LeBron James joining the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency will affect a lot more than just the city’s on-court basketball product. James is a mover and shaker in industries far beyond the hardwood, as displayed by his recent and upcoming forays into Hollywood.
James’ influence in areas outside of basketball will only continue to increase as he gets to hobnob in Los Angeles for 12 months a year now, but the other market he already has a major, ahem, foothold in is sneakers, mostly due to a lifetime contract with Nike that pays him upwards of $30 million a year.
While that deal did not give James any extra financial incentives to move to Los Angeles, his Westward migration does have Nike vice president of innovation Tinker Hatfield — the designer of the legendary Jordan 3’s that kept Michael Jordan himself from leaving for Adidas, among countless other iconic sneakers — excited about the footwear Nike can create for the next step in James journey (via Bleacher Report / TMZ Sports):
“I think we’re all excited about the fact that LeBron is really still interested in winning more championships. He’s coming to LA to do that. We’re all excited to participate. If we can help him do that by, first of all, designing a product that helps him play at his highest level, that’s job one. Job two, of course, is how can we leverage his personality moving to LA and kind of build a nice story around that. And then, of course, from that, style can be unique and interesting and it can be what I would call a groundbreaking kind of product.”
Lakers guard Josh Hart, a huge sneakerhead himself, evidently read the article and has some suggestions for his new teammate’s next signature shoe:
As an aside, Hart is for real a sneakerhead. Out at Las Vegas Summer League, fellow shoe enthusiast Mike Trudell of Lakers.com asked Hart about new teammate Lance Stephenson calling the Jordan 13’s his favorite model, and Hart held court on the 1’s being best.
“I’m more of a 1’s guy, I’m starting to grow into the 1’s, I never really had a pair growing up, and I got my first pair like a year ago and I was like ‘yo, these are pretty nice,’” Hart told us in Las Vegas. “I don’t know about 13’s, but I might have to gift (Stephenson) a couple pairs of 1’s and see how he likes them.”
The fact that Hart is debating the merits of various Jordan models in the media illustrates a larger point about how influential these signature sneakers have a chance to become on shoe culture.
James’ seemingly hundreds of new LeBron 15 colorways he debuted during the playoffs last season display how passionate he is about his kicks, and with a new market share of rabid Lakers fans — and honestly, sneakerhead media members like yours truly — to sell to, it’s going to be exciting to see what he and Nike can cook up next.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.