Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 at 12:12 pm  |  104 responses

KICKS 11: On Sale Now!

Behind the scenes at LeBron’s KICKS cover shoot, and the official debut of the Nike Zoom LeBron VI.

by Ryan Jones

I’d like to start by apologizing to the kids.

Back in July, I spent a few days in Akron covering the LeBron James Nike Skills Academy, which was all the reason I needed to make the trip. Turns out I was given another, equally compelling reason — an interview with Mr. James himself, to talk about his as-yet-unreleased new shoe, the Zoom LeBron VI. The timing was great: I was gonna be there, LeBron was gonna be there, and a top-secret armored car shipment with full SWAT team escort would bring the shoe to Northeast Ohio. This would work perfectly for all involved.

Well, all except for those “kids,” the 70 or so highly ranked high school ballers attending the camp. We had initially planned to shoot and interview LeBron in the early afternoon, in a big open space at one end of the University of Akron’s Rhodes Arena. This seemed to make sense for everyone, until one of our friends from Nike decided it didn’t. Instead, the shoot and interview were moved to a ballroom at Nike’s hotel just down the road. This didn’t seem to be a big deal, until we realized that the ballroom in question was also being used as the campers’ dining room, and that the shoot was now scheduled for shortly before dinner time.

In the dining room.

Just so that’s clear.

So it was that when the shoot finally went down, we (photographer Peter Yang, his assistant and I) waited in a corner of the ballroom while hotel staffers set up place-settings and Brian Facchini, our homie from Nike PR, waited for updates from Bron’s camp. In short order the King rolled through, with his homie Brandon and some dude named Chris Paul in tow, and we got a bit more than our promised time for the shoot and Q&A. Job done. No worries.

At least, not until I walked out of the ballroom to find 70-some really big high school kids standing, sitting, and otherwise filling the lobby, looking understandably bored and impatient and very, very hungry. They were an hour late for dinner, and — indirectly, at least — it was all my fault. I quickly made my way through the lobby, apologizing loudly as I moved, hoping they wouldn’t deliver a somewhat deserved beatdown as I speed-walked toward the door.

They did not, for which I thank them—and apologize, one last time.

All of which needed to be said, and none of which has anything to do with why you’re most likely reading this. Most likely, you’re reading this because A) you like or are at least mildly interested in famous and talented NBA player LeBron James, and B) you like or are at least mildly interested in basketball shoes. Should you qualify as someone who C) likes or is at least mildly interested in both LeBron James and basketball shoes, well, my goodness, today is what might be called “your lucky day.”

LeBron on the KICKS cover? Yeah, no kidding. For all the oncourt impact dude’s had since joining the League, his place in the sneaker game is arguably more compelling. Alright, so maybe “compelling” isn’t the right word — I trust most of us care more about the game of basketball than the shoes people wear when they’re playing it — but it’s almost taken for granted than this kid pulled a nearly nine-figure sneaker deal before he ever played an NBA game. But it shouldn’t be (taken for granted, I mean), because that $90-million-dollar deal was, and remains, amazing.

That was also 2003, which might lead regular readers to wonder why the hell it took so long to get LeBron on the cover of KICKS — especially when he’s had six or seven SLAM covers since his junior year of high school. It’s a fair question; I can only tell you that we tried. Timing has generally been the biggest issue: With LeBron’s signature kicks not dropping until the fall each year, our late-summer publishing date has always been just a little too early to fit the specifics of Nike’s marketing plans. What changed? The Olympics helped push things up — Bron has already rocked the VIs in the Olympic run-up — allowing us to give the VI its official worldwide semi-exclusive unveiling.

Yay for us.

If you buy KICKS (On newstands any day now! Unless you live outside the U.S.! In which case, wait a week or two!), you can read the cover story and learn the answers to cool questions like “What does LeBron think of his shoe?” (he totally likes it!), glean insight from designer Ken Link (he’s good at his job!), and hear (not literally, of course) LeBron making fun of Chris Paul when Chris isn’t really paying attention. What you won’t get in that issue is a lot of historical perspective on LeBron in the shoe game. I initially thought I’d write the entire story about just that topic, but I changed my mind. Now you get to read about it here.

I have been inspired by the haters, seemingly everywhere, who will (and do) argue that LeBron was always going to be overpaid and overhyped as a sneaker endorser — that Nike was never going to recoup that $90 mil, and that LeBron could never have close to the impact Michael Jordan had with his shoe line. I don’t have access to Nike’s books, so I don’t have any idea if he is or will be “worth” the money they spent. As to the Jordan comparison: No sh*t. Just as no one NBA player, no matter how good, could ever match Mike’s impact on the game, no signature line was going to be able to match the cultural impact of the J’s. Most of us understand that Jordan’s oncourt impact was influenced by factors that went beyond his own remarkable ability. The same can be said of Mike’s shoes.

Predictions are for suckers, but I feel relatively safe saying that, at least for the foreseeable future, and maybe forever, the Jordan line (particularly the first, say, 60 percent of it) will be the iconic basketball shoe line of all time. It may never even be close. Given that, I’d argue that LeBron (or Kobe, or whoever else is or might one day be in this conversation) has a much better chance of equaling Mike’s impact on the court than they do in the shoe game. This may seem crazy, but I’m not sure it’s even debatable.

My point, then, is to remove the Jordan brand from the discussion when it comes to comparing anyone else’s sneaker lines. As a basis of comparison, he’s simply on another plane—to paraphrase my main man Russ, it’s like apples and tow trucks or something. In an era when retros and re-issues tend to be hotter than anything new that drops, and when the average 12- or 15-year-old kid is more likely to be rocking DC or Etnies than Nike or adidas, priorities and realities have changed. Damn near every last drop of stylistic innovation has been exposed, exhausted and reissued seven or eight times. (It’s sort of like the Dunk Contest: When everything’s been done, what do you do?) What’s left for the shoe companies, their designers, and the players is one of two routes: Replicate the tried and true, or cross your fingers and keep pushing the innovation envelope. These days, the former is too easily written off as “boring,” and the latter usually just ends up looking wack.

Whether you “like” LeBron’s shoes is irrelevant, determined as it is by personal taste and the cult (or lack thereof) that sweeps up too many sneaker heads into loving or hating shoes based on which tastemakers are wearing (or rhyming about) them, or which brand logo is plastered on the heel. I’d argue that what’s relevant, post-Jordan, is that the line as a whole is distinctive, and that the shoes do the job on the court. I’d argue that the days of signature joints that define eras and stand as icons of on and offcourt style are over, and that LeBron’s never gonna be that dude in the sneaker game because the game as we knew it no longer exists. And that’s fine. What LeBron has instead is a singular place in today’s dialed-down sneaker game, in which he’s the only current player — certainly the only relevant one — who’s set for a run of 15 or 20 shoes with his name on them. And yes, he’s still the dude with the $90-million-dollar deal that’s due for a re-up in the next year or two. Like it or not, if the kicks game is anyone’s right now, it’s his.

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  • WhaHuh

    Looks good, the internet is going to go nuts about the Lebrons. Look slightly different from the earlier mock ups, a higher fit than i thought it would be. Its a shame we dont get Slam Kicks in England

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Ryan is really good at his job (at least his freelance one; I cant vouch for PSU’s feelings about him).

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    WhaHuh, this should definitely be on newsstands over there at any place that sells SLAM. If not you can order it here in a few days: http://www.primediabackissues.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=PB&Category_Code=SLAM

  • Franchise Baller

    The LeBron zoom 2′s are wayy better and you should hook me up wit them via ur contest!

  • B. Long

    These are his cleanest shoes so far.

  • B. Long

    How many pounds do they weigh?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ TADOne

    or D)you enjoy reading the musings of one Ryan Jones.

  • Alain Elie

    Cool shoe

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    whatever happend to the Streetball issue?

  • blackjack

    Finally some cool Lebron shoes, I thought it might never happen.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    BETCATS, the demand for Streetball had diminished that the powers that be didn’t think it would be worth it to make it this year…maybe it will be back in the future. Also, not doing it had us better equipped to do the Olympic issue.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/betcats BETCATS

    what about SLAMUPS or SWOOSH? will anything that is just pictures be back, because simple people like me enjoy pictures and posters?

  • http://newyorksporter Chris

    Dog, LB James makes any shoes look good Nike is makes the best bball shoes

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    SLAM Presents Pretty Colors! should be out in time for the holidays, BET. Make sure to ask Santa for some new crayons this year.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP

    I guess…if I was to hoop in the next couple of weeks.

  • E.J. Rios

    anything on the jordan cp in there? his first shoe was dope, and i think they will just get better, you should give him a kicks cover in the next few years.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Earl “E.Sneed” Sneed

    Much anticipated!

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Jordan seems to be holding all CP promo til around All-Star Break, though if that calendar ever changes he would be a good fit for this ish. BETCATS, you’re better than that.

  • Mike

    These look like VC 4′s but there okay. I think Melos are the most underrated shoes in the shoe

  • ciolkstar

    bleh. I’d rather have a streetball issue. Kicks is just a glorified EastBay mag.

  • http://thesportsdiaryonline.blogspot.com Roy

    Love the cover. Can’t wait for this to drop in magazine stands in the Philippines.

  • adbphilly

    I cant wait to get this issue. Can anybody who has a subscription answer this question: I have a subscription to this magazine does that include Slam Kicks, too? Please anybody just let me know.

  • B. Long

    I’d say that Olympics trumps Streetball 8 out of 7 days a week, and I LOVED streetball.

  • andrej

    i got the lebron V kicks but ill def buy these lebrons are alwyas the best

  • http://slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    What’s Eastbay?

  • andrej

    lebron kicks >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>any other bball kicks besides a couple of js

    i never wud put dc vans etnies or the skating shoes on my foot for me its straight nike adidas n some pumas

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    adb: Slam subscriptions do not now and never have included Kicks, Streetball, or any other one-off or special issues. Gotta find this one on a newstand, in a bookstore, or on ebay if necessary.

  • andrej

    my olympics issue was messed it dident have like 3 stories wat bout yall

  • adbphilly

    thanks ryan jones

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones


  • http://dillanleuyahoo.com Holy Baller

    Does anyone else think that the new shoe looks similar to a few of the old school Jordans?

  • zibala

    @ WhaHuh
    You can order SLAM from wh smiths and they usually get kicks, only downside is you miss the actual issue of slam for that month

  • John D

    The first Lebron VI that was gonna come out was 10x hotter. I can’t believe they redesigned it.

  • andrej

    do u have a piicture of the first vi

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    andrej: Meaning the initial design that was leaked in a few blurry photos but will never see the light of day in real life? If you google it, I’m sure you can find some images.

  • Aaron

    Has anyone been able tofind this magazine in any stores?
    to find

  • http://www.slamonline Jake Appleman

    I wear a size 12. Thanks for never interrupting my dinner time, Jones.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Khalid Salaam

    good job ryan

  • Z

    Nobody will get to MJ’s level on the shoe game because people don’t wear hoops shoes off the court like that anymore. Kids wear Vans, Chucks, DC, Etnies, Lacoste, etc. I don’t know what it is with the Jumpman logo but they make ordinary shoes seem fresh to death…

  • Tyler

    Great choice to redesign the VI and make it a classic, clean Nike. Much better than the IV and V. Also, glad to see the KICKS hitting stands soon. Look forward to it every year.

  • Oz

    Livin’ in breezy finland. We gettin’ the newest nikes chuck taylors and stuff, but i guess the kicks mag doesn’t reach us.

  • B. Long

    His 20-5-5′s are my favorite pair to actually play in.

  • bendreizehn

    Does somebody know their release date? THX

  • http://kb24.com Bigi

    @Oz:Kicks will drop in breezy Finland too…Trust me…Turku stand up!And I have every Kicks-issue!

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    bendreizehn: October, I think. Should be 2 or 3 colorways out by the end of the year.

  • B. Long

    I like the cover. Appropriate for Kicks.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    Russ’s haikus are awesome.

  • T Money

    SLAM, I’m utterly disgusted. That cover is so obviously a King Kong reference.

  • http://www.shawnkempsoffspring.com Tariq

    Here’s a haiku about Ryan:

    Really loves LeBron
    Lives deep in possum country
    Did I mention Bron?

  • B. Long


  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com DP aka D.Polo

    I might rock these for style if they come out with a different colorway. I know for sure I’ll be the only dude in school rocking LeBron’s because everyone in my hood thinks his shoes are fugly. But I kind of got a soft spot for them. Plus I don’t have to worry about some buster comin to school with the same fresh junk I got on my feet. ya dig?

  • rob stewart

    I like these. The Lebron IV’s are still the best.

  • E.J. Rios

    @DP, I feel you, i’m the same way with the cp no one at my school wears em but me.. its tight.

  • john

    lebron gets a new pair of shoes like every month

  • bendreizehn

    Thanks Ryan! Just let you guys know that here in Germany SLAM Kicks gonna be around 15 Euros…

  • stokesey

    hmmm, the vi looking nice, might have to re-join the lebron line, the v was the first joint i didnt pick up, after being so dissapointed in the iv…. cover looks sweet guys even tho im a kobe man ;)

  • Boing Dynasty

    Nike VC’s > Nike LBJ’s

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    No problem, bendreizehn. And 15 Euros is like $30? Damn… We get fleeced picking up the good European soccer mags over here, too, but it’s not THAT bad. Needless to say, we appreciate your loyalty.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Australia doesnt get KICKS unfortunately.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Yet, but Australia DOES have netball. So that’s a win, right?

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgUqb5hWAVY bendreizehn

    …strong Euro… ;-) In the nineties i used to pay for every SLAM around 12 $, right now I´m a subscriber thanks to visa card ;-)

    Till I die I´ll always support SLAM!!!

    Dopest Mag ever, keep up the great work over there!!!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FGI7R0u3TQ bendreizehn

    O.K. Australia…I try this one, it´s a “german” joke:

    What is a boomerang which never comes back…

    a stick.

    Man, I got humor…;-)

  • http://www.kobehowmyasstaste.com Tony B

    Where can I see all the previous covers of KICKS?

  • Boing Dynasty

    At my house…

  • http://slamonline.com Russ Bengtson

    Thanks for the plug, RJ. Next double-double’s on me. Or the next pint, whichever comes first.

  • Sari

    the olympics mag was pretty good, and the kicks one also looks like itll b good, but come on… did u ahve to remove the streetball issue? id take it over those 2 any day.

  • Sari


  • Squirrel7

    To anyone living in the UK, I’ve found that if you get your local newsagents to order your copy of SLAM each month, they will usually get you the extra issues (ie. KICKS, STREETBALL etc) too.

    In fact, more than once I have received a copy of the normal magazine, as well as an extra issue (got an old KICKS with Jordan on the front the other day, along with the Chris Paul issue of the regular mag), all in the same wrapper! So basically 2 for the price of 1. Happy days.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Boing with the funny!
    Hey, everyone come on over to the Nancy Leiberman post. We are having some good clean fun over there. Family friendly and everything.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Good looking out Squirrel. I was in the UK in February and met a kid who works at a basketball gym and didn’t know who Kobe Bryant was. Please spread the word.

  • Squirrel7

    Considering whenever I try to subscribe, it fails for some reason, that softened the blow somewhat. And 15 Euros for an issue? Damn, it’s only £3 here (roughly $5).

  • Squirrel7

    Haha @ Ryan. You don’t know the half of it, over here if I tell someone I play basketball, they either say “but you’re not a giant” or they ask if I can spin the ball on my finger!

  • Big Marv

    Yep its that time again. Kicks….
    For all the newbies, been down with Slam since issue #1.

  • zake

    love the USA color. Looks good with jeans and to play with

  • zake

    hope it comes out soon

  • WhaHuh

    Squirrel7 we got that 2 for 1 deal as well but in my shop it was the CP3 cover with last years Nate Robinson Streetball slam (that had I already got free) :(

  • Squirrel7

    Yeah, I already had the Jordan one too, but it ws still all good. Especially as I moved in with the missus almost a year ago, and all my old copies of SLAM are at my folks’ house.

  • john

    they look like the VC 4′s..

  • oscar felix iverson

    the kicks 10 is deception
    is reali slim
    now what
    the kicks 11

  • http://slamonline Elliot

    I’m in the UK too and thought i’d found “heaven on earth” when i came across a copy of Slam in WHSmith Selfridges 3 years ago. I have since stopped my subscription when it expired because the local distributor kept missing some issues and my bills to the USA to sort out back issues were not worth it (much as i needed my “fix” in this soccer-crazed island). Slam had me hooked but then were’nt supplying my fix on time everytime. I now look out for it in my local WHSmith whenever i can (the management know not to mess with my methadone which is better than calling Stateside in the middle of the night to the subscriptions department)

  • http://www.sneakerfiles.com Sneaker Files

    I am going today to get my copy, great work Slam!

  • adbphilly

    I’ve looked for this magazine and i can’t find it does anyone know where the best place to find it is?

  • Kirk J

    KICKS! Always Awesome! Keep up the great work SLAM!

    KJ in Tampa

  • J woods

    Freshest since the twos hopefullly as comfortable

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  • Hibachi

    Why cant subscribers get these in their subscription. And when are they actually on newsstands

  • http://www.angbros.com bad aazzz

    those ar just like the amares…….the ones before the current ones….with the strap

  • adbphilly

    Exactly Hibachi! I have been looking everywhere and cannot find it yet. I, too, am a subscriber and i cant understand why it doesnt include kicks.

  • http://www.jumpstart33.com Coach KG

    This year’s kicks is the best. It’s Finally here. JumpStartHoops.com

  • GodBless

    Def gon be waitin for these waitin for issue to drop round my way.

  • Hibachi

    Im still waitin for the mag to actually come out

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    It’s out, Hibachi. Tell your retailer to get on their game!

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  • SCHZ



  • mark

    VERY NICE nike n lbj jus keep gettin better n better wit each kick lbj drop each year imma b sure 2 cop det joints

  • Hibachi

    I GOT MY KICKS FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • http://www.myspace.com/spencerj06 mayne

    When do those Lebrons come out? Thats all i need to know

  • Joe Black

    Have u guys seen those Greedy Genius Sneakers?those are wats up…Gotta get em. now where can i pick those up at?

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  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Joe Black, more on Greedy Genius coming soon in SLAM…

  • Aaron

    I want the Dunks on page 99, but cannot find them. It says out now can anyone help?

  • Aaron

    I want the Dunks on page 99, but cannot find them. It says out now can anyone help?

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