APL goes mainstream; Are you buying the hype?

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about Athletic Propulsion Labs and their budding sneaker line. Someone tweeted at me about them months ago, that much I remember. While I don’t remember the who in that story, I definitely remember my reaction.

“$300? Pass.”

It was basically that simple for me. From an aesthetics perspective, I’ve always thought they were pretty strong. Loved the slick lines on the shoes and the colors were a spot-on usage of the always-fresh Dunkman colorways from the Nike/LeBron line.

But $300? On blind faith? It’s not like I could walk into a retail store and try them on. Forget trying them on, I couldn’t find anyone to even vouch for them from their own personal experience. So I kind of went about my business. My takeaway was that they were selling a premium good with an ultra-premium price tag and the lack of availability would ultimately mean that the brand would fade away.

So imagine my surprise today when I saw that within hours of each other, both SI and CNBC had writeups on APL and their sneaker, the Concept 1. SI’s Chris Ballard, in the video below, even went as far to document his trials along with another 19-year-old baller. (Note to self: If ever in a run with NBA writers, get Chris on the squad.)

The news peg for these almost simultaneous stories seems to be two-fold: 1. According to APL, they’d like to get an NBA player in these shoes and, according to CNBC, there have been exploratory meetings with the league. 2. The question is whether any unfair advantage is given by these shoes that use what is called “Load ‘N Launch” technology. What’s the benefit? Look at it sort of like the pills you might find at GNC that don’t have claims verified by the FDA. You can read their findings about their system on the APL website, but here’s the short version: APL found in its own testing that there were gains of 3 1/2 inches in vertical leap in some cases — and even more in others. The gents at APL have tapped into the Jordan I “BANNED” camp of publicity and seem to have everyone’s attention.

If you watched the video in Chris Ballard’s story, neither he nor his hooping friend felt they were getting that kind of lift, but at the very least there was something that made them believe they were higher. In the case of the 19-year-old, he cited tangible differences in where his hand/wrist hit the rim.

But even after a testimonial like that, and Rovell’s, where he admits it might be all in his head, are you sold? Unless you’re able to hit the one location of Modell’s in New York City that carries these in store, you’re out of luck if you’d like to try them on before shelling out $300. To me, that’s the biggest roadblock APL faces. I think breaking into the NBA would be big for them, but even if they break in, what kind of odds would you put on them landing their shoes on a significant enough player for it to matter. They’d certainly have connections into that world after Ryan and Adam Goldston, APL’s founders, played college hoops as walk-ons at USC. In a way, I’d argue that this kind of press generated on Wednesday, along with banishment by the NBA would be greater than getting some lower-tier NBA player wearing their shoes. It would create a curiosity with consumers. (The downside would be if colleges and/or high schools followed suit and banned the shoes. Then you’re just shut out together and you’re back to the drawing board.)

I’ve only recently really gotten back into playing ball on a regular basis in the last month — a bad knee will do that to you! — and I’m loving the shoe I play in (the adidas TS Creator Supernatural, worn by Derrick Rose last season), but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little bit curious about the performance and the feel of these shoes on the court. But am I $300 curious? Not there … at least not yet.

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