Now affectionately known as the LeBron 1, the inspiration designer Eric Avar drew was from James’ famous Hummer H2. With a nylon and leather upper, the shoe features a faux Hummer-styled bumper that plays both an aesthetic use and works as a heel stabilizer. The Air Zoom Generation utilized the Nike Air Zoom system—not just a clever name—that cushioned the first six LeBron shoes.
2 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
Zoom LeBron II
The LeBron name was officially attached to his signature shoe for the second installment. The November 2004 release’s main aesthetic component was a large strap across the top of the shoe. Mesh and leather alternated across the upper for a distinctive block look, sitting atop the newly doubled Air Zoom technology aimed at an incredible amount of cushioning.
3 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
Zoom LeBron III
The strap look of the II went slimmer and more frequent in the III. Designed with the word “soldier” as a key touch point, the bootlike look of the shoe used those straps and color blocking to give the III a uniform feel. The Swoosh was pushed to the back of the shoe. A new footbed design still used the Zoom system from LeBron’s second signature, but a new interior structure aimed at keeping the foot from slipping inside the perforated leather upper.
4 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
Zoom LeBron IV
Whatever boot-like images you had of the LeBron shoe previously were tossed away with the free-flowing Foamposite material-led design of the November 2006 release of LeBron’s fourth signature kicks. Playing on a material made popular previously in other Nike basketball shoes, the new construction went to a completely new grooved sole, inner mesh sockliner and plenty of Foamposite.
5 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
Zoom LeBron V
The strap is back in full force. Long live the strap. The double-stacked Zoom Air heel cushioning caps the full-length Zoom Air that highlights the sole technology. Nike harkened folks back to Akron, Ohio, aesthetically with the words family, passion and fearless stitched on the inside of the ankle strap and a milk crate pattern on the ankle strap reminiscent of the basket LeBron used as a hoop in his youth. As seen with other signatures, the Swoosh moved around, playing prominently on the strap for this November 2007 release.
6 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
Zoom LeBron VI
The ankle strap is gone. There is no Foamposite. The Zoom LeBron VI, designed by Ken Link, the man who handled II-VI, went classic. The leather upper—still with a strap-like look across the midfoot—offers clean lines, while the fun happens on the collar, where graffiti art spells out some of LeBron’s favorite mantras. The full-length Zoom Air and double-stack cushioning make their final appearance in the VI.
7 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
Air Max LeBron VII
As the name suggests, LeBron’s seventh shoe took a dramatic technological departure from previous years. For the first time, Nike used its Air Max cushioning system in a basketball shoe. The VII also introduced Flywire, a higher tensile-strength cable, into the LeBron signature line. The Air Max offered 80 percent more air and was designed for multi-directional movements. Being thinner in the forefoot and deeper in the heel helped stabilize LeBron. Both the air and the Flywire took center stage in the design, with the Flywire going crisscross for a diamond pattern LeBron requested. Designed by Jason Petrie, the full-grain leather shoe also had words and stripes detailed to signify key moments in LeBron’s career.
8 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
All the technology introduced in the VII made a return in the 8. Again we see Air Max and Flywire, along with a mesh innersleeve, LeBron-specific herringbone pattern on the sole and deep-cut flex grooves. The high use of leather defined the aesthetic, now fully removed from the strap-happy days, and the Swoosh again slid to the rear of the shoe.
9 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
The history of the LeBron line came together in the 9, with a technological combination that also offered up something new. The 2011 release designed by Jason Petrie uses Air Max in the heel, but returned to Zoom Air for the forefoot. The Flywire returned for the third straight year, but combined with Hyperfuse—a composite of three different layers of material fused together for a lighter weight upper that still has strength—for the first time in a basketball shoe. Other new additions included adding padding to the inner collar, engineered textile wings, asymmetrical lacing, a heel pull tab and a ventilated tongue.
10 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
When LeBron says he wants diamonds, he gets diamonds. Plenty of them. The main aesthetic on the tenth anniversary of LeBron’s signature line includes diamond-inspired detailing on the upper and molded diamond shapes on the tongue. The X went back to a full-length Zoom Air unit—eliminating the experimentation with the Air Max—and continued the use of Hyperfuse, Flywire and a Phylon midsole for lightweight cushioning.
11 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
The diamond-esque angularity continued in the 11th signature LeBron shoe, complete with a reinvention of the Faomposite material that made the Zoom LeBron IV so singular. Remade into Hyperposite, the foam-like material combined with Hyperfuse and Flywire for “reinforcement where it matters.” The less bulk and less weight made the 11 the lightest LeBron shoe ever.
12 of 12Courtesy of Nike, Inc.
Released in October 2014, Nike went back to the Nike Sport Research Lab to continue its focus on cushioning and flexibility. A completely revamped Zoom Air system gave the LeBron 12 its five visible, hexagonally shaped Zoom Air bags on the outsole to put multi-directional cushioning exactly where LeBron’s foot needed it, as defined by lab pressure-point mapping. The lightweight and breathable Megafuse upper minimizes weight, while Flywire cables and Hyperposite wings add support and protection. Aesthetically, the angularity of a LeBron signature remains, but with colors designed to call out the lab-centric focus of the King’s 12th Nike shoe.
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