Fila 96 - Grant Hill - Orlando Magic

The FIla 96 (2013 Reissue)

Introduction

This past week, NBA star Grant Hill retired after a 19 year career.  A NCAA national champion, NBA Rookie of the Year, and a 7 time NBA All-Star, Hill had an injury plagued career which hampered him from becoming one of the greatest stars of this generation.  During his years with the Detroit Pistons, Hill showed the promise of possibly carrying the mantel after Michael Jordan.  Nonetheless, his 19 year service in the league shows his determination and fight even though his full talent may not have been manifested on the court.  Out of college, Hill would sign a sneaker endorsement deal with Fila.  The company may be out of the basketball sneaker industry today (in terms of non-reissues), but the Grant Hill was one of their biggest athletes ever.  This year, the company has again decided to reissue the second Hill signature shoe.  Entitled the 96, this Performance Review pays tribute to the Duke University legend.

Originally the Grant Hill 2, the Fila 96 represents the golden years of Hill.  The features include the following:

  • Full leather upper for support and comfort
  • Cushioning provided by 2A technology
  • Thick rubber outsole with flex grooves and herringbone traction pattern
  • Adjustable heel strap for added back end security
  • Lace hoop system for easy lacing

Aesthetics and Styling

The simple style of the 96 does not date the shoe as much as some of the shoes released in the 1990s (Adidas Real Deal and Reebok Kamikaze Mid II come to mind).  It does have a basketball look to it, and as a well grounded person that Grant Hill portrays himself as, the design of the shoe definitely fits the player.  Synthetic leather combines with patent leather for the upper, while a thick midsole is equipped with the Fila A2 cushioning technology.  One of the few, and most unique, aspects of the shoe lies at the heel where a velcro strap sits.  After spending his first 6 years with the Pistons, Hill landed, as a free agent, with the team represented with the color scheme for this Performance Review – the blue, white, and black of the Orlando Magic.

Fila 96 - Grant Hill - Orlando Magic

Renamed the 96, this was the second signature Fila shoe for recently retired Grant HIll

A side profile of the shoe reveals a bulky, but smooth look.  The lines are flowing & straightforward with curves through the collar and along the midsole.  A very thick foundation begins with a solid rubber outsole.  At the front, the thick rubber forms a toe cap showing off the first FILA logo.  At the forefoot, the arrow patterned traction pattern starts at the medial toe area with 3 arrows.  The traction pattern runs to the edges on each side where thick slits create segments.  A white and blue Fila “F” is molded into the traction pattern.  Down the mid foot, a rubber bridge with the “FILA” logo leads to the heel.  Deep contours lie around this mid foot bridge.  Finishing off the outsole is the heel section which has a red triangular “A2” logo in the center.  Segments are created just like the forefoot and the traction pattern rises up the heel giving off a tire tread look.  Finally, a dual colored midsole flows along the sides of the shoe.  This thick midsole curves up at both the heel and mid foot.

For the upper, panels of leather are stitched together for a simple, yet secure look.  The toe box has a stitched toe cap, while the center has the patent leather layer cutting through on the sides.  Each side is dominated by a grain leather panel, stitched over the patent leather which outlines the shoe.  Two big triangle FILA logos lie on the collar of each side – black on the medial, and white/blue embroidered on the lateral.

At the rear, the heel is very bulky.  The grain leather covers the back, with a stitched hang tab running down the center.  Cutting across the hang tab is a velcro strap.  Made of blue patent leather, the strap has another “FILA” logo embroidered in the middle.  Moving up the shoe, the collar rises smooth to a curve.  Padding is plush from the sides all the way down to the heel, while the lining is a textured synthetic.

Standard oval laces run through six lace hoops.  A heavily padded mesh tongue adds more comfort to the shoe.  The tongue has two leather patches on top, the first being the patent leather Fila patch which has a lace holder.  On the top lies the grain leather patch which has a plastic, pointy shaped hang tab.  Rounding out the 96 is a thin, but soft insole, colored in blue with the final “FILA” logo printed on the heel.

Comfort and Fit

The plush collar and lace hoop system do not serve as an intrusion when slipping into the 96.  Lacing up tight is easily done.  Fit is a tight, but relaxed true to size with most of the lace pressure felt around the top.  From the tongue, to the sides, and back down the Achilles, the shoe has a padded & plush feel.  The toe box has a precise fit without too much crowding, making it good for those with a wider foot.  At the back end, the foot feels very secure.  The collar covers the ankles well, with the padding providing soft and thick support all around.  And even though the tongue rises high, it does not feel limiting, serving to complete a comfortable wrap around the ankles.  Moving on, heel lock down is very good.  Again, the padding is plush around the Achilles so lock down is not tight & gripping, but more full and supportive.  The adjustable strap on the back side does offer the player the ability to tighten lock down for more security if needed.  Next, cushioning is full, dense, thick, and comfortable.  The 2A technology has a very dense and thick feel.  Although it is not soft and plush, it provides very good comfort and a responsive feel.  The foot does not sit completely flat, as there is good arch support from the leather sides.  In the end, the 96 provides excellent comfort from top to bottom.

Fila 96 - Grant Hill - Orlando Magic

Plush padding and full cushioning make this a very comfortable performer

Performance

With a fully cushioned footbed, the 96 has comfortable court feel.  The profile of the shoe is a bit high with the thick foundation, but does not feel like it would be unresponsive – and it is not!  Up and running, the shoe brings cushioned heel to toe transitions.  The A2 technology can be felt from the toes to the mid foot and down to the heel.  Flexibility of the shoe is very good despite the padded feel.  The leather has not problems flexing, especially at the toe box, which just adds to the comfortable ride the shoe gives.  And because flexibility is good out of the box, a long break in period is not necessary.  Weight is on the heavy side, which is not surprising, but it does not feel unbalanced.  For performance, the shoe is fit for an aggressive offensive player.  Because the cushioning feels full length, the player can play off both the forefoot and heel.  Movement is solid because of the thick rubber sole, but the cushioning adds both comfort and responsiveness.  Hard first steps driving to the hole or for a pull up feel in stride.  The player can push the shoe forward with the shoe feeling solid, but comfortable.  Spin moves feel fast and supported off the rubber that creeps up the heel, while lateral movements are aided by the deep cuts along the lateral side.  For jumps, the cushioning is just consistent.  Pushing off the footbed is comfortable and responsive.  Jump shots, finishes, and static jumps all have a consistent feel, and when landing, the thick foundation has no problems handling anything harsh or awkward.  All in all, the 96 brings a comfortable ride that is responsive and solid.

As far as stability is concerned, the 96 is solid.  Ankle support and protection are based more on padding than a tight wrap.  The added velcro strap on the heel does help with lock down, but for the most part, the shoe fits more on the relaxed side.  That said, stability comes from the leather upper and thick foundation.  For the upper, the leather is perfect for playing hard.  The shoe feels very supportive moving laterally and pushing forward.  As with most leather uppers, the feeling of the shoe failing is a rare occurrence.  In a few words, it brings a good combination of hold, flex, and support.  For the foundation, both the midsole and outsole are very thick.  The midsole provides both comfort and responsiveness, while the outsole keeps the base solid.  Heavy footed players can step hard without the feeling of pushing right through the footbed.  Hard steps feel just as supported as landings from jumps – the player can not ask for anything more in a basketball shoe.  The performance of the foundation is a bright spot in stability, making it a bit more versatile for those players who are not predominately face up players.

Traction performance brings comfortable grip.  The thick and textured rubber sole does not bring the stick of a herringbone surface, but there are no big issues when evaluating stops.  Harsh and fast stops are handled well.  Players who push their shoes hard will find the comfortable cushioning and thick rubber sole perfect for finding a good feel of the court.  Another element of the shoe that adds traction is on the heel.  The tread design brings a sense of stability and balance to the back end.  Spins, pushing off laterally on the heel, as well as the occasional post up have added grip giving the player the confidence to perform these movements in the heat of the action.    Overall, traction performance just adds to the comfort of the shoe.  On to ventilation, the shoe performs as expected.  The leather and heavy padding provide little relief when play gets hot and heavy.  Thick socks are definitely not recommend if the player does intend to play for a couple of hours.

Conclusion

The 1990s were a time where the basketball sneaker landscape was open.  Not dominated by 1 or  2 entities, brands like Fila were able to establish themselves in the retail market and on the NBA courts.  Many young athletes these days can not fathom a time where Nike and Adidas did not dominate the market as they do now.  Grant Hill was sure to be one of the greatest players to ever play if he had not the misfortune of the very disabling injuries to his foot.  In the Hill 2 remake, fans can expect performance indicative of a 90’s shoe.  A very comfortable and plush feel with excellent cushioning & support, the 96 fits the aggressive guard and swingman.  Reissues of the past have a very distinct feel and performance over the shoes made today.  Style wise, they may not be appealing to a younger audience, but just as basketball has not changed from a hardwood court, the high performance of the shoe has not changed.  Released earlier this year, the 96 is available now at the Official Fila Online Store.

This shoe is comparable to:

Reebok Answer DMX 10 (2013 Reissue)
Reebok Kamikaze II Mid (2013 Reissue)