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Strictly Underground – Brandblack J.Crossover 2 Performance Review – Duke4005

duke JC 1

Fresh on the scene, crispy and clean…Brandblack broke through in a HUGE way last year with not just one good shoe, but a complete line of performance monsters that looked like runway models. How did one brand get it right, and right from the jump? Rabbit’s feet, years of experience, and some killer technology. And they show NO signs of stopping now, bringing us the greatness that is the J.Crossover II.

I got my first taste of Brandblack last year with the Raptor and Phantom low models. The Raptor was my pick in Weekenders for my perfect fit – it was that good. When I met up with Brandblack at a tournament in Austin last year and we discussed the future models; I was sworn to secrecy about the woven upper, but I knew it sounded completely different (the XX9 wasn’t out yet). So after PrimeKnit, FlyKnit, and Jordan weave, it may not be much different now, but one thing is for sure – they got it (for the most part) right on the first try. Let us continue this debate over some categories…

duke jc2

MATERIALS – Hey, did you hear this shoe has a woven upper? Thought so. Anyway, it has a woven upper. What makes this different than the XX9 or another weave? Well, the closest I have had is last year’s adiZero PrimeKnit Boost from adidas. The toe area is very open and giving, allowing for comfort and flex for better toe-off and court feel while running and cutting (not clunky). Some toes are stiff and hard and make the shoe feel slow while trying to run – the weave is like a thick sock. There is a band, pictured above, of tighter weave that gives lateral support for slides and plants while playing defense or pushing off, and then back to the open areas in the midfoot for ventilation. This is my one problem with the whole shoe, and in the fit section I will cover it more (build up!!!!). The heel is covered in supportive leather that I LOVE (bring back leather!) where the weave probably wasn’t strong enough to hold up. Bottom load that with Jetlon for cushioning and I am on the floor for Game 1.

duke jc4

FIT My one almost complaint about the J.Crossover II is fit. Normally, I am a 10.5. In this shoe, I got a 10.5. Fit is great – length-wise, width, heel is locked, all around nice. And then I played in them. Their is a little more give than in the Jordan XX9, more like the adidas Ultra Boost, and my foot was NOT contained, at all. So I pulled tighter, and it got better, but not still completely held. Then I double socked, and problem was solved. I am so smart it only took me about a week and a half to figure out. Moral? Stay true to size if you want, but you could go half size down and be golden. The heel fit is perfect for me – the additional padding around the Achilles (I wish every new shoe would use some sort of structure like this) holds tight and the leather stays solid, so no heel slipping. One area that really surprised me – the tongue. Most thin tongues don’t help lace pressure at all, but the fat foam laces don’t add pressure anyway, and the padding, while thin, is dense. The top of the tongue sits well above the top line of the shoe but is backed by a smooth Lycra liner and folds around the ankle. Overall, one of the most comfortable shoes I have ever had, regardless of activity.

BrandBlack J Crossover II Performance Review 2

CUSHIONINGI said last year that Jetlon was unbelievable for a first try, and I still say it. Along with Micro G and Boost, foam cushioning is back in a HUGE way. I love the way Jetlon feels on court – low, responsive, and protected. I did feel like the Crossover and Raptor were stiffer – they bounced back quicker while the JC.2 has a softer give to it. I really felt it along the edges of the heel – coming off screens for jumpers and on some landings, it felt a little tippy on off-center situations. But the shoe rides so low that the problem corrected as soon as it appeared. Really, the closest I can think of on the market is Boost – like the Pure Boost and Ultra Boost runners. As soft as it felt, though, I never felt any impact coming back and my knees and lower back were fresh after games. So far, it proves durable too, as my pairs from last year are still as responsive as they started. I’ll throw transition in here as well, since it is a direct result of the midsole on most shoes. Smoooooth. The Jetlon being full-length and width means their is no slap from one system to the other – the shoe glides into the next step like a Primo beat. Other than the slight compression on the edges mentioned earlier, sliding on defense and moving from offense to defense on turnovers and steals was quick and sharp. With the midsole setup and the upper materials being so pliable, it was a shoe that was easy to forget about, in a good way.

duke jc8

duke jc6

SUPPORT – Strong midfoot support comes from the mirrored torsion structure right dead under the middle of the foot. The same basic system as last year but instead of blending in the blue outsole Brandblack opted to go a little louder with the chrome. The TPU is stiff but not overbearing in coverage – it is right under the arch, where it is needed most, but doesn’t extend too far into the fore- and rearfoot to make the shoe stiff (which, again, helps in transition).

At the forefoot, there isn’t really an outrigger as much as a flared midsole. This gives a more stable platform from the start instead of relying on a slim piece of rubber to hold you up on bad landings.

The heel is where I found love. By now my love of all things leather is well-documented, and the leather heel is speaking my language. It wraps from the heel to top laces locking your ankle in and not giving an inch. The texture is the best part though – just beautiful. Sorry, getting a little carried away there. There is no heel counter – not internal, not external – but the way the shoe is structured and laces makes it all okay. The leather gives just enough to allow freedom of motion but still holds you tight.

duke jc7

TRACTION For a company starting out, it would seem that a tried and true pattern for traction would be your best option. Eff that, says Brandblack. We do what we want. Last year, it was the stars pattern that looked like a sure-fire slip and slide machine. And it worked, and worked well. This year it is Blades, and it works, and works well. It could have more to do with the rubber used, which is soft and pliable and sticky and NO, I wouldn’t play outdoors very often in them. The blades work like winshield wipers, wiping back and forth as your foot causes friciton with the floor, and they just stop. Likethat. I was squeaky on clean floors and grippy but quiet on less than clean floors. I have seen some message board posters saying traction is bad, but I haven’t felt it at all. Maybe I don’t play hard enough. They do grab dust, but not as bad as the UA series of herringbone, so a quick rubdown gets you back.

duke jc5

OVERALL – Amazing. That a company with so little time under its “official” name can produce a shoe like this, proced like this, that performs like this, is amazing. From the cushioning to the traction to the materials, this is how the industry should go. Besides a little more give in the forefoot/lateral stability than I usually like, this shoe is top 5. For a shoe “game that’s outta control, brother’s sellin’ their soul, To go gold, going, going, gone, another”sneaker sold, Brandblack is coming so tight they could make coal. If you like a great performing shoe, you know.

j crossover 2 review (435x580)

  1. I love these shoes, but I experienced horrible traction with them. They’re the most comfortable shoe I’ve played in… Better than the XX9’s (which ripped after 2 days of hooping, but that’s another story). I just can’t keep playing in what feels like skates, but I picked up the Curry 1’s and hopefully I’ll have better luck with those. I’ll get to that after finals week aha~

  2. I notice with the forefoot fit also. My true to size is an 11 and I have a wide foot. If I get another pair, I’m going down half a size. My forefoot was moving around a lot.

  3. Deliberate bars this time! Lucky us, haha. Nice one Duke. These are on my very short list of hopeful future purchases, if the JCIII’s don’t up the ante even more.

  4. ^^^ for the old-heads. You know…. Me and Noah had a serious talk in NYC about keeping it straight and narrow.

  5. Well, I’ll admit it… I’m the guy on NT that has been griping about the traction. Either way, you hit the nail on the head when you said, “smooth” absolutely perfect description for this shoe. It just flows so effortlessly.

  6. Albert – cool. Wasn’t even trying to call you out – just like to hear different opinions. I can see some slipping because they grab dust, so no worries. Glad to see you here.

  7. After 20 or so wears, I have absolutely burned through the rubber compound at the front of the toecap, and have gotten to the knit material. The material on the side (which isn’t knit) is also severely creased, as is the midsole. Hope that the shoe continues to hold up, as this is my go-to shoe. For people who have issues with the traction, just wipe them with a wet cloth before you play, and allow them to dry. The traction on the JC2 has been always grippy for me, at times too grippy. I meticulously clean the bottoms of my shoes after they get too dusty, and with the traction pattern that the JC2 comes with, they’re quite easy to clean with a brush and soap.

    1. There isn’t really a rubber toe cap, just the foam midsole that wraps around the shoe. I’ve chewed through mine as well due to toe dragging. Creases are normal on a shoe, that should not be something anyone ever complains about IMO. Especially if you intend to play in the shoe. How can you play comfortably if the shoe doesn’t crease at all? That’d be like playing in a pair of bricks lol. Midsole compression is also normal, and a good thing. It means you’re wearing shoe that cushions you from impact.

    2. Dude seeing your name freaked me out. That is my 1st intial and last name!

      You must be do some heavy toe dragging. Mine are still in great shape with about the same amount of wears.

  8. Although the shoe is pretty comfortable… Honestly Ii think these shoes just so not have enough support in the forefoot area.. Anytime I cut or make a hard stop, my feet (where my pinky toe is) would roll over on the upper since it’s not strong enough to hold the foot down. Yea the woven upper is nice, but for basketball purposes there just isn’t enough structure. It’s weird that I don’t read about other people having that problem.

  9. I’ve delegated my pair for causual use because of the forefoot fit like duke mentioned. Debated grabbing another pair half size down, but decided to hold my breath for the force vectors. Hopefully they’re TTS so I can rock the hell out of them on court. Currently wearing my raptor miss, absolutely love the fit on them.

      1. It’s how a basketball shoe should be built. Smooth and fits like a glove with no frills. Still breaking in my pair and loving them more as they break in. Love the cushion on the JC2s but the forefoot fit and lateral stability is an issue.

  10. I own a few pairs of XX9’s and while most reviews say the XX9s are superior to the crossover 2 I hope Nike takes a few cues from Brand Black primarily the ankle support.

  11. Great review Duke! I love these shoes, thanks to WT! They are so comfortable… there’s no pinching or rubbing and my knees and body feel fine after games. The Jetlon is super absorbent and has a nice bounce. I can see why some people feel the support is inadequate; I’ve had no problems thus far, maybe I’m not as fast as the younger folks. The only area I’ve experienced “problems” is the traction. It is probably the squeakiest shoe I’ve ever worn, but those squeaks do not translate into solid traction. I didn’t slip but I never have that “feeling” of being able to stop on a dime or make hard cuts. Overall, these are great shoes and are currently in my rotation that includes the Hyperrev 2015 and UA Spawn Low.

    1. Just wanted to update the traction… it’s gotten much better, even on semi-dusty court. The comfort of the woven upper and Jetlon cushioning is a great combination. The synthetic leather really supports the heel and ankle area. Another thing I love about this shoe is the laces; the tongue is very thin but there’s absolutely no lace pressure. What exactly can BB do with the JC3 that would make it better… I don’t know.

  12. Great review as usual, Duke. Could you clarify one thing for me – What is the firm material on the sides of the midsole (with the logo on it)? Is it a more dense foam or is it a TPU piece?

    My main worry is that when I cut and plant my heel at a large angle, I’d slide on any hard plastic pieces (ala shoes with caged zoom air or Kobe 9 or Jordan XX9).


    1. Feels like a cross of both – it isn’t a stiff TPU like you would find in a support shank or on the Lebron XII Elite – it is more like a stability running shoe with a denser foam insert on the midsole.

  13. Thanks for the review Duke, great job! My 10 year old son just wore on court last night and loved them! Since he’s growing I went TTS because of the tiny room in the forefoot. He can grow into it. I got him a 9 and feels like a 9 1/4. He wears the Nike hyperelite socks and all is lovely!
    Traction is great! He practiced in his schools gym which is a dust and dirt homeland. These have moved ahead of the XX8 SE and CFD for him as his top performer!

  14. Great review duke! If i may ask what do you mean by a responsive foam? Like the way a zoom unit compresses and deflects or something else? The new format looks like the old kicks on court though and if i can ask you what are the shoes that you will review next? Been a fan since counterkicks love your reviews very informative.

    1. Responsive in that it collapses to absorb impact but instead of staying collapsed or gradually coming back to shape it immediately rebounds underfoot. Best example is Boost but it is too bouncy formse people. So yeah, like a Zoom but not as stiff. Unfortunately, I have nothing to do with the format – all Chris/Nightwing. He makes it all look great, but I wish I could claim credit.

      My next up is the SuperFly 3 PO – should be here next week.

      1. No shot to nightwing though i actually prefer this type. Makes it easier to brows around the site. Thanks for the reply though . I heard the 3 po is bouncier than the regulars havent been able to try one though.

  15. Awesome review, these seem phenomenal to me, gonna be a helluva job finding a pair though, I really hope Brandblack finds a European retailer soon.

  16. VERY NICE review Duke! I too experienced strange fit at the forefoot and bought another pair half size down. Going TTS gave my feet too much freedom up front and the material isn’t woven as tight as the AJXX9 so quick stops laterally made my foot slide a bit even though I was laced up tight. Quite honestly I wish I could combine the JC2 and XX9 it would make the perfect shoe for me!

  17. If you ever get the Peak TP9-2 in your size, try replacing the insole with the Peak one. Took away a lot of dead space for me.

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