Along the banks of the Yellow River’s great loop, under the lush green of the many mountains and the enormity of the surrounding forest peppered with coniferous giants, the ancient Chinese were establishing their civilization. They studied the loose soils of the river, noticing how it carried life downstream. They practiced pyromantic divination, peering into fire in search of evermore knowledge. Oracle bones were used to keep their records all those many of thousands of years ago. The earliest known form of Chinese writing was created on these oracle bones, which were remains of ox skeletons or turtle shells. In their generational searches for wisdom, these oracle bones eventually became sources of divination for their later kin and for Western scholars. 

The ox and turtle remnants that were converted to archives featured the now-known-as Shang numerals. The Shang dynasty, dating back to the 14th century BC, made their own number system. 

Hundreds of years later, in the 9th century AD, Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī worked at the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. The immaculately-carved fossil-colored entry ways of the House, which was also called the Grand Library of Baghdad, held local poetry, both contemporary to the time and from the past. The space was primarily dedicated to translating the globe’s most respected works of literature and academia from Persian, Greek and Latin to Arabic.

In those sacred halls, al-Khwārizmī was influenced by the work of the Shang dynasty. Their number system, founded so many ages before, helped him to introduce the entire world to the Hindu-Arabic numerals, the number system still used today in so many places across the planet. History recognizes him as the Father of Algebra.  

The momentum of the centuries caught up to those numbers al-Khwārizmī popularized. Each gained their own meaning. The number seven is particularly special. 

Numerology became a universal language because of how many people recognized the characters that al-Khwārizmī favored. Music is another universal language. Rather than the one of absolutes that numerology can be counted as, music is a language of emotions. Whether or not the lyrics of song were translated at the House of Wisdom doesn’t matter. The feelings of a well-constructed song can be experienced by any human. The scales that make up these global methods of communication contain seven notes.  

High above both the Yellow River and Baghdad, the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn had Claudius Ptolemy completely enthralled. Ptolemy, a Roman, spent his days working as a mathematician, geographer, music theorist, astronomer and astrologer. He lived in Alexandria, Egypt during the 2nd century AD. He looked up in the star-filled desert skies, spellbound by what he saw without the aid of any telescope. The planets went from eyes and straight up to his imagination, which bounced between the sand and the mysteries overhead. Ptolemy’s analyzation of these luminous bodies in the sky ultimately led to them being referred to as the seven classical planets. They are the reason that we measure weeks by seven day intervals. 

When those skies got stormy and rain pounded down across the deserts of Alexandria, the House of Wisdom and the Yellow River, and when clouds turned from puffy white to dense grey, humankind didn’t get a say in another phenomenon rooted in the number seven. The storms passed and breaking clouds brought with them the rainbow. 

The arced spectrum of light contains seven colors. In the 17th century AD, Isaac Newton identified the seven colors of the rainbow as the hues most distinguishable by the human eye. 

Seven’s history spans back thousands of years and depending on the specific belief system, it can be defined as “spirituality.”

Thousands of years have brought us to 2023, to the time of James Harden. His seventh signature sneaker is the best silhouette of the 2022-23 NBA season. It’s the best pair of his Hall of Fame career. 

Aesthetically unique, Three Stripes lead designer Jalal Enayah meant to make a sneaker that nobody had seen before. He wanted to make an extension of Harden, a ballplayer that nobody has seen before. The quilted panel on the upper can be traced back to puffer jackets that the former MVP likes to rock. And materials on the toebox vary from colorway to colorway. There have been flooded versions of red, purple, black, silver, white, yellow, orange, pink and green. A tribute to his college has been seen, while white marble and gold-heeled versions have also popped up. Every color of the rainbow has shown up at least once during the HV7’s run. 

Functionally proficient, Enayah went hard with the tech inside the 7. There’s cushioning that combines BOOST in the heel and LIGHTSTRIKE in the forefoot and it sits on top of a podular rubber outsole with dual herringbone and radial patterns. The X-shaped torsional support plate underfoot is joined by the TPU heel counter that houses the internal bootie.

Harden has gotten busy with the 7 on his foot. His 10.7 assists per game led the entire League and he still averaged 21 points a night on 44 percent shooting. After some injury-hit and drama-filled couple of years, he returned to form as one of the game’s most exceptional talents. No rush in his pace, unmovable, entirely confident in scoring whenever he chose to, the 2022-23 campaign was a reminder of who James Harden really is—a rule-breaking offensive machine. He’s one of the 2010s’ authors of change, right next to the other point guards in Golden State and Portland. Basketball wouldn’t be where it is today without his contributions to the art form. 

Now he and Enayah have submitted another piece of art to the game. The 7 is work of science and beauty. With all these years of natural wonder and human knowledge surrounding the silhouette, the incredible performances it’s been part of, the adidas Harden Vol. 7 is the best sneaker of 2022-23. 

Sketches via Jalal Enayah

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