Jimmer Fredette's 361-Mazer is the high-performance hoops shoe you need to know about

Nike, adidas and Under Armour dominate the basketball sneaker market worldwide, but there's still plenty of money to be made in the industry, especially in China, a land inhabited by an estimated 1.3 billion people, 300 million of whom hoop. Li-Ning (Dwyane Wade, Evan Turner, Glen Robinson III), Peak (Dwight Howard, Tony Parker, Lou Williams, George Hill) and ANTA (Klay Thompson, Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons) are the three most popular domestic brands in the most populated country in the world.

But one of their contemporaries, 361 Degrees, a household name in the running community, has shown with the 361-Mazer it can produce a basketball shoe to rival any domestic or imported model should it decide to make a full-on re-entry into the hoops scene.

A relatively new brand established in 2002, 361 Degrees made a huge splash in the basketball market when it outfitted four-time NBA All-Star and champion Kevin Love from 2011 to 2015. Since then, the company has signed former NBA lottery pick and Chinese Basketball Association star Jimmer Fredette as the face of its hoops division. While the 361-Mazer is its only high-performance hoops offering at the moment, the low-top released in 2016, which shines from a form, fit and function perspective, could be a building block for things to come.  

LOOK GOOD: The 361-Mazer comes in four colorways, black/chi (think Bulls' black and red), midnight/vibrant (think Michigan blue and maize), black/silver (think Raiders) and grapes/silver (pictured above). For my taste, the ladder was the only real option. Straight up, those joints are popping. In fact, I wish 361 Degrees would've gone with all bold, brash colorways. Along with grapes/silver, they could've added brights such as highlighter yellow, aqua blue and fuchsia.

Nonetheless, the grey/purple stacked outsole leading into the QU!KFOAM midsole (more on that later) and the tri-colored (dark, light purple and white) mesh upper makes for a clean, smooth look that can be rocked on or off the court. 

There's also a ton of detail from the "361-Mazer" subtle signage on the heel to the purple and white speckled laces to the inside/outside mirror 361 Degrees' "3" logo, but the biggest standout feature is the huge padded tongue. It's a dope pattern that you might want to show off if you loosen up the laces and wear the shoes for casual purposes with some dark rinse vintage fit jeans.

The flashy grapes/purple 361-Mazer are the perfect complement to the brand's training gear such as the 361-F!T full-zip hoodie and short- or long-sleeve gray training shirts for that fresh, fit look that'll be sure to garner likes on your Instagram page, whether you actually work out in them or not. Wearing the grapes/silvers, you'll inevitably get asked, "What are those?" out of admiration instead of ridicule. The solid shade of eggplant blends perfectly with the muted silver accents for a look that truly stands out.

FEEL GOOD: First things first, the 361-Mazers fit true to size. Typically with lows, I recommend going a half size down, especially if you're going to hoop in them. That's not the case here, thanks to a masterfully constructed fused toe box, a midfoot that secures your foot once you tie them up and a heel counter that envelops your ankle to prevent slippage. At 12.7 ounces, the 361-Mazer provides the freedom you'd expect from a low-top with the security most commonly associated with mids. 

Another thing I loved about them is fresh out the box, from the moment I put my foot inside them, they didn't feel like new shoes. They made room for my wide feet and gave a comfortable fit from the onset. You should definitely partner them with a pair of quality quarter length performance basketball socks to get the most if you're using them for their primary purpose. If you prefer ankle socks, double up, but you may compromise some of the lockdown. 

PLAY GOOD: 361 Degrees succeeded in the three most important areas for any performance basketball sneaker — traction, cushioning and support. 

The 361-Mazer more than held its own on a dirty, sweaty outdoor court in Greensboro, N.C. and a dusty gym floor that's probably swept once daily. The tread isn't very deep, but the rubber is solid. I didn't have to wipe my foot once (though I wouldn't recommend that).

The QU!KFOAM technology on the midsole is undoubtedly the shoe's best feature. A carry over from 361 Degrees' running shoes, it combines three layers of cushioning (molded insole, midsole and Ethylene-vinyl acetate cushioning) to make what has to be one of the most uniquely responsive shoes on the market. To put it plainly, regardless of whether you're making a hard cut or exploding to the rim, you can't outperform the shoes.  

The 361-Mazer is a true low-cut that provides firm support at the midfoot, sidewall, heel, base and forefoot. 

All in all, the 361-Mazer lives out its maker's mantra of going "one degree beyond" in every aspect. Now, 361 Degrees needs to follow up with more to capitalize. It has proven it's more than capable of competing. 

They're priced at $125 but can be purchased online for $93.25 with use of the code "JIMMER" at checkout on www.361usa.com/basketball/.

 

 

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