Jordan Zion 1 Performance Review

The iconic Air Jordan Brand recently granted Pelicans star Zion Williamson a rare opportunity of having a signature pair. To know if this first pair from the Zion series will pass the baptism of fire, Dribble Media will provide you an in-depth e Jordan Zion 1 performance review.  

The Jordan Zion 1 is Zion's first signature pair. (Photo courtesy of Sneaker Bar Detroit)

Back in 2019, the former Duke standout inked a lucrative five-year US$75 million contract with the Jumpman Team. For a young talent, it is very rare to get such an amount considering that he just got drafted as the first overall pick in the same year.

Williamson’s five-year contract is also among the highest guaranteed contracts offered by the brand. Well, for someone with oozing talent and an ostentatious future like Zion, Jordan Brand didn’t even have to think twice.

In just his second year in the league, Zion has already joined a bunch of elites who has signature pairs with the Jordan Brand. Currently, only Suns guard Chris Paul and Wizards star Russell Westbrook have recurring signature pairs with the brand.

Prior to this, Blazers revitalized forward Carmelo Anthony bannered his own signature pairs before the brand ceased to produce the Jordan Melo series in 2017. In addition, reports are surfacing that Mavs young star Luka Doncic will also have his own signature pair with Jordan soon.

So, without further ado, here is our Jordan Zion 1 performance review.

HOW DOES THE JORDAN ZION 1 PERFORM ON THE COURT?

The Jordan Zion 1 is infused with a combination of mesh and fuse materials. (Photo courtesy of Sneaker Bar Detroit)

MATERIALS

Sneaker companies always undergo extensive studies and in-depth researches whenever a signature pair will be released. It is always crucial to conceptualize and build a pair that will perform suitably to the specific players’ game. So, it is vital that the first edition of the sneaker must possess a good impression and set a high standard.

Every signature pair undergoes a series of trial-and-errors to identify the most appropriate materials and technologies for the players’ overall physique, feet structure, and playing style. This is also one of the reasons why certain signature pairs jump from one technology to another.

Talking about the trial-and-error process, the Jordan Zion 1 will really go through a baptism of fire with this one. Not only that ballers and sneaker enthusiasts have above-the-ceiling expectations with Jordan given the brand’s reputation, but they are also expecting a promising signature pair for a promising player.

The Jordan Zion 1 is infused with a combination of mesh and fuse upper which has good ventilation and pretty decent durability. The toe box and the heel utilizes ome sort of fuse material for better durability and lockdown.

However, despite the upper’s good airflow and durability, the upper materials are kind of cheap, thin, and flimsy. Well, I have nothing against fuse and mesh, given their own reputation and advantages, but the brand could have done better.

Knowing Jordan’s reputation in producing pairs with the best materials, and recognizing that Zion could be one of the future superstars of the NBA, the brand could have used better materials to start this Zion series.

To justify this selection of materials, the Jordan Zion 1 only costs US$120. Yes, it is cheap. The materials used properly equate to the price. Jordan might want to make a signature shoe that is more affordable for the masses, thus the materials might be favorable for many.

However, the Russell Westbrook Jordan Why Not 0.4 just costs 10 bucks more than the Jordan Zion 1, but its materials are way better for a small disparity in price. Nonetheless, the Zion series is still on the trial-and-error stage, so expect that there will be a lot of changes in the upcoming releases.  

The Jordan Zion 1 has an omnidirectional traction pattern. (Photo courtesy of Sneaker Bar Detroit)

TRACTION

 The Jordan Zion 1’s outsole is infused with either translucent or solid rubber compound depending on the material. The pair has an omnidirectional traction pattern. However, the real strength of its traction is on the forward dashes, and it is surprisingly weak on lateral movements.

When doing forward moves and stops, the traction is a bit aggressive, though there are some delays. But the real problem is on the lateral motions. Ironically, the traction is not lateral-friendly.

When doing sudden stops, you can actually feel that the outsole compound is less aggressive compared to the forward movements. That is a bit contradicting considering the outsole’s omnidirectional pattern.

Normally, it is not advisable for ballers, especially the shifty ones and those who heavily rely on their footwork, to use pairs with such traction performance. But for a player like Zion, whose playstyle is to bulldoze his way to the rack, then focusing all the strength of the traction to forward movements is pretty sensible.

Another downside of the outsole is that the patterns’ gaps are too small that they easily acquire dust regardless of the type of court. Well, this is almost very common that ballers don’t even bother to worry so it is actually not a big deal. A little wipe will always do the trick.

Despite these Zion-explicit performances, the biggest silver lining of the outsole relies on its durability. We can’t deny that nowadays a lot of basketball sneakers are very lackluster when it comes to the outsole’s durability.

The logical reason behind it is that if the outsole is thinner, the lighter the pair will be. But in the case of the Jordan Zion 1, the upper materials are already thin and cheap that there is almost no need to conform to the outsole’s durability.

The outsole is thick and hard so it will definitely last longer even on black tops. Besides, you should take note that for a player with monstrous agility, tremendous leg power, and colossal size like Zion, the real strength of the sneaker should not totally rely on the traction performance. 

The Jordan Zion 1 is infused with Nike Zoom Strobel and Nike Zoom Unit. (Photo courtesy of Sneaker Bar Detroit)

CUSHION AND SUPPORT

Just a paragraph ago, I have mentioned that sneakers designed for those who have body frame and play style like Zion should not heavily rely on traction performance. Aggressive traction is very important, no doubt. I did not say that it isn’t.

But depending on one’s game, other aspects of the shoe must be focused on. The Jordan Zion 1 just another sneaker with this kind of consideration. Though Zion’s specimen is kind of rare, there are actually a lot of players with the same play style.

Players whose bread and butter are their jumping prowess and brute force are actually all over the place. That is where basketball sneakers with good cushion technology will come in.

The Jordan Zion 1’s cushion system is undoubtedly the pair’s best offering. The pair is infused with full-length Air Strobel. There have been a lot of sneakers, from the latter releases Nike PGs to the Nike KDs, that are infused with this cushion system.

The Nike Air Strobel continues to prove that it is a cutting-edge cushion technology meant to provide the best impact protection without compromising the court feel. Along with the reliable Air Strobel, the Jordan Zion 1 is also infused with a very responsive and bouncy phylon midsole.

The combination of Air Strobel and phylon midsole for the cushion setup is already good enough. But for players like Zion, a beefed-up and more compressed cushion system are really important.

Zion heavily relies on his forefoot strength in order to bulldoze and to overpower his opponents going into the rack. Day-in and day-out, Zion uses the strength of his feet, specifically his forefoot to provide more power to his already-powerful dashes.

Due to Zion’s size and built, most especially his upper body, the tendency of getting his feet worn out easily is very high. To somehow solve these speculations, Jordan infused a Zoom Unit on the forefoot, underneath the Air Strobel.

This provides more compression and comfort for forefoot runners as this setup drastically improves the pair’s impact protection, specifically on the forefoot area. As a reinforcement to this setup, the pair is also built to have good flex and curve from heel to toe, along with an exposed midfoot so running continuously won’t be an issue.

The lockdown and support have some crucial bright spots. Crucial because some of them might be minor details relatively important for Zion.  

In terms of padding, the tongue received only a little amount of padding and is quite thin compared to other basketball sneakers. Also, the tongue’s airflow is not very appealing since only its lower part has a good amount of ventilation.

Nonetheless, the interior, specifically in the ankle, has enough amount of padding to make sure that it plays along with the firmness and stability of the pair. However, the forefoot has very little to no padding, probably because the pair was built predominantly for a colossal athlete.

Unfortunately, despite the amount of padding on the ankle and the TPU heel counter, the ankle support is not really what we are expecting and hoping. The ankle support is not that great. But despite its flaw, it is still a bit intriguing, considering the real focus of the lockdown and support.

Safe to say the ankle support is not the main concern of the pair. But it is still something important so Jordan added a better lacing system by putting more eyelets on the forefoot, thus making the shoe firmer and more stable.

It is not that Jordan did not really pay much attention to the ankle support knowing that a lot of basketball players are experiencing ankle issues. It is just that the built and the design of the pair drastically lessens the tendency to get someone’s foot roll.

The pair has an efficient and wide base that gives better stability and firmness. Along with this, if you will notice, the lateral area of the forefoot is wider compared to other sneakers to the point that it looks a bit deformed.

It may be hard to spot when looking plainly at the pair, but it can be noticed when doing lateral movements. This feature improves the pair’s overall stability. Because of this, the chances of getting one’s ankle roll will decrease. 

Yes, the traction performance when doing lateral movements might not be very interesting since there are a lot of slides and delays with the bite. But when it comes to lateral containment, the Jordan Zion 1 is definitely an A+.

The lateral containment is superb. The wider and extended lateral lock pretty much sums up the overall protection of the entirety of the foot. Definitely, the lateral containment is very stable yet comfortable.  

Not to mention, along with the pair’s elite cushion set up, it comes with a good court feel. Considering that the pair is bombarded with two cushion systems plus the phylon midsole, the Jordan Zion 1 definitely has a good court feel.

So overall, the pair’s cushion system allows Zion to freely use his jumping prowess and at the same time rely on his playing style without much worry about the impact and protection since the Jordan Zion 1 is designed for that exact purpose.

The Jordan Zion 1 runs true to size. (Photo courtesy of Sneaker Bar Detroit)

SIZE and FITTING

The Jordan Zion 1 runs true to size. However, the forefoot is a bit snug. So just like other sneakers, ballers can go true to size if they want that snug feeling. Otherwise, they can go up half a size.

But for the best experience, it would be best if a pair will be fitted first before purchasing.

OVERALL RATING

I’d say that the Jordan Zion 1 is intriguing. Yes, there are bright spots and there are some which are eyebrow-raising. Despite the fact that the pair is still on a trial-and-error stage, Jordan definitely hit the mark on this one.

A pair with excellent overall impact protection and responsiveness reinforced by the best cushion systems to support his out-of-this-world jumping skills, and an aggressive traction pattern for forward movements, the Jordan Zion 1 is definitely perfect for Zion, at least for those aspects.

The pair is definitely a steal. Setting aside the upper materials, copping a pair with both Air Strobel and Zoom unit as its cushion system for US$120, you can never go wrong.

Also, the pair is pretty much flexible. From its appearance and performance, the Jordan Zion 1 is built obviously not only for large framed players, but also for smaller and speedy players who rely on their upper body strength and jumping power and not on flashy and shifty crossovers.

The only concerning part is how effective the mesh and fuse uppers can really prevent Zion from busting his shoes. Who can forget about the game where Zion busted a pair of Nike PG 2.5 during his time with Duke University?

Knowing that Zion himself is a freak of nature, it is really interesting how Jordan Brand can prevent these things from happening again. But it would be better if the brand can use better materials in the future without really compromising the affordable price.  

Still, it won’t change the fact that this is the first installment of the Zion series. No matter how Zion’s charisma works, buyers will surely be skeptical about the pair. The pair’s sales will surely be affected by its lackluster and mediocre upper materials.  

But if ballers will go down the rabbit hole, they’ll realize that one way or the other, the Jordan Zion 1 is surely a must cop.  

The Jordan Zion 1 nets an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5.

What really affected the pair’s overall rating are the pair’s upper materials and inflexible traction performance. Despite the excellent cushion system and lockdown, ballers are really into sneakers with a good combination of traction and cushion along with good materials.

WHERE TO BUY

The Jordan Zion 1 is up for grabs in numerous colorways at selected Nike stores and retail stores for US$120.

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