November 17, 2011 BY Aaron Kr.
If Jason Petrie wasn’t designing LeBron’s sneakers for Nike, there’s a good chance he’d be on a computer somewhere surfing the sneaker sites for a look at the latest kicks, just like you. As a matter of fact, Jason is still doing that anyway, because unlike many of his trailblazing design predecessors at Nike, he has grown up living and breathing not only design, but also the history and culture surrounding the sneaker game. When Bruce Kilgore was drafting up the Air Force 1 and Tinker Hatfield was designing just about every other classic Nike shoe you love, there really was no tangible sneaker culture, no such word as “sneakerhead” and nowhere near the exchange of information that we see today in the internet age. Those pioneers created shoes that attracted a ravenous fanbase of Swoosh-crazed consumers, and as a result, paved the way for a new wave of creative forces that are now rising to prominence in the sneaker industry. Jason Petrie is one of the leaders of this bold new generation of Nike designers, equipped with not only the necessary technical skills, but just as important, an understanding of the game and an impassioned reverence for the sneaker masterpieces that came before them. Shoes for the people, by the people.
Petrie approaches his work with his finger firmly on the pulse and a humble appreciation for those who spend their hard earned money on the shoes that he brings to life. As lead designer for the Nike LeBron line, he has been entrusted with one of the brand’s hottest commodities and no one takes that responsibility more seriously. With two huge hits under his belt with the LeBron 7 and 8, the pressure is only getting greater every time he sits down to develop the next shoe. As with the previous two, the LeBron 9 was not immediately embraced by the always scrutinous sneaker community, but just like with the others, it didn’t seem to take long for people to come around. We recently sat down with Jason to chat about the NBA lockout, South Beach resale prices and of course, the Nike LeBron 9. Keep reading for the full interview, featuring some juicy LeBron 9 sample pics and some interesting insight into why the LeBron 9 is designed like an odd number and how early versions of the shoe featured Foamposite on the upper!
Sneaker News: When we last interviewed you for the LeBron 8 release, we were fresh off “the decision” and there was a lot of LeBron-to-Miami backlash in the air. Now for the release of the LeBron 9, we’re in the middle of an NBA lockout. How do some of these off the court situations affect the way you approach the LeBron line or do they not even factor in?
Jason Petrie: Well, they don’t really factor in, because they happen so far after the shoe is created. With the LeBron 9, we knew there was a possibility that the lockout might be coming, so we came up with some contingency plans. That’s kinda why you see the college pack. It’s a way to get the shoe out there a little bit more with some universities that he likes and has an association with. So just in case there was no NBA season, we could still be showing it off.
So, we do think about it, but really, we still go through as if there’s gonna be a season. And with the transition to the Heat (with the LeBron 8), we knew that his contract was up and knew that he was thinking about going somewhere, but we still didn’t know the answer until the decision day. And by that time, a lot of the shoe was already finished, so what we did was try to incorporate more of that storytelling into his shoe and bring that to life. But because we’re usually a year and a half out, we gotta just keep plugging away and be as prepared as we can for whatever may come along.
SN: Are you frustrated over the lockout or is it just a chance to get more creative and do some outside the box things as a result?
JP: No, absolutely I’m frustrated. You know, I’m saddened because I just miss basketball, and I think as an entire team at Nike Basketball, that’s our lifeblood. College and pro hoops are something that we look forward to and that first game of the year is like Christmas Day to us. So from that aspect, it’s not the best situation and we just wish there was some basketball on. To see the games and see the players play – and not just our own guys. We just love the sport.
It’s a shame because we just feel like we have so many amazing stories with the LeBron 9. You’ve already seen some crazy colors and there’s these stories that we wanna get out there and wanna tell more, but without the guys playing, it becomes a little tougher. It’s a little disappointing, but I feel like they’ll get there eventually, and in the meantime, we’ve just gotta make sure we have LeBrons ready for when it does start. We’re always preparing and always continuing to go as if there is gonna be a season, because you’ve gotta be ready at the drop of a hat.