As LeBron James prepared to make his regular-season return to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday, Nike unveiled a breath-taking, 10-story banner across the street from Quicken Loans Arena. It features James and his signature chalk toss, with Cleveland written across the back of his Cavs jersey.
— Brendan Bowers (@BowersCLE) October 30, 2014
During what proved to be an historic celebration of LeBron’s commitment to home, community, and togetherness, Nike also dropped an electrifying and emotional film signaling the release of the LeBron 12.
James’ rare skill-set, determination and competitiveness inspired the LeBron 12 “Heart of a Lion” colorway featured at Nike’s fan event in Cleveland prior to the Cavs season opener against Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks. In anticipation of the release, fans poured through Nike’s gates to get their first glimpse of the shoe. The LeBron 12 is now available at nike.com and select retail locations everywhere.
This latest shoe in the LeBron series is built with zoom technology developed by Nike in collaboration with James. The colorful hexagons on the sole are designed with specific cushioning values, determined through a series of tests and engineering.
In Nike’s research lab, James literally stood on a sensor pad that identified various pressure points based on his movements on a basketball court. The hexagons correlate to that process—some have more cushioning and different tenacity based on performance level.
It’s obviously a hot shoe and it was great to be able to see it in person for the first time at Nike’s event. The 12’s are really lightweight and flexible, but durable and strong at the same time. LeBron’s signature and personal icon are inked on the outside, along with a nice, solid protective coating. Additional colorways are scheduled for release over the next month.
To celebrate LeBron and the 12’s release, Nike Basketball held a wildly successful fan event in downtown Cleveland during the afternoon. One hour before the event opened at 4 p.m. ET, fans had already lined up down the street and around the corner for a chance to check out the shoes and take part in the festivities. The event featured an innovative, 360-degree photo booth, giving fans the opportunity to replicate LeBron’s signature chalk toss with confetti. There were also posters of the LeBron banner given away, regulation Nike basketballs, and entertainment provided by DJ Steph Floss.
“There are so many fans out here having a great time today,” Floss told SLAM. “We have the 360-photo booth, giving out posters and basketballs. It’s been a perfect event, everyone’s having a great time. The fans are happy, they love the LeBron 12s, it’s been a lot of fun.”
Besides being the Cleveland Cavaliers in-arena DJ, a radio personality for Cleveland’s premier hip-hop station, and working major celebrity and corporate events throughout the year, Floss is also a close, personal friend of LeBron’s. He spoke with SLAM about what it means to see his friend back home while the celebration ensued.
“I’m just happy for everybody,” he said. “LeBron is my brother, I love LeBron. I’m happy he’s happy. I’m from Cleveland, born and raised in Cleveland. And I’m also ecstatic to have him back on the Cavs. I’ve always been a happy guy. But when he left, the energy in Cleveland wasn’t that high. It was actually very low. Now, to be here at this event, seeing that everybody has high hopes again, you can really feel the energy in the city.”
That energy was evident by the overwhelming amount of people who showed up for the event. Lisa Beachy from Nike talked about that response, as well as the overall celebration of James on Thursday.
“The line was building up an hour before we even opened,” Beachy said. “It’s been amazing. People are excited to see the shoe and take part in the 360-photo booth. We’ve done photo booths in the past. But for this one, specifically, everything relates back to LeBron. The ‘LeBron Stronger Together Cleveland’ banner features the chalk toss, so we really wanted to celebrate that. The photo booth takes pictures from all angles in a second’s time of people replicating that signature move with confetti. It also gives them a chance to do it right in front of the same mural that just debuted in Cleveland.”
The 360-photo booth really was amazing. Floss kept the party live and the LeBron 12’s were incredible to see and touch for the first time. But maybe most incredible, for the Clevelanders who came through, was the very real feeling of togetherness that LeBron instilled throughout the community by coming home.
“I’m just glad he made a decision he’s happy with, and that he’s back home and doing it for the love of his hometown,” DJ Steph Floss added. “And it’s great to see everybody’s showing him that same love right back.”
Brendan Bowers is an NBA writer who covers the Cavaliers and the NBA in Cleveland for SLAM. Follow him on Twitter @BowersCLE.