The Nike LeBron 18 dropped last month, the latest addition to nearly 20 years of shoes from King James.
When LeBron James entered the NBA Draft straight out of high school in 2003, Nike signed the 18-year-old to a $90 million shoe deal. The Swoosh won a bidding war for James, outlasting a large offer from Reebok and Adidas running a billboard campaign in Akron to curry his favor.
This was all before he stepped on a professional court.
Obviously, that investment has paid itself off and then some over the almost two decades LeBron James has spent making shoes under the Nike umbrella. He’s now on a lifetime deal with the brand, so we can expect plenty of LeBron James kicks in the coming years, surely further cementing his name among the best basketball sneaker players of all time.
His fresh 2020 Nike LeBron 18 came out in September, and in celebration of King James winning his fourth NBA championship with his third different team this month, we’re looking back at his most recent release and some of the best kicks James delivered in the previous 17 years.
Nike LeBron 18 – 2020
The youngest member of the Nike LeBron line does cushioning a little differently. Air Max technology is used in the heel, and it integrates with a Zoom Air Bag, eliminating foam and creating the first cushioning arrangement of its time within the brand. This shoe goes along with the theme of Nike LeBron sneakers: cushion, cushion, and more cushion.
The look of the Nike LeBron 18 is fantastic, too. Each of the four colorways unveiled as part of the original release – Los Angeles by Day, James Gang, Empire Jade, and Reflections – fit together well, and there are more on the way, with a fresh colorway dropping Friday, using a mix of black, court purple, white, and metallic gold to unleash the latest version of the Nike LeBron 18.
The staying power won’t be known for several more years, but this one is off to a good start a handful of weeks into its infancy.
Nike LeBron 15 – 2018
This sneaker is generally considered the best James has produced. Its tight and clean aesthetic is unmistakable, but it’s not just about the look with this shoe (although the look is pretty nice). The LeBron 15s have a battleknit upper to provide durability and a combination of Air Max and Zoom create an incredible cushion that’s especially great for players who need the most impact protection.
While the emphasis on cushioning can means the LeBron 15 isn’t as stable as it could be, for the right kind of player, this shoe couldn’t fit better, i.e., if you play like LeBron James.
Nike Air Zoom Generation – 2003
Nike signed James before he dribbled an NBA ball, and it began the relationship with the Nike Air Zoom Generation.
This shoe was designed around the Hummer H2 his mother bought for him while he was still in high school, which caused a stir of its own at the time. The nod to that ordeal makes this shoe fun on its own, but add in the context of King James beginning his professional career with it, and you’ve got yourself a legendary sneaker.
It’s been a while since this one came out, and technology has improved since. But this shoe still carries with it a strong legacy as The King’s first.
Nike Air Max LeBron VII – 2009
This was the first big pivot in the Nike LeBron sneaker series.
It was the first time Nike used its Air Max cushioning system in a basketball shoe, marking a major moment in the history of hoops sneakers. It also featured Nike’s Flywire technology, one of its more recent innovations at the time.
It also been a while now since this shoe hit the market, but it can still hold up. Like many of James’s shoes, his 2009 release was insanely comfortable, helped by the Air Max technology. The LeBron VII had 80 percent more air than its predecessor to aide with comfort, and the difference showed. Not only does it do well on the court, it also looks fresh on and off. The colorways available for the LeBron VIIs were some of the best of any of his sneakers.