With a “more dynamic” finish and detailing, the newest MB.02 brings an elevated execution to the Hornets star’s namesake series.
Out the gate, Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball was exactly who Puma was hoping he’d be — an All-Star-caliber player capable of leading his own signature sneaker series.
After the strong start to his namesake shoes kicked off last year, his new MB.02 has already sought to elevate the foundation and design language that his series established early on.
Loud looks led the way for most of the MB.01’s coveted launches. For the second rendition, Puma’s design team had more lead time to dive in with the youngest Ball brother and dial in the details of what he was looking for with his footwear follow-up.
“He’s more of a color dude,” designer Jeremy Sallee said. “We met on colors more than anything else and changed a lot of colors.”
The 1 debuted in a bright, vibrant red, and was followed up by a glaring teal, and the unmistakable mismatched red and neon Rick & Morty collaboration. On the second model, the launch edition’s red flood veers into a showy shade of orange along the collar, with blue accents offsetting the opted color wheel.
“He evolved between the 1 and 2,” continued Sallee. “On the 1, he just wanted all-over, one-color shoes. While we have that for the launch color [of the MB.02], we do have some new finishes for the next releases that are a little bit more dynamic.”
It’s the Jade pair — dropping this Friday, Feb. 3 — that carries that concept home further. The full jade green color flood is balanced by a marbling texture that executes with precision and depth throughout, adding some refinement to the franchise. The midsole incorporates a droplet texture recalling water, the Chinese zodiac element associated with 2023, the Year of the Rabbit.
As Sallee tripled down: “Color is the most important part.”
With the hues honed early on, the designer also looked to layer in even more detailing that continues on the splashed tagline and catchphrase hits from the first shoe.
“The starting point was Melo in general,” Sallee said. “The tattoos was a big thing when we first met him. We created this world when we first presented to him, this ‘World of Melo.’ You had ‘Not From Here,’ this heavenly ethereal Melo, and that’s where the whole wing inspiration came from. He’s got angel tats, his chest tat, and some other new [forearm and hand] ones.”
Over the summer and in between the launch of each shoe, LaMelo actually inked the exact phrases featured on his first shoe, adding “RARE” along his right forearm, with both “1 OF 1” and “NOT FROM HERE” taking up some serious real estate on top of each hand.
While the second sneaker’s general design once again features flowing panels and a winged gesture across the upper, Sallee also looked for a less literal approach with the catchphrases given the additional lead time afforded in the MB.02 design process.
“I tried to integrate some of the words that we associate with Melo into the actual design,” he described. “The left shoe has ‘RARE’ on the medial side and the right shoe has ‘1 OF 1.’ The bottoms both have ‘1 OF 1’ built into the feathered tread pattern. [I was] trying to integrate stuff more [into the design] rather than just slap on words. We were working through the process and figuring out what his taglines were going to be. They came later [on the MB.01] than this one. This time, we got to integrate stuff.”
As the brand continues to build Ball’s business — his star power will be expected to carry the Puma Hoops category throughout the decade — the MB series has been off to an impressive start early on, with LaMelo looking to lead a new generation of NBA athletes entering the signature sneaker game.
“Because there’s so much monotony going on in the industry, having someone that isn’t looking at all the trend forecasting and what the design community has done a lot within the lifestyle, it’s a fresh take,” smiled Sallee.
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