Sneakers play a huge part of the NBA culture, with shoe game being nearly as important to some as their own performances on the court. Having a signature shoe is the goal of nearly all who step foot in the NBA but there are only a select few that have the privilege of being able to have their own shoe made and sold under their name.
It is saved for the very elite in the game, with the current list of NBA stars that have their own signature shoe including Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antentokounmpo, James Harden, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and, of course, LeBron James.
Even at the age of 36, James is still the biggest active name in basketball today and his popularity conveys in the shoe market, with fans of the former St. Vincent-St. Mary’s star wanting to rep the same sneaker as their idol.
James was thrust into the spotlight from an early age having been dubbed ‘The Chosen One’ on a Sports Illustrated front cover and naturally drew huge attention for endorsements, particularly from the biggest sporting brands.
He was heavily touted by Adidas, Reebok and Nike and it was the latter who managed to secure his services. Upon leaving high school and entering the NBA as the first overall pick with the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron signed a $90m deal with Nike – the biggest contract ever earned by an NBA rookie.
It’s fair to say the deal has been a success for parties and James has since signed a lifetime deal with Nike back in 2015, which is reportedly worth an incredible $1 billion. Now with the Los Angeles Lakers and a four-time NBA Champion, MVP and Finals MVP, he is still looking to add to his list of accolades before retiring.
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Here, we will be taking a closer look at LeBron’s shoe line through the years in the NBA and the success he has had in each featured shoe.
Nike Air Zoom Generation LeBron 1
The first signature shoe of James’ career is the Nike Air Zoom Generation LeBron 1 and as it’s the first, holds a special place in the hearts of many. Produced with the latest Nike Air Zoom technology at the time, it became renowned for its comfort and came with seven different colourways.
Another reason why this shoe is held in such high regard is due to the fact it was the one that James wore as he won Rookie of the Year for the 2003/04 season, narrowly edging out close friend and Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony.
Nike Zoom LeBron 3
There were 10 different colourways made available for the Nike Zoom LeBron 3 as he made his first appearance in the NBA Playoffs.
This was also the shoe that James wore during his career-high season for points per game as he averaged 31.4 for the regular season before then being defeated by the Detroit Pistons in the second round of the Playoffs.
Nike Zoom LeBron 4
The Nike Zoom LeBron 4 will always be remembered as the shoe released in the first season that he made it to the NBA Finals. LeBron dragged the Cavaliers through all that stood in his way in the Eastern Conference and although they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs, his stock across the league rose exponentially.
This was also the first shoe in the LeBron series that came packed with a full-length Air Zoom cushioning throughout.
Nike Zoom LeBron 6
The 2008/09 season was touted by most as the year that James would meet Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant in the NBA Finals, but defeat in the Eastern Conference Finals denied us all the dream matchup.
The LeBron 6 took clear inspiration from the Nike Air Force 1 High and the most memorable moment from it came from James’ dramatic buzzer-beating game winner against the Magic.
Nike Zoom LeBron 8
Following the controversial ‘Decision’ that saw James leave the Cavaliers to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat, Nike released the Air Max Zoom LeBron 8. To say the release of the shoe was slightly overlooked by other ongoings would be an overwhelming understatement, despite coming with a 360-degree Max Air unit and Flyknit technology.
James’ season ended in disappointment as his poor showing in the NBA Finals resulted in the Heat losing to the Dallas Mavericks.
Nike Zoom LeBron 9
The release of the Nike Zoom LeBron 9 is remembered best for two things: it was the shoe that James wore as he won his first NBA title and the first shoe released by Nike to feature both Hyperfuse and Flyknit technologies. Clearly the technologies worked for James as he led the Heat to the first of back-to-back NBA titles.
Nike Zoom LeBron X
The tenth anniversary of LeBron and Nike’s partnership was celebrated with the release of the Nike Zoom LeBron X. He marked the occasion by winning another NBA Championship as the Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs in an epic seven-game series.
Nike Zoom LeBron 13
The LeBron 13 release will always be intertwined with the most famous season of James’ career. Having returned back to Cleveland in the summer of 2014, he guided the franchise to their first NBA title in his second season back in Ohio after defeating the 73-9 Golden State Warriors.
The victory was made even more historic by the fact they came back from 3-1 down in the series, becoming the first team to do so in NBA Finals history.
Nike Zoom LeBron 17
At the time of writing, the LeBron 17s are the only shoe in which James has won the NBA title as a Los Angeles Laker. He did so in the notorious NBA bubble after the regular season was shut down due to the pandemic, as the Lakers outlasted every other team in Florida.
It was also a significant moment for the technology behind the shoe as the ever evolving Battleknit tech helped to hold the foot down, while the react foam assisted with speed and support.