Sixteen signature shoes in, and LeBron James is showing no signs of slowing down. The spotlight has been on his back throughout his entire career, but the light is no longer harsh. He’s parlayed that high-pressure platform to incite actual change in the world, starting with the I Promise school in his hometown of Akron, OH. He speaks out like no other superstar ever dares to, clapping back at the President of the United States when necessary. He understands the volume of his voice, and it’s been at the perfect pitch since he returned to Cleveland in 2015.
Throughout his evolution as a player and a man, LeBron has always had Nike by his side. As he embarks on what could be the final chapter of his NBA tenure, the design team is ensuring that they create some sick footwear at the tail end of career while preparing what will inevitably be something along the lines of a “LeBron Brand”. The focus is, of course, on the present, and the LeBron 16 is nothing short of impressive.
Jason Petrie is a name you should all be familiar with, but if you haven’t, here’s the jist. He’s been LeBron’s signature shoe designer since the seventh model, the undisputed turning point of the signature shoe line. He’s delivered the top tier product at the peak of the basketball shoe craze in the first half of the 2010s while designing a lower-priced parallel line called the LeBron Soldier (for which he doesn’t get enough credit for). Jason was appointed to the helm of Team LeBron just before things got really interesting; since the VII, LeBron left for Miami, returned to Cleveland, and signed a massive deal with LA, all while earning four more MVPs, winning three rings, encountering super-teams, and pioneering the greatest comeback in sports history. Jason’s been part of LeBron’s inner circle during all of that, gaining insight into his evolving likes and dislikes while handling the innovative pushes of the Nike brand and the changing landscape of sneaker trends.
The Nike LeBron 16 flexes some more innovative muscle in the new Battleknit 2.0, a super-durable upper that blends elements of knit and wovens to create an incredible forcefield around LeBron’s feet. According to Jason, Nike had to create new machines from scratch just to produce this specific type of knit, which suggests that we’ll see more of this in future Nike LeBron iterations. Gone is the ankle cuff from the previous model, but the effective height of the shoe is the same. The full-length Max unit has been slightly modified to feature an outrigger to further support the slightly lower height of the shoe.
To kick off the release of the LeBron 16, Nike will launch a “Starting Five” collection (to be revealed soon). It reflects the full team effort required to succeed, but also touches on LeBron’s ability to play all five positions on the court at any given time. The “Fresh Bred” colorway, which launches on September 20th, also represents the shooting guard position, while the black and red color-combo is a light nod to another great 2-guard.
Some additional design details on the LeBron 16 include the chiseled “Dunkman” logo on the heel; while that silhouette has been around since day 1, the hefty piece is a nod to Akron natives who tried to get a statue of LeBron erected at Saint Vincent-Saint Mary. The tongues and insoles of the LeBron 16 will also play a role in telling stories through colorways, as will the molded heel piece. The “Fresh Bred” features an image of the lion with red eyes; this sinister look is inspired by an unforgettable moment in during Game 6 of the Heat/Celtics series in which LeBron caught staring down his opponent.
The Nike LeBron 16 debuted at retail today in the “HFR” colorway. The “Fresh Bred” is set to release on September 20th, while the recently revealed “What The LeBron” is confirmed to drop sometime in September.