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Nike LeBron James Shoe Introduction

LeBron James hoops like no other. He plays with power and intensity and has incredible finesse for a 6’ 8” 250-pound athlete. That’s why ordinary basketball shoes can’t handle his game. The Nike LeBron James Signature shoes are engineered for King James. Every release sets a new standard for cushioning, support, lockdown and comfort and like James himself, they do it with style.


King James and Nike

When LeBron entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 2003, the basketball world knew it was witnessing the ascension of the anointed one. Michael Jordan’s career ended as James’ began and the buzz was that LeBron was the next Jordan. Fans knew it, the press knew it and the big shoe companies who had been tracking his development knew it, too. Reebok, Adidas and Nike wanted him on their rosters and all three offered elaborate pitches and lucrative contracts. Reebok came in with a $115 million offer that was presented to James along with a cashier’s check for $10 million if he agreed to walk away from meetings with the other two companies. He said no. Adidas low balled him, leaving the 18-year old a decision between Nike’s $90 million offer and Reebok. Always a huge MJ fan, James felt so comfortable with Nike that even $25 million more from Reebok was not enough to sway the choice. King James was all in for Nike after making it official on May 22, 2003. When the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him a month later, he was already donning the Swoosh and would soon be wearing his first signature shoe. Flash forward to 2018. After 15 years and countless LeBron releases, Nike re-coronated the King with a lifetime deal said to be worth more than $1 billion, so passing on the extra $25 million from Reebok proved to be a good decision. The next year, Nike announced the construction of the LeBron James building on its world HQ campus to house its advanced innovations team.


James’ accomplishments with Nike LeBron’s on his feet include:

  • 3-time NBA champion wearing the LeBron 9 (2012), the LeBron X (2013) and the 13 Elite PE and Zoom Soldier 10 (2016)

  • 3-time NBA Finals MVP

  • 3-Time NBA MVP

  • 16-time All-Star

  • Rookie of the year (2004)

  • NBA scoring champion (2008)


The LeBron James Signature Collection

The first LeBron James men’s basketball shoe was released ahead of his rookie season with the Cavs in 2003. It was officially called the Air Zoom Generation (AZG) but is known as the LeBron 1. The shoe was heavily cushioned, had a great fit, excellent lockdown and was manufactured with quality materials, all of which are hallmarks of the brand. The AZG looked great on feet and initially, the style was the focus more than the technology. With each release, however, Nike used the LeBron platform to launch new tech and combine materials and features in ways that had never been done. The list of LeBron innovations is long:

  • A variety of Air Zoom and Max Air configurations including full length units, strategically placed independent Zoom pods, double stacks and hybrid Zoom/Max;

  • Stability, support and lockdown-enhancing features like the straps on the 2, 5 and 14, the 5’s Phyposite footbucket, and the use of dynamic flywire technology and carbon fiber shanks;

  • Traction patterns and outsole designs engineered to provide better court feel and smooth transitions under the extreme stress produced by a player of LeBron’s size;

  • Advanced natural and synthetic materials including Flyknit, Battleknit, Foamposite, Armorposite and ultralight mesh as well as Kevlar-infused laces on certain elite models and Hyperfuse construction for durability.


On the style side, LeBron Signature hallmarks include: 

  • Bold silhouettes in high-top, mid-top and low-top variations for men and women with oversized accents, geometric patterns and unique shapes frequently highlighted by shiny and reflective materials;

  • A huge selection of colorways including dynamic color combinations, textures and eye-catching accents as well as more monochromatic black, white and grey variations;

  • The LeBron James logos including the original LBJ23, which combined LeBron’s initials with his number 23 and a small crown in the lower left corner, and the LJ logo designed in 2010 that features his initials topped by a crown;

  • Roman numerals for releases II through X then Arabic numbers from 11 forward.


Beyond the Signature Collection

Nike LeBron signature basketball shoes are only one part of the global LeBron brand. Other lines include:

  • Extension series sneakers that are based on the signature line but made with different materials. A great example is the LeBron EXT 12 natural cork sneaker;

  • Elite versions of the Signature shoes with luxe materials and features;

  • The LeBron Witness basketball shoes are a budget-friendly line that share performance features like Zoom Air units and great fitting bootie-like uppers;

  • LeBron Soldier – this collection shares some of the tech from the Signature line but in a more stripped-down format with innovative lacing systems and straps at the mid-foot for extreme lockdown and stability. Worn by James during the season and playoffs, the Soldier line has seen a lot of court time since it debuted in 2007;

  • Ambassador Line – Ambassador shoes are made for the high growth Chinese market and typically have a more minimalist design than LeBron’s sold in the US;

  • Lifestyle Sneakers – These kicks are designed for off-court style though many of the designs are inspired by the LeBron Signature line. The Kith X LeBron “Long Live the King” and HFR collabs bring a high fashion twist with a lifestyle silhouette.


The Most Collectable LeBrons

Opinions vary greatly but sneakerheads generally agree that anyone serious about LeBrons would want these in their collection. Some can be found for under $200 while others will be priced at several hundred or several thousand dollars.

  • The Air Zoom Generation First Game – Retro is good, OG is great;

  • The LeBron IV Fruity Pebbles, China and Graffiti NYC colorways;

  • The LeBron V Yankees and Ohio State colorways;

  • The LeBron VIII South Beach colorway;

  • The IX/X Championship Pack;

  • LeBron IX Big Bang colorway;

  • The LeBron X EXT Cork and Crown Jewel colorways;

  • The LeBron 11 Big Apple and King’s Pride colorway;

  • Nike LeBron 12 Elite SP Pigalle collab;

  • Nike LeBron 15 Ohio State colorway;

  • Any of the Kith X LeBron or HFR collab sneakers