For those of you who have read or watched WearTesters for years, you know we’ve previously worked with Brandblack. They let us collaborate on two shoes, the Brandblack Ether and the Brandblack Rare Metal. Both of which got WearTesters colorways that were bad@$$. But it isn’t the collaborations or access to the designers and owners that make Brandblack unique, it’s the fact they create some of the most unique-looking and still killer performers on the market. The latest is the Brandblack Pro Am, and it compares to some all-time greats. Here. We. GOOOOOOO!!!!!…
It’s been a while, but I believe we ALWAYS start with traction, and the traction from the little Xs on the Brandblack Pro Am is flat-out amazing. Drawing off of the original Brandblack basketball shoe, the J Crossover 1, this pattern covers all directions and does NOT let dust build-up. Oh, it may hang on for a second, like the picture shows, but it doesn’t stop the grip. I wiped once at the beginning of each run and that was it – clean and easy.
The one thing that may sound strange is it’s not a BITE stop – it’s a smooth stop, and let’s go as soon as you are ready for the next step. Durability? Yeah, it’s good so far. I haven’t played hard outdoors, only some shooting around and one-on-none moves, but there is not a single sign of breaking up.
The foam used in the new Rare Metal Evo and the Brandblack Pro Am is called Zerolon and it’s really, really good. I wasn’t a fan of the supercritical Jetlon foam in the Rare Metal 2 – it didn’t have much bounce for me – but give the Zerolon a couple of wears and be ready. It rides low and has great impact protection while still giving some spring in your step (think Nike Kobe 5 or 6 – not the last time that comparison will be made).
Brandblack started with Jetlon (and it was AWESOME) and then got into the supercritical Jetlon, and Zerolon is a true evolution of the two. It is still described as “supercritical” and does have that soft/bounce feel, but the best part is it feels super-stable too, with just enough structure and support to keep it from collapsing on the edges but still open enough to compress and bounce.
The upper of the Brandblack Pro Am is fused sailcloth. Legit, that’s what the product page says. What does it feel like? The Kobe 6, with some slight changes. It has a rip-stop look to the middle layer (the upper has a 3/4 internal mesh bootie and attached tongue) and then is almost completely covered in a thin fuse.
All the layers would seem to be stiff and to be honest, the first wear the toebox was a little “rice crispies”, but again, after that first couple of games the flex and fit improved immensely. The laces are super-reinforced and they have to be – otherwise, the Salomon-esque cord lacing system would probably rip through on the second pull. An extra large pull loop on the heel makes getting in easier and topping it off is a thick ring of padding around the ankle.
I really wanted to get into the lacing in the materials section but it has more to do with fit, so here we go. The Brandblack Pro Am uses a cord and pull system normally seen on Salomon trail runners. It’s also seen on street-style runners and kid’s shoes quite often in 2023. One pull will tighten the shoe from top to bottom. I still pulled each one individually because I am an old creature of habit but the system is designed for one pull and lock-in.
Brandblack kindly made the tongue label a lace garage (pouch) to tuck the lock and cord into because otherwise, it looks like your lace cord is excited and no one wants that. Once the cords are tight there is no movement at all. The heel locks in with that padding around the collar, the midfoot is locked because the material hugs and doesn’t stretch, and the forefoot is slim and fitted to the last to give almost no wiggle room. Again with Kobe 5/6 nostalgia leaking into the Brandblack Pro Am.
Wide forefoot. Slight outrigger. Lockdown in the heel with a solid heel counter. What else do you need? Oh, yeah, a midfoot shank. It’s there, too, in the form of a TPU structure under the arch. This isn’t a shoe that will feel like a boot with straps and loops and a thick build, but if you’re a fan of the Kobe 4/5/6 you know what you’re getting.
At no time during my Brandblack Pro Am testing did I worry about my ankles rolling. When coming off screens or planting to drive, the wide forefoot gave me a base to lift off of. The most important things for me in a shoe now are traction and stability. The transition while playing was Nice n Smooth (sometimes I play slow…). The fantastic traction alongside the low and springy foam, the midfoot plate, and the solid lockdown made changing direction and defensive movements quick and strong. Not having to think about my next step made me feel quicker and more confident.
Brandblack Pro Am Summary
There is a reason I kept referencing the Kobe 5/6 in this review. I was told by the owner of Brandblack (after I bought the Rare Metal Evo) that the Brandblack Pro Am is “our Kobe 6”. This is David’s shoe and when I asked him again about the similarities to the Kobe line he said “that’s exactly what it is! I love the Kobe 5/6 as best hoops shoes ever for me” and he set out to design the Brandblack Kobe hybrid. I have to say – success.
If anyone is tired of not being able to get Kobes to play in, or you are tired of looking for “unauthorized” pairs (we see you, NBA players with a lifetime supply of Grinches), you should try the Brandblack Pro Am. It’s fast, super light, has great court feel, great bounce, great traction, and fit. This is an all-timer for me, top 5 this year for sure, and more colors are coming. Brandblack is still doing what they do best, high-performing basketball shoes.