It was bound to happen ever since Nike threw $90 million at LeBron some six years ago (going on seven). At the time, Bron was being labeled “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated and rocking the #23 in green and gold to suggest that he was, in fact, the heir apparent.
Over the years, we’ve seen Bron transform into the physical behemoth that may one day overtake MJ’s playing legacy. For sneakerheads, though (like myself), it’s been highly questionable whether or not he-or anyone for that matter-could overtake MJ’s kick game. Penny failed. So did Kobe. And Iverson had a spark when he started, but Reebok’s just plain ol’ garbage.
Back to 2003 when MJ hung it up for the last time, his last on-court signatures, the XVIIIs, were simple yet luxurious and of course, technologically forward-thinking-everything associated with Jordan Brand. Since, the designs have been rather head-scratching, from the woven cover guard of the 19s and the clunky space-boot look of the 20s-Who knew space boots would catch on, word to Kanye? -to the straight up half-assed 24s AJ 2009s.
Recently, pics of the AJ 2010s (25s) have surfaced. They have a window/eye smack dab in the middle of the shoe to represent MJ’s ability to “see through the competition.” The shit just looks like a goddamn hole, patched up with mesh. It’s the bottomed-out low point of the declining franchise (a charge once leveled at the 15s).
As for the LeBrons, they’ve evolved from the outlet-ready Air Zoom Generations to the Flightposite-esque 4s to the underwhelming 5s and 6s. But now we’ve reached numero seven. Out for some time, a looming all black colorway (probably cosigned by Jigga) is the zenith of the line thus far. After misguided, space-shoe abortions like the Huarache 2k4s, the LeBron 7s represent some of Nike Basketball’s best design work since (surprise) 2003, when ballers were blessed with the Zoom Ultraflights and Zoom Flight 2k3s (just wear tube socks).
Compared to those lightweight triumphs, the 7s are on the opposite side of the spectrum in terms of build (veering towards the Nike Total Foamposite Max in terms of proportions). Yet one look at the shoe and it’s clear that this is Nike’s signature shoe, perhaps across all lines. The feeling is similar to the one you had when you first saw the XIs, XIIIs, or even XVIIs-that this was the work of the best designers in the world. And if there was any confusion, it’s now evident that LeBron, not Kobe or MJ, is the face of the brand, Nike’s signature athlete.
Can’t say it didn’t take a while, though. By shoe number seven, there had been the iconic Air Jordan Is, IIIs, IVs, and VIs. The hit rate for the LeBron line hasn’t been quite the same but it’s finally his time. Maybe things will transpire on the court similarly.