LeBron James is a professional basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Born in Akron, Ohio on December 30th, 1984, he is widely regarded as one of the best players in NBA history.
Currently in his 21st professional season, James was the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, getting selected by none other than the Cleveland Cavaliers. Prior to entering the League, he was a top high school prospect in the U.S.A., leading him to skip college and enter the professional scene directly after his senior year at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Ohio. Additionally, NIKE, Inc. recognized young LeBron’s talent, offering him a seven-year, $90 million USD endorsement deal before “the kid from Akron” played a single NBA game.
Between 2003 and 2010, James played for the Cavs, going on to be the franchise’s first player to win the NBA Rookie of the Year award. LBJ also earned a number of other accolades, including multiple NBA All-Star selections, Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Scoring champion. Throughout his first seven seasons, LBJ released seven signature shoes under the Nike LeBron banner. The Nike Air Zoom Generation led the charge, while the Nike LeBron 7 bookmarked his last season in Cleveland before taking his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat.
In a televised event known as “The Decision” held on July 8th, 2010, James announced that he’d be leaving his hometown team to play alongside Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in South Florida. Cleveland fans were not happy, but a move to the Heat enabled new possibilities for LeBron’s basketball shoe line. Led by Senior Footwear Designer Jason Petrie, the Nike LeBron 8 introduced new applications of Flywire technology and Nike Max Air 360 cushioning, as well as handfuls of Miami-inspired colorways. One of the sneaker’s most-coveted styles is “Pink Flash/Filament Green/Black” option dubbed “South Beach.” As would be the case with the subsequent Nike LeBron 9 to the 11, James’ eighth signature sneaker had various iterations that emerged during the main model’s life-cycle (mainly “Low” versions). The NBA Playoffs occasionally ushered in “Elite” editions of LBJ’s current shoe, which offered higher-quality materials (e.g. carbon fiber) for a higher price tag.
LeBron returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, after having won two NBA Championships with the Heat. Back in Ohio, James pledged to bring a title to the city, and he embarked on that journey with a 22-year-old Kyrie Irving. During his second tenure with the Cavs, “the kid from Akron” debuted five signature sneakers–the Nike LeBron 12 to the Nike LeBron 16. Yet, he wore the Nike LeBron Soldier 10 during the 2016 NBA Finals on his way to secure his third ring. (The Soldier series started in 2007 and has historically featured lockdown straps across a stripped-down upper. A “takedown” line–the Nike LeBron Witness–began in 2016, but hasn’t been worn in game.)
NIKE, Inc. and James unveiled the 17th sneaker in the LeBron collection ahead of the Ohio-native joining the Los Angeles Lakers on July 1st, 2018. Spearheaded by Petrie, the Nike LeBron 17 featured the biggest heel Max Air unit in a basketball shoe; Zoom Air pods in the forefoot; and a lightweight, but durable Knitposite (Flyknit combined with Foamposite). Unsurprisingly, a handful of LA-inspired colorways appeared on the sneaker throughout its lifecycle. A succeeding low-top version and the Nike LeBron 18 (the model he wore in winning his fourth NBA title in the 2019-20 NBA season) have followed suit, as is likely of King James’ 19th Nike shoe, whenever it debuts.
LeBron James’ sneaker legacy is extensive. Although retros of his Nike LeBron series have been performance-basketball-focused, they’ve garnered some interest in the lifestyle space. Having signed a lifetime contract with the Swoosh in 2016, the now-38-year-old will continue being a force within the signature athlete world, garnering attention for both his own products and those of his NIKE, Inc. extended family. James has been vocal about his love of Nike Air Max, which has led to special releases and Player-Exclusive (PE) pairs. All of his LeBrons have utilized Air-cushioning, and have led to advancements in the development and implementation of a technology originally created by Frank Rudy in 1978. Furthermore, exclusive colorways of James’ signature sneakers from 2009 to 2012 are often credited as having begun a widespread obsession with ultra-rare (i.e. one-of-one, PE, Friends & Family) basketball shoes. A few pairs of note include the LeBron 8 “MVP” and LeBron 9 “Watch The Throne.”
Now proffering the Beaverton-based brand’s longest running signature series, Jason Petrie headed an entirely new design process for LeBron’s 20th signature silhouette, inspired and tooled for the youth. With James’ sons Bronny and Bryce rising the ranks as some of the top hoopers in their respective classes, the Nike LeBron 20 became the first silhouette in his line to debut as a low-top, catering toward the next generation with doubled-up Air Zoom units and a breathable dimensional mesh upper.
Following up on the success of his first low-top silhouette, Nike continued the theme with a more premium aesthetic geared around the LeBron 21. Taking after the protective elements of an oyster shell that houses a pearl, the Nike LeBron 21 boats a buttery leather upper with lock down cables and a litany of mollusk inspirations. Underfoot, the silhouette follows the same exact recipe as the 20 featuring a top-loaded Zoom Air unit at the heel that sits within a full-length Cushlon 2.0 foam footbed.
As his game continues to age like a fine wine, so does The King’s on-court propositions, which you can learn more about via the stories below.