After a couple of weeks of voting, the results are in for the Sneaker News March Madness Nike LeBron Tournament. LeBron’s signature line taking its place in our annual tourney is a sign of his progression and how his signature line has ascended to the premier spot in basketball performance. This year’s bracket followed the original ultimate grail competition, two years focusing on different Air Jordan eras and last year’s Foamposite lineup. The fact that any man other than Michael could fill four regions by himself is further evidence of the King’s status.
In a result that many would have predicted (it was a #1 seed, after all), you selected the ‘South Beach’ Nike LeBron 8 as the winner. This pair has such a mystique that even those who are just now getting into sneakers respect its place in the game as one of the most coveted and important releases. Let’s take the occasion of this victory as an opportunity to go back and examine the historical context that makes this particular colorway so fascinating, and when your reach the end, let us know what you think about the South Beach being crowned King of LeBrons.
LeBron Leaves for Miami
After winning back to back MVP awards, the Air Max LeBron VII had risen to become LeBron’s most popular signature to date. But even as the league’s Most Valuable Player, there was the sense that James would need to do more to both secure his basketball legacy and make his signature model the industry standard.
After years of speculation and a season filled with questions about his future, LeBron James made his choice known in the most public way possible. ‘The Decision’ was a one hour TV special aired on ESPN that made his move to Miami the single most notorious free agent signing in sports history. The stage was set with all eyes on LBJ in MIA, but he (and designer Jason Petrie) would have to produce results to seize the opportunity.
The ‘Pre-Heat’ is Born.
When images of the ‘South Beach’ LeBron 8 first surfaced in October 2010, they were pegged with the moniker ‘Pre-Heat’, which finds a middle ground between LeBron’s career transition and the process of attracting public attention to the upcoming signature model. The previous year’s VII had its own pre-release promotion but thanks to the controversy surrounding ‘The Decision’ and the utterly dope design, ‘Pre-Heat’, now official terminology within Nike, has stuck around in reference to coveted limited edition debut releases for LeBron’s own sigs 9 through 11 as well as Kevin Durant’s most recent.
Nike Says “Deal With It”
More than just a guy moving to a new city for a career opportunity, ‘The Decision’ and its aftermath gave the public a new lens through which to examine some timely topics. The balance between loyalty and personal evolution was examined in a 90 second commercial called ‘Rise’, which put the viewer in LeBron’s shoes for a set of self-examining questions that re-contextualized the whole free agency episode.
This commercial didn’t single-handedly change the growing sentiment of LeBron as a sort of heel character (his transcendent talent took care of that), but it did allow anyone who cares to think deeply to consider another side of the story. Particularly with all his accomplishments in Miami, even those die-hard Cavs fans would have to admit their local son did indeed ascend to the pantheon of all-timers after leaving town. Sometimes things get messy and people need a change. This ordeal remains as evidence that those turning points are potentially doors open to the next level of greatness.
What’s more is that the LeBron 8 “South Beach” was a loud message of teal and pink that relayed a message or Florida pride. Whether you like it or now, LeBron James has moved on to greener (or “teal-er”) pastures.
South Beach Becomes an Industry Trend
The ‘South Beach’ LeBron 8 was so coveted, such a milestone release for this generation, that just about any time you see pink along with teal or turquoise on a sneaker, that analogy is all but certain to pop up. People started swapping in pink laces on blue/green kicks, we saw every footwear brand mimic the look of the day and even LeBron’s own line kept the ball rolling . . .
Nike Can’t Resist a Sequel
Don Johnson had a cameo in ‘Rise’ so it was only natural to call the follow-up to the ‘South Beach’ 8 the ‘Miami Vice’ 9 Elite. Miami was already growing in its reputation as America’s sexiest city, so with all the attention from ‘The Decision’ and the championships that followed, these forces great synergy and the SB palette’s prolific output in the early 2010s stands as one record of the South Florida city’s ongoing glory days. Together, these colorways (the first arrived prior to the 2011 Finals loss, the other dropped days before the 2012 victory) also represent LeBron’s determination to achieve championship glory, to conquer uncharted territory.
LeBron May Be King, But South Beach is the Savior
There is no shortage of great colorways in the Nike LeBron legacy. You confirmed the popular sentiment that this pair is the single greatest of them all in naming it as the winner of the Sneaker News March Madness Nike LeBron Tournament. Representing turning points for both LeBron James’ basketball career and his signature product line, the ‘South Beach’ 8 was not just a monumental release, it will also be remembered as the moment when the Nike LeBron line ascended into a whole new stratosphere.