Upon Michael Jordan’s official retirement from the game at the end of the 2003 NBA season, Nike was in search for a successor worthy enough to carry on the torch that Jordan so effortlessly upheld. The task was easier said than done, as Nike’s other signature shoe endeavors with other popular professional athletes fell considerably short of Jordan Brand’s success. However, an ever-growing hype around a high-school prospect out of Akron, Ohio caught Nike’s attention. His name? LeBron James. Not only did James have the size, speed, and overall talent to have be successful in the league, he also possessed a charisma that could elevate him into the upper echelon of market icons.
After LeBron James was selected first overall in the June 2003 NBA Draft, Nike signed LeBron James to a $90 million contract before he ever set foot on a professional hardwood court. What could’ve been deemed a premature action is now considered one of the shrewdest business decisions in Nike’s history. Now in his eight season, LeBron James has racked up achievements and awards alongside a growing sneaker following since the inception of the first LeBron signature shoe – the Nike Air Zoom Generation. Each new season brought along a new numbered design that carried its own design concept and aesthetic inspiration, with compounding technological advances further raising the bar that only Nike is capable of surpassing.
For the general public, LeBron James’ arrival could not have come at a better time. Nike has cultivated a budding career into a dominating force, and each passing year Nike and LeBron have paired up to meticulously fill out the blueprint laid out by Michael Jordan. But like LeBron James, Nike is about leadership and shattering conventional norms; what’s in store for the upcoming years can only be imagined.
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