Ever since KICKS 3 (summer 2000), each issue of the annual sneaker mag—KICKS 10 not included—has contained two or three new inductions into the KICKS Hall of Fame, where footwear legends past and present are honored. This may not be fresh material for those of you who’ve been copping the mag since before the new millennium hit, but for the younger heads, we’re posting the entire HOF online over the course of the next few weeks. (It’ll be archived under the KICKS tab above.) Enjoy, and don’t forget: KICKS 14 is on sale now! —Ed.

Originally published in KICKS 9

by Jake Appleman

“I’m not a businessman—I’m a business, man.” The album is Kanye’s and the words are Jay’s, and they’ve run in these pages before in reference to LeBron James. And given the subject of this induction and his entrepreneurial friends, it would’ve been hard to pick a cheesier (pun intended) intro. But check popular friend-collecting websites, or just listen to real people, and it will become abundantly clear: there isn’t a more misrepresented lyric around today.

Whether you’re the kid who will work too hard never to see six figures, the kid who will never move out of your parents’ basement, the kid who will end up trusting your fund, or one of the fortunate few who will make your own way in this world, you’ve probably mimicked Jay’s spit-fire because you think it’s cool—and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that.

However, in an era when a college degree will most likely bring you the vaunted success that is graduate school debt (best case), or a three-year contract at Best Buy, the immediate self-application of these words by today’s young adults ranges from ironic to nauseating. Please understand: If you have no control of your job safety, you’re not a “business, man.”

Fortunately, for the sanctity of Jay’s words and the generation mentioned above, LeBron James was pre-ordained as both a “businessman” and a “business, man” since he was a mere teenager. Just for KICKS, let’s check how LeBron fits each profile; think of “businessman” (BM1) as success and “business, man” (BM2) as unprecedented achievement. Considering the number of times you’re about to see the letters “BM,” feel free to insert some complicated joke about bowel movements and LeBron’s uncanny ability to shit on opposing defenses. Or, don’t.

BM1: Still just a kid, Bron begins to ride the wave of his unparalleled fame, letting many profit from his rising popularity. Most people fail to remember he won three high school state championships.
BM2: Reverse-pimps the system after a legendary bidding war for his marketing services nets him $90 million from Nike. King James becomes the most important man in the shoe game before touching NBA hardwood, and remains so to this day. A signature shoe and all those custom AF1s only scratch the surface.

BM1: Exceeds expectations and picks up Rookie of the Year honors.
BM2: Exceeds the hype.

BM1: Averages 27, 7 and 7 during his sophomore campaign.
BM2: Leaps tall buildings in a single bound; Oscar Robertson comparisons abound.

BM1: Fires his agent and builds a new multifaceted management team comprised of the people he trusts the most.
BM2: Brushes asisde the criticism from this change and flourishes.

BM1: Appears on the cover of SLAM 94…
BM2: …Wearing a crown and cape and wielding an actual sword.

BM1: Third-season averages of 31, 7 and 6 per game.
BM2: Becomes a clutch player. Multiple game winners and crunch-time assists solidify his late-game rep.

BM1: Leads the Cavs to the playoffs; merits serious MVP consideration.
BM2: Does it with Cavs’ major offseason signing, Larry Hughes, injured for most of the season.

BM1: Puts the Cavs on his back and helps them advance in the postseason for the first time in 13 years.
BM2: Hits two game winners against the Wizards in the first round.

BM1: Alternates between distributor and scoring force during playoff wins over the heavily favored Pistons.
BM2: Nearly leads the Cavs to the most improbable comeback in playoff history.

BM1: Signs a three-year deal for less than he could have in order to take advantage of the next collective bargaining agreement. All-Star Draft-mates follow suit; the move immediately revolutionizes free agency.
Ends speculation that he might leave the Cavs and re-signs with his hometown team. Cleveland fans can sleep at night because their savior is sticking around to try and bring them the title(s) they deserve.

The point is that we could’ve put him in this Hall of Fame when he was 18 years old. Witness that.