LeBron James emerged as a phenom in Akron as a nationally-recognized player for St. Vincent – St. Mary. He became a superstar in Cleveland, winning MVPs and Gold Medals with the Cavaliers. In Miami, he became a Champion, leading the Heat to two straight. LeBron James’ rise to legend-status can be tracked by specific regions, but here in the U.S., we often forget LeBron’s meteoric rise to fame in China, where the basketball crazed country has made the world’s best ballers like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant into god-like beings. LeBron James definitely belongs in that club, and over the last decade, Nike has taken a concerted effort in bringing a special treat to a country boasting the largest population in the world.
In light of today’s official unveiling of the Nike LeBron 11 “Terracotta Warrior”, we’ve decided to take a look back at all the “China” releases from within the LeBron signature line. Nike went through some great lengths in presenting these shoes with reverence to the concept, with finely crafted boxes, individually numbered pairs, incredible graphics, and inspirations from deep within Chinese history and culture ingrained into the design of the shoe. If you’re not familiar with the history of “China” LeBrons by Nike, read on below and stay tuned for the official launch of the “Terracotta” LeBron 11 this October 1st.
Nike Zoom LeBron II “Chamber of Fear” – 2004
Nike embarked on the “Chamber of Fear” campaign, which circled around LeBron James’ heroic rise above obstacles like “Hype” and “Complacency”. This special edition, which never released to the public, kicked off the streak of China-inspired kicks with a traditional White/Red colorway with the “Chamber of Fear” detailing on the ankle strap.
Nike Zoom LeBron III “China” – 2005
Nike Basketball followed up the “Chamber of Fear” by going consistent with the White/Red composition on the Zoom LeBron III. These were limited to just 1,000 units and came housed in an incredible golden box with China-specific embroidery and luxurious velvet interiors.
Nike Zoom LeBron IV “China” – 2006
The White/Red shines through again for the 2006 rendition of the LeBron “China” release. Hints of gold and a large wooden box highlighted this incredible release.
Nike Zoom LeBron V “China” – 2007
Nike focused on lasered imagery for the fifth “China” LeBron sneaker, with graphics of the Asian landscape adorning the upper. Packaged in a special edition wooden package with a gold pouch, the Nike Zoom LeBron V “China” was limited to 3,750 pairs and stands as a hot collectors item today.
Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier II “China” – 2008
Nike switched up the script and went with the Nike Zoom LeBron Soldier II as the “China” release. This model is what LeBron for the majority of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Nike Air Max LeBron VII “China Moon” – 2009
Nike ditched the traditional white/red for the LeBron VII and settled with a refined White/Gold colorway for the 2009 installment. Special graphics on the medial heel highlighted this astounding release and kicked off a series of popular LeBron VII releases.
Nike LeBron 8 “China” – 2010
…and we’re back. For the eighth LeBron shoe, Nike used the tongue to create a China-inspired lion logo to replace the LeBron Lion logo on the tongue. Special pendants were also featured on the heel. A “light” version of the China shoe (one without the special logo and pendants) released in wider distribution.
Nike LeBron 9 “Blue Flame” – 2011
Kicking off the LeBron 9 season was the “Blue Flame” colorway of the sneaker. It used the tongue and Flywire panel at the mid-foot as the canvas for the flame dragon graphic. These first released in China in very limited numbers (an insanely limited version with a special box was released), and was soon followed by a global release.
Nike LeBron X “Cutting Jade” – 2012
The Jade stone, near and dear to the culture of China, was the focus of last year’s release. This one wasn’t nearly as limited as its predecessors, but was still a hot commodity when it released. The “Jade” was also a bit of an aberration to the “Diamond” concept behind the LeBron X.
Nike LeBron 11 “Terracotta Warrior” – 2013
This year’s Nike LeBron “China” release is inspired by the traditional Terracotta Warrior figures. The purple, teal, and red hints are a not to Bronze Age art. The Terracotta LeBron 11 will release in China on October 1st, followed by a global release on November 27th.