November 3, 2010 BY Aaron Kr.
When it came to creating the LeBron 8, Nike designer, Jason Petrie, had some significant hills to climb. Not only was he faced with the daunting task of topping the hugely popular Air Max LeBron VII, but during the tumultuous summer leading up to the LeBron 8 launch, the public’s perception of the Nike/NBA golden boy seemed to have taken a serious turn for the worse. Would LeBron’s unpopular decision to go to Miami be detrimental to the success of the Nike LeBron line, or will super-star power and a slick new shoe prevail once a little time has passed? Either way, there was little margin for error with the LeBron 8. The LeBron 7 took the line to new stratospheres of both aesthetics and performance, so expectations for the 8 were lofty to say the least. Add to it that now you’re faced with having to win back the consumers who’s feelings towards LeBron may have changed since they picked up their multiple pairs of LeBron 7’s.
What a difference a year makes. The Air Max LeBron VII instantly made Petrie a star in the sneaker design world, but before he could even bask in the success, it was time to get to work on the next year’s follow-up. With sneakers being designed so far ahead of their release, it was impossible to predict all the potential future obstacles when developing the successor to the LeBron 7. Even if he had known, Jason probably wouldn’t have done a thing different. But there’s little need to worry if you take the approach that he did when designing the LeBron 8 – figure out what worked last time and then make it even better. Then figure out what didn’t work so well and make that better too. Seems simple enough, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes into making that a reality.
With the Lebron 8 officially hitting retailers last week, we recently sat down with Jason to talk about the much-anticipated new shoe, as well as LeBron’s controversial decision, new team/home and the future of the Nike LeBron line. Keep reading for the full interview, complete with a look at some never before seen concept sketches and renderings for the LeBron 8. Thanks again to Jason for taking the time to sit down with Sneaker News, and stay tuned as we go further into the process behind the Nike LeBron 8.
Sneaker News: Before we even get to the LeBron 8, lets take it back to the controversial summer leading up to this release. What was your reaction to “The Decision”?
Jason Petrie: (Laughs) I was surprised… but then not so surprised, because it looked like he was dropping some hints that we just didn’t pick up on. Just like everyone else, I was expecting maybe somewhere different, and to hear Miami… They had kinda fallen off of my radar, so I was shocked.
SN: Did you guys at Nike have any inside scoop or did you hear the news on the ESPN special like the rest of the world?
JP: Yeah exactly. We had been around him right before that at his camp and you were hearing rumors about everything, every which way but loose. So you knew not to believe anything until LeBron actually said it. I know that even though we heard everything, we didn’t know anything! So it wound up being right along with everyone else that we found out.
SN: After the public backlash over what was considered an unpopular decision by what seemed like the majority of basketball fans, were you worried that the popularity of the LeBron sneaker line would take a hit?
JP: Well, I don’t know if worried is the word, but I definitely pondered the possibility. It took a little while for all that stuff to radiate a little more before we found out how much backlash there was, because immediately, you didn’t really know how much there was gonna be. And as it started building, I was like, ‘Could this have an effect? Will it have an effect?’ But I think, at least for me personally and the guys that work on the LeBron (design) team, we know what LeBron’s capable of, and we’ve been around LeBron enough to know the reasons why he would make a decision like that and what kind of guy he is, and know that he’s just gonna play basketball. And I think people are gonna forget real quick once they (the Heat) get to the mission at hand, so it was never something we dwelled on.