Thanks to an early kickstart from the show-stopping ‘South Beach’ edition, it didn’t take long for the Nike LeBron 8 to become one of the biggest hits of the Holiday 2010 season. LeBron’s eighth signature Nike shoe was proving to be a worthy successor to the wildly popular Air Max LeBron VII, but after only a handful of colorways hit stores, it was on to the next phase of the season and the next evolution of the LeBron 8. Beginning with the solid red Christmas edition, LeBron has been wearing the sleeker stripped-down V2 model since his Christmas Day matchup with Kobe and the Lakers, a symbolic statement that marks the next chapter in this year’s quest for LeBron’s first ring.
Last year, we were introduced to the concept of providing an alternate version of a signature shoe for the playoffs with the LeBron VII PS (Post Season). For the LeBron 8, lead designer Jason Petrie and the Nike creative team decided that the notion could be explored further, eventually leading to the idea to break down the season even more in hopes of providing LeBron with an extra edge at the times in the year when he needs it most. The end result of those preliminary conversations was the creation of three different versions of the LeBron 8, with each one specifically engineered to mirror the physical and mental transformations that LeBron experiences over the course of the regular season and playoffs.
With a leaner look and feel, the LeBron 8 V2 sheds the luxury of the V1 in favor of an all-out technical approach, all while remaining true to the original aesthetic of the V1. The choice to pursue the idea of multiple in-season sneaker switches is something we’ve never really seen within a signature basketball line, but so far, it seems to be agreeing with LeBron, as well as consumers. Petrie and the folks at Nike have never been shy about pushing boundaries and trying new things, so perhaps this formula could be the future of providing athletes with the optimal performance edge throughout the duration of a long and grueling season. We recently sat down with Jason to discuss the technical aspects of the LeBron 8 V2, as well as the inspiration behind it and the latest dirt on some upcoming colorways. Keep reading for the full Nike LeBron 8 V2 interview with Jason Petrie and some never-before-seen sketches and renderings.
Sneaker News: First and foremost, congrats on the LeBron 8 being chosen the favorite signature basketball shoe of 2010 in our year-end readers poll!
Jason Petrie: Yeah I saw that! We definitely appreciate it. That’s cool.
SN: Obviously the LeBron 7 left some big shoes to fill. With the first leg of LeBron 8 releases under your belt, have you guys been pleased with the initial success of the 8?
JP: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, the South Beach, the Christmas, actually all the colorways have done pretty well. We knew it had to do well, so I’ve just been really pleased to see it doing what we hoped it would do.
SN: Before we get into the V2, will we be seeing any more colorways of the Version 1 or has that installment of the LeBron 8 series run its course?
JP: Yeah, it’s run its course for the season. It was really only meant to go up until Christmas Day, right up to around this time of year, so that’s done unless LeBron decides something different. Right now it’s done, but there may be an opportunity for a special pack or something like that. Like, say he wins (a championship), you may see it again in the future, but there’s nothing scheduled right now. Could be, could not be. It’s yet to be determined.
SN: Maybe some type of pack with all three versions of the 8 to commemorate a championship or an MVP award?
JP: That’s my dream. I always wanted to do all three of them in a similar colorway so you can really see the transformation. It just depends on what happens with the season and how the shoe does. If there’s interest in that, we’ve got some ideas kickin’ around. So it may be possible, but who knows if it’ll come to life. It’s just an idea at this point, but I think it would be cool though.
SN: The idea of releasing a high profile athlete’s signature model in 3 different phases is pretty unprecedented, not to mention ambitious. How did the concept to release three versions of the LeBron 8 come about?
JP: Well, the original spark came from LeBron talking about there being an 82 game and a 28 game season and the idea of how he looks at an NBA season as literally being two different seasons with two totally different mindsets. So springing from that and through some more conversations with him and with the creative team here, we thought of the idea of providing LeBron with a shoe for the playoffs, and you saw that with the LeBron 7 PS. He’s kind of always had that with the Soldier before, but when we switched it to the PS, that was the first hint towards what was to come. Those shoes were obviously related. They were kinda built together and linked together, but they were different solutions to the different mindsets.
SN: So the PS last year laid the groundwork for the 3-phase concept for the 8?
JP: Yeah and we just wanted to expand on that and say ‘Hey, can we break the season up even further based on what’s going on with LeBron?’ From day 1 of training camp and the pre-season, all the way up to the start of the season, All-Star Game, playoffs… So the idea was – when you come into training camp, your body is different than it is at the end of the season. Your mindset is different. You’re getting to know new teammates. You’re learning new plays and incorporating new things. So the V1 was like coming through with your brand new car showing off a little bit. You know, with that shoe you’ve got really nice leather mixed with technology like that Bentley coming through super fast with a lot of horsepower, but it’s beautifully detailed and crafted.
The whole shoe has that different feel to it, and its leading off, so as you go through the season, you get more in tune with your team, you memorize those plays, you know your spots on the floor and your roles and you’re really fine-tuning. And as your body is getting leaner, that’s what we wanted the shoe (V2) to represent. Something to give LeBron that extra boost in the doldrums of the season when you’re in Milwaukee on a Wednesday night and its 20 below. It’s like that benefit when you train in a shoe that has a little more weight to it. Because then when you play in something lighter, you feel lighter and you get a little more of a boost. And not that it’s that literal, but that’s kinda the thought process behind it.
SN: So the different stages are meant to meet LeBron’s physical needs as the season progresses?
JP: We just wanted the shoe to evolve with LeBron, and there’s a bunch of different ways we could’ve done it. We talked about designing a totally different shoe for each one of those stages, but as the conversation went on, we liked the notion of seeing the shoe transform or morph in front of you. Originally, we were even thinking about doing more than three shoes so you could really see the change from this kind of early season Aston Martin luxury car to something at the end of the season where it’s the total race car version of the same car at LeMans. Totally carbon-fibered, bigger, engine with more horsepower, race wheels. All that kinda good stuff, but still with the essence of that original car. So that’s one side of the genesis and that just really sprung from LeBron’s comment about there being different seasons and how he prepares. And we just wanted to see if we could break down the experience and let the shoe and the consumer change over the course of the season just like LeBron.
SN: Is the concept of different stages of the shoe something that we’ll see more of moving forward with the LeBron 9?
JP: I don’t know. I can’t say. I think with the “82-28” concept, providing him with a shoe for the playoffs is something that we’ve adopted and that’s something that LeBron wants and something that we’ll continue to do for as long as he feels that it’s working for him. So the story for this season was really going deep into that evolution, but I think what we also wanted to do was show LeBron as the style icon as well as the performance icon. You’re seeing the transformation of how we talk about LeBron and Nike from “style and performance” to “style through performance.” You know, like the LeBron 7 has a lot of classic elements wrapping the performance elements, and then with the PS, we took it more technical. And then we started the 8 technical, but then shrouded it in leather and a kinda dressed-up mentality. And now (with the V2) its shedding that and going supremely technical and you can clearly visually see that literal transformation in the technical differences between the V1 and V2 already.
And we’re gonna keeping pushing LeBron towards that technical edge. He’s gonna be our leader as we go off into this new era and he’ll be showcasing Nike’s pinnacle technologies, and that transformation is already happening now with the 8. But as we go forward, we’ll see what happens. The idea of the shoe transforming might not be necessary as our new solutions for building the shoes may provide the ultimate benefit for every moment of that season. This time, we got really specific with how we built the 8, dividing the shoe up into three different segments, but we don’t have to do that every time. There may be other solutions to get the same benefits all into one shoe, or two shoes, or five shoes. We’re always looking for how to eek out that extra bit of advantage for LeBron and the performance of his shoes. So if we feel like it helps, we’ll give it a shot.
SN: So how does the concept of the “lion on the hunt” literally translate into the different versions of the shoe?
JP: Well, that kinda coincided with what we were talking about with breaking up the season into different parts. As we were building that story, we always look for similarities and things that are synonymous with our athletes, and of course with LeBron, it’s the lion – the king of the jungle. That’s something that he takes pride in and has become part of his identity here. So as these kind of organic discussions go on, the notion of the lion on the hunt came about and how there’s really these different parts of that hunt. So the lion is like LeBron on the hunt for that ring and its like, first the lion is stalking its prey, looking out over the savanna to see who he’s gonna go after. And next he spots it and takes off like a bullet, and it’s all straight out performance – eyes on the prize. Then finally, he sinks his claws in and gets what he’s been after – going in for the kill. It just kinda lined up perfectly with the story we were telling and what was going on on-court. And we just thought it was a cool way to deepen the story of LeBron and the notion of the lion, so each of the versions of the shoe represent those moments – the stalk, the chase and the kill.
SN: Aside from just the visual appearance, can you give us a little rundown of the major tech differences between the V1 and the V2 models?
JP: Well, first of all, they’re both built on the same Air bag and midsole unit, but we did a slight little twist on the V2 where we exposed the Air unit on the bottom and opened that window up, as opposed to the synthetic treatment that we had on the V1. I guess that’s not really a tech feature, but the upper on the Version 1 is built around this dress shoe notion – beautiful leathers with these technical parts that lock you into key areas in the forefoot and heel to help keep your foot on the footbed. So it’s like natural materials that have been reinforced in those key areas, so there’s a little more padding in there. The foam’s a little thicker and the performance stuff is still in there. It’s just kinda shrouded and wrapped in this luxurious finish.
So with the V2, it’s like going from that leather lined interior to like a carbon-fiber interior. Like a normal seat in a Cadillac to a Recaro seat in a Porsche. The leather goes away and you’re really stripping away and seeing the performance skeleton of the shoe a little bit more. Now that’s not what was really under the V1, but you’re now seeing through this more breathable composite material, and you can see that it’s an all-technical upper as opposed to just those technical zones. The entire upper has been constructed in this monocot way where it’s all pressed together into one unibody composite, so you lose a lot of weight and bulk by just using the Flywire composite throughout the entire shoe instead of just in certain zones. That’s really where you get most of the weight loss and the different feel and look of the shoe.
SN: Are there any features or aspects of the V2 that haven’t really been spotlighted that you’d like to get out there?
JP: I think an important one is that I’ve heard a couple people saying that it’s Torch material underneath, but it’s definitely not Torch. It’s a much more complicated composite material that we actually had to work on and develop specifically for basketball for quite a while. It’s actually a lot thinner than Torch and provides some different benefits. It’s something unique to the shoe that we did for the first time.
Other than that, I’m just anticipating seeing how it does. I’ve heard some things about the colors… That we didn’t bring enough crazy colorways, but I feel like we’re putting some pretty hearty ones out there. We’ve gotta cover him on court and still bring some energy as well.
SN: We’ve already seen some upcoming CWs like the grey, the navy, the ‘Entourage’, the Summit Lake, the All-Star. I know you can’t give away too much, but will there be any other colorways releasing that we may not know about?
JP: To my knowledge, that’s pretty much all the V2’s that are gonna be released. I think you guys may have seen them all by now. There may be an opportunity for one more special one, possibly around All-Star, but that remains to be seen.
SN: In your Facebook chat the other day, you mentioned that a Dolphins colorway of the V2 was created but probably won’t release. Is that because it’s too close to the ‘Pre-Heat’ vibe?
JP: Well, it’s just that we’re still figuring out Miami and LeBron is still figuring out Miami and we just had a lot of other good colors and other stories that we wanted to tell. So since we did the South Beach thing already, we didn’t wanna come back to it so soon in that way. It just didn’t feel right for the rest of what we were trying to do. It looked sick, but we did probably twenty colorways and they all looked amazing. So we had to make some cuts somewhere I guess. (Laughs)
SN: Okay, so I’ve gotta ask because I know our readers want to know – every year, everyone anxiously waits for the annual Dunkman edition of the LeBron. Can you tell us which version of the 8 is getting the Dunkman treatment this year? And if that’s top secret, can you at least confirm that there is a Dunkman version of the LeBron 8 on the way?
JP: You know I love Dunkmans so… It won’t be Version 1 or Version 2. I can tell you that. Although that V1 sample that’s out there is pretty sick looking. There’s the Dark Grey/Black version of the V2 with a little bit of Electric Green on it, so that’s a little hint. You remember last year’s Dunkman was black and green. Well, this V2 colorway sort of hints at the Dunkman to come. That’s why you see that little bit of green on what would normally just be a black/grey shoe. It’s showing that the time is coming so… That’s about all I can give you. (Laughs)
SN: You referenced that Dunkman-looking sample version of the V1 that we saw from Clark Kent. Who has a better collection of LeBron samples between you and Clark?
JP: (Laughs) Well, I mean it’s gotta be me because I’ve got everything and he’s just got some tidbits, but the thing is, he gets them in his size! I don’t always get that. (Laughs) He’s got some nice ones though. That Dunkman is definitely an ill one. I’m hoping to get that one before it’s all said and done. He’s got that one up on me, but I’ve got a couple up on him too so…
SN: Have you guys at Nike Basketball determined any correlation between the start of LeBron wearing the V2 and the Heat becoming pretty much unstoppable?
JP: (Laughing) It was all part of the master plan! Things are working out in a way even we couldn’t have planned so far, and it’s been great! I’m just happy that LeBron seems to be enjoying playing in the shoe and I’m looking forward to the remainder of his time in the V2 and the next transformation to come. After that, I’m just excited to see how everything plays out.
SN: When we last spoke about the v1, we were only a week or 2 into the season. Now that a few months have passed, what’s your reaction to what you’ve seen from the early days of LeBron as a member of the Heat?
JP: It was tough to watch and tough to hear so much bad stuff for a while at the beginning, just knowing that crew and what good guys they are and that they’re just trying to do what’s right for them. It was hard, but I knew that they (the Heat) were gonna get it. LeBron is too determined and just too damn good for that not to work and D-Wade is the same way. And there’s smarter people than the people writing articles and posting on message boards that work that out. At the end of the day, you have to believe in the player and I believe LeBron knows what he’s doing.
And if not, hey, it’s not my job to even worry about that. I just wanna make sure that he’s taken care of on-court, so it’s great to see him doing well and the shoe doing well. I never liked the Heat, but I sure do now, and it’s fun to watch them on this run right now. I’ve got the game tonight recording and I can’t wait to get home and see how they do against Blake Griffin! I’m just glad they made it through that tough time, but there’s still a long way to go. Once the playoffs hit, who knows? Because last year, Cleveland was nasty at this point in the year too, so…
SN: That remains to be seen, but we’ll revisit the topic when we sit down again in a few months to get the lowdown on the PS.