clown supreme of Philadelphia, got a signature shoe before fellow Philly legend Kyle Lowry, 2019 NBA Champion and The King In The North? Disgusting. Shameful. A pox upon the sneaker world for this, from my lips to God’s ears.
Then I saw the shoe, and man, I truly hate to type these words but my interest was piqued. The silhouette reminded me quite a bit of the Nike Kyrie 3, one of my all-time favorite basketball sneakers, and slowly I started to keep my ear to the ground for more info as the release date drew nearer. The word from sneaker YouTubers and critics alike was positive. Maybe … MAYBE I would have to check this sneaker out. But don’t get me wrong; I’d be doing so fully prepared to hate on it as much as I hate on Joel Embiid.
I first realized my hater days might be numbered when I took the shoebox out of the package. Packaging design may not have much to do with wearability but it can be the X-factor that takes a good shoe to great. The box is covered in a sort of graphic heatwave design that catches the eye and plays into the silhouette, making for a satisfying piece of storytelling (not to be pretentious but storytelling is vital in making a sneaker great!) to go along with my least favorite basketball player in the world’s first signature shoe.
Something that tends to get overlooked when discussing how a basketball sneaker is designed is how the design relates to the player’s position. While Embiid has been known to play power forward at times, he largely serves as one of the more domineering centers in the modern NBA. Centers are big guys who post up near the hoop and try to block anyone from going for a layup or shot from the paint. Usually a shoe, being catered to the needs of the athlete it’s designed for, will prioritize sneaker tech advantageous to their position.
That is, shockingly, not the case with the Embiid One (and perhaps why it works so well for me personally—I’m a much smaller guy and tend to take up wing or point guard positions rather than posting up as a center). The sneaker, according to Under Armour, is designed as a five-position shoe, providing benefits for all positions on the court. In fact, there are rumors that besides Embiid, the other primary wear tester as the shoe went through development was Under Armour athlete and Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry (a point guard). That’s evident in the shoe’s flexibility and light weight, making it perfect for speedy pivoting and fast dashes, though it’s got plenty of cushioning for jumpers and bigger hoopers.
That cushioning is a fusion of UA’s two most popular, HOVR tech and Micro G. Micro G is placed in the forefoot of the shoe, a light weight material that makes for super responsive push-off. The heel is comprised of HOVR, heavier and denser in order to cushion your feet when they hit the ground or drop from a jump. It’s a killer combo, hard to argue with in terms of what makes for a great five-position sneaker.
If there’s a downside to this basketball shoe it’s that it’s … well, it’s a basketball shoe, not a hybrid lifestyle-basketball shoe. Athletes like Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook have made a name for themselves in the sneaker game over the last few years by wearing signature sneakers that look just as good when worn casually as they do off-court. The Embiid isn’t some ugly behemoth by any means (and hey, future colorways may make it more aesthetically appealing) but right now it definitely works best as a performance sneaker, not one for casual wear.
I’m probably never going to be an out and out Joel Embiid fan, even if he were to join the Raptors. But my hatred of him is largely superficial – like I said, he’s a talented player who seems like a good dude and just happens to be playing the opposite side of the court from the one I’m cheering for. It can be as fun to hate on athletes as it is to root for them and I think I’d have less fun watching a season of hoops were Embiid not involved in it. That being said, the Embiid One is the rare Embiid accomplishment that I can’t find it in me to fully hate on. It’s a good shoe. You should check it out. Take it from me, the world’s Number One Joel Embiid Hater.