Right after signing LeBron James to a $90 million contract (before he played a single game, mind you), the Nike camp went immediately to work on the first signature shoe for the player that would potentially have a Jordan-esque effect on footwear. After months in the war room, the Nike Air Zoom Generation made its official debut during LeBron James first regular season game as a professional basketball player on November 5th, 2003.
The Nike Air Zoom Generation – colloquially referred to as the LeBron 1 – had a design inspiration based on LeBron James’ H2 Hummer. The primary cushioning unit utilized was Zoom Air, which served as a precedent for the entire Nike LeBron line until the Nike Air Max LeBron VII made the switch to Air Max cushioning. The AZG featured an upper constructed of leather and ballistic nylon; the White/Varsity Crimson was entirely leather while the All-Star “Wheat” Colourway was entirely nubuck. The sole captivating design cue was the faux-chrome bumper, which was important both visually and structurally; it acted as a heel stabilizer that prevented side-to-side movement. Other structural points of interest were the inner “bootie” and the Sphere temperature-regulating material. The Zoom Air, heel stabilizer, inner sock-liner, and Sphere material resulted in the Nike Air Zoom Generation being one of the most comfortable, well-ventilated shoes in the entire Nike LeBron line.
Only five colourways of the Nike Air Zoom Generation were released to the public. A colourway known as the “First Game” was released in limited quantities with “11-5-2003” – the date of his first Home game – stitched on the inner liner. A second colourway of white/black/red, which was the first pair he ever wore as a pro, saw a general, non-limited released, as did the all-black and all-white pair. An All-Star colourway resembling a work-boot was also released in mid-February. Special colourways were also produced, one for Christmas Day, a special All-Star edition, one for his time on Team USA, and another in a desert camouflage motif in 2006, but none of the four ever made it to a store shelf. Three low-top editions slowly but surely became popular choices for both the basketball court and the street.
Sales of the Nike Air Zoom Generation proved that Nike’s premature decision to sign LeBron James was one of their shrewdest business decisions of the decade; LeBron James lived beyond the hype, and the AZG followed suit by experience near sell-out sales numbers. The Nike Air Zoom Generation, without a doubt the least flashiest of the entire LeBron line, set the perfect tone for Nike to cultivate LeBron James into the sports-apparel powerhouse he is today.
Name: Nike Air Zoom Generation
Broad Launch Date: November, 5th, 2003
Retail Price: $110.00
- Nike Sphere inner bootie wicks moisture and maintains personal comfort and atmosphere
- Lightweight Phylon midsole with carbon fiber spring plate for support and less undue stress
- Zoom Air in forefoot and encapsulated Air Unit in heel
- Rubber outsole with herringbone pattern for traction and durability
Release Date: 11/05/2003
Color: White/White-Midnight Navy-Varsity Crimson
|Release Date: 12/20/2003
Color: White/White-Varsity Red-Black
|Release Date: 02/04/2004
Color: White/Varsity Crimson
Release Date: 02/13/2003
|Release Date: 04/17/2004
Color: Black/White-Varsity Crimson
|Release Date: 08/2004
Color: White/White-Black-Varsity Royal
|Release Date: 09/2004
Color: White/White-Metallic Silver
|Release Date: xx/xx/2004
Color: White/Midnight Navy-Varsity Crimson
Other Known Air Zoom Generation Releases/Samples:
“Olympic” AZG – Special colourway for LeBron James’ time during the 2004 Olympics
“Desert Camo” AZG – An unreleased sample originally set for a 2006 “Retro” effort of the AZG
“Christmas Laser” AZG – Unreleased special edition worn by LeBron James on Christmas Day
“Pink” AZG – Special White-Pink colourway made for LeBron James’ mother Gloria
“Black/Gold/Red” AZG – New colourway originally set for 2006 Retro release