In the early 2000’s, basketball sneakers, as a collective whole, was in desperate search of a fresh face to rejuvenate the horizon of player-branded shoes. Michael Jordan retired for good in 2003 and the repetitive and underwhelming Shox signatures of the Vince Carter label didn’t last beyond a fifth model; simply put, there was no available hard-hitting Nike Basketball sneaker bearing a player’s name, and though Nike was ready to rebuild a superhero in the Jordan blueprint, there was no player that was worthy of sneaker immortality. The league’s top back-court players (traditionally the best sneaker pitch-men) like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Steve Francis, etc. were all nabbed by rival brands, so Nike went all-in in the LeBron James sweepstakes when it signed the unproven yet once-in-a-generation high-school talent to an unprecedented $87 million contract.
So Nike is entering relatively unfamiliar territory here: the Nike LeBron series, born in 2003, enters a milestone 10th model with the upcoming release of the Nike LeBron X. No other Nike signature shoe not named Jordan has gone on for this long, and while Kobe Bryant has more than ten overall signature sneakers and will likely reached a Zoom Kobe X in 2015, the count to ten for LeBron hasn’t been one of celebratory championship tales like his comparative rivals were. Some additional truths about the Nike LeBron is that the continuity of designs in the series as a whole wasn’t as firm as the Air Jordan and Zoom Kobe was and ‘The Decision’ forced Nike into a strange position where it had to de-villainize its star athlete with an audacious marketing strategy in ‘Rise’. There wasn’t much doubt that the LeBron would reach ten signatures and the LeBron is clearly the prime-time Nike Basketball shoe, but it was hardly a steady climb to the top and the saga was in dire need of a heroic tale.
Of course, winning changes everything; If you could ask LeBron in June about the sudden removal of weight from off his shoulders, his answer would probably be similar to Michael’s in ’91 and Kobe’s in ’09 (his first in the post-Shaq era). What’s obviously different about the LeBron X is that the story surrounding it will be how LeBron rose to be a Champion, and although Jason Petrie completed the Nike LeBron X before the Finals ended and the anatomy of the Nike LeBron XI will probably have some of that 2012 Championship flavor to it, the LeBron X will ultimately be recognized for this landmark in LeBron’s career (and throw in the 10th Anniversary aspect and we may have one of the grandest years of LeBron ever) when the LeBron series will inevitably be recollected in the future.
The LeBron X, as you see here in a ‘Floridians’-like colorway, definitely has that continuity in design we alluded to before; it clearly draws on the earlier Petrie designs like the LeBron VII and 8 while employing Nike’s latest innovations like Dynamic Flywire on a chiseled Hyperfuse shell and a full-length visible Zoom Air cushion, while the reverse-Swoosh on the heel gives the it a rebellious flavor. An ‘X’ is embedded on the heel of the outsole, acting as a four-way directional flexion pod. The LeBron X isn’t for a debut for at least another month and will likely lead off in the traditional Black/Red colorway, but this is the first true taste we’re getting of what may be the most significant LeBron shoe to date; more of the LeBron X below, so take a look and be sure to stick with Sneaker News for more of the unfolding LeBron X saga. Photos: pure-sole