LeBron James is currently in his 17th season of NBA basketball and ever since he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003, he has been signed to Nike. Just like Michael Jordan, LeBron was given a signature shoe in his very first season. His signature shoe with Nike has persisted over the years with new models coming out at the beginning of every single season. In 2019, the Nike LeBron 17 was introduced to the world which marked yet another formidable entry into the Nike LeBron library.
While reflecting on all of these models, one thing is clear: some silhouettes are better than others. There have been some real classic LeBron shoes over the years and there have also been some duds. His sneakers continue to be a huge source of debate amongst sneakerheads so it only makes sense that we would try to break things down. With this list, we are ranking every single silhouette from worst to best so let's dive in, shall we.
17. Nike LeBron 4
While some may disagree, the Nike LeBron 4 is easily the worst signature shoe the King has ever worn. At first glance, it isn't really apparent what Nike was trying to do here. The chunky and wavy midsole is hard on the eyes while the upper is bogged down by three straps across the laces that don't appear to really do anything. Meanwhile, the strap at the top is cumbersome and makes the shoe look even more out of this world. In a world wear chunky dad shoes reign supreme, even this monstrosity appears out of place.
16. Nike LeBron 2
After the success of LeBron's first signature shoe, many were hoping for Nike would be able to follow up with some heat on the Nike LeBron 2. At first glance, the Nike LeBron 2 isn't necessarily ugly although it is completely devoid of any sort of personality. The plain leather uppers, bulky midsole, and ankle strap create a shoe that isn't very recognizable. Most LeBron shoes are easily identifiable but with the LeBron 2, that simply isn't the case. At least with the LeBron 4, you could have a strong opinion on it. This model, however, elicits a huge "Meh" which depending on who you ask, makes it even worse.
15. Nike LeBron 13
You can make the argument that the LeBron 13 looks an awful lot like some of the shoes that are higher up on the list and that's exactly why it is being placed at the back. Many of the design traits, such as the extended cuff on each side, were already done on the LeBron 9 and LeBron 10, albeit in much more tasteful ways. The metallic detailing on the sides gives the sneaker just a little too much flash that isn't really necessary. Not to mention, the huge Nike swoosh on the toe box is distracting to the point where it's hard to wear. It's clear what they were going for here but there is a reason why Nike switched directions after this model.
14. Nike LeBron 6
There isn't much to say about this silhouette other than it suffers from the same sins as the Nike LeBron 2. The design is just a little too plain and it's not very distinguishable from some other basketball shoes one would find on the market. Despite these shortcomings, the Lion logo on the tongue makes for a very nice touch and is a staple of the later shoes in the LeBron line. Not to mention, the basic design led to some clean colorways. It's not an offensive silhouette by any means. It just doesn't elicit very much excitement.
13. Nike LeBron 14
This sneaker was a nice departure from the aesthetics of the previous models although it suffers from the fact that the shoe that came after it was legendary. The LeBron 14 provided some aesthetics that would eventually be used on the Nike LeBron 15 and LeBron 16. For instance, the Air midsole pods on the bottom were a nice touch while the high top silhouette provided ample support for some of the taller basketball players out there. Regardless, it's a pretty minimalistic model that could have been executed so much better. Luckily, Nike was able to learn from their mistakes and come through with some dope follow-ups in the immediate years afterward.
12. Nike LeBron 5
Patent leather is the key to this shoe's success. Some of the best colorways feature the flashy material on the strap that comes across the tongue, as well as the toe box. If there was one word to describe the shoe, it would be "luxurious." The silhouette is basic like the LeBron 2 and the LeBron 6 but the difference here is the details are much more pronounced. For those looking for a great example of this shoe's elegance, look at the Saint-Vincent-Saint Mary's model. The green and gold patent leather make for a gorgeous shoe that shines bright on the court.
11. Nike LeBron 12
It may not be the best silhouette from this time period in LeBron's career but it certainly has some great colorways, case in point the "NSRL" model above. As you can see, the shoe has a low back heel but the material near the cuff goes on a diagonal slope where it meets with the tongue. The actual silhouette is sleek and easy to wear which makes is more than you can say for some of the models that have already been mentioned. Not to mention, the way the materials are laid out makes for some pretty dope colorways. LeBron was always matching when he wore these and he certainly stood out on the court. This particular model was the beginning of the end when it came to this design philosophy but it was fire all the same.
10. Nike LeBron 7
What makes the Nike LeBron 7 special is that it was the first of its kind in the LeBron series. From the 7 all the way to the 13, you could see what Nike and LeBron were trying to do. The 7 was the foundation for some of the best shoes in the LeBron library and that's why it gets a spot in our top 10. While it may seem a little plain, the mixture of materials helps set it apart. For instance, on the "Red Carpet" colorway, the shoe has a woven black upper while white leather adds an interesting contrast. Adding Air to the midsole was a nice little touch and makes this LeBron shoe one of his best when it comes to performance.
9. Nike LeBron 10
The LeBron 10 is a direct result of the blueprint laid out by the LeBron 7. Just by looking at the previous section, you can clearly see the inspiration that was pulled to create this more maximalist model. The shoe features an Air midsole and a diagonal cuff although this time around, the tooling is completely different. Geometric shapes make their way throughout the upper and help make for some truly peculiar colorways. After the success of the LeBron 9, the LeBron 10 was an exciting entry into the LeBron catalog that had fans rushing to shelves. While this sneaker definitely isn't for everyone, there is no denying its merits. If you were playing basketball back when LeBron on the Miami Heat, these were 100 percent on your Christmas wishlist.
8. Nike LeBron 17
Coming into his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers, fans were curious as to what kind of shoe James would usher in his 17th campaign with. With the LeBron 17, Nike built upon the previous two models except for this time, they opted for something just a little bit bulkier. In terms of the silhouette, one could say this is a healthy mix between the LeBron 15 and the LeBron 9. The shoe has the diagonal cuff although it isn't as pronounced as the models that came before it. As for the upper, Knitposite graces the entire silhouette and lends itself to some pretty dope colorways. Finally, the Air midsole provides plenty of cushion for all of the ballplayers out there. Not to mention, the piercing Lion graphic on the tongue makes this one of LeBron's meanest shoes yet.
7. Nike LeBron 8
One of the best parts about the Nike LeBron 8 is the sheer amount of amazing colorways that came out as a result of it. The one that immediately comes to mind is the "South Beach" model which is filled with vibrant neon tones. At first glance, the LeBron 8 looks a lot like the LeBron 7 except this time around, the details are enhanced with Nike playing a bit more with the overall shape. The simplicity of the silhouette certainly brings its ranking down by a couple of notches but the sheer amount of great colorways is what ultimately makes it amongst the upper echelon of LeBron-worn footwear.
6. Nike LeBron 11
After putting the LeBron 13 so low on this list for being flashy, putting the LeBron 11 at six may seem like a contradiction but there is a good reason for it. The LeBron 11 had a plethora of amazing colorways, including the "Christmas" model which can be seen above. When it comes to the metallic detailing, it's done tastefully and always helps to enhance the colorway at hand. Not to mention, the Nike swoosh is respectfully placed on the side as opposed to the toe box. This sneaker is perfect for those looking for a little bit of pizazz on the court and with so many colorways to choose from, the LeBron 11 is certainly a formidable model. It might not be the most popular choice, but the LeBron 11 deserves its spot here.
5. Nike LeBron 3
After dropping the Nike LeBron 2, which was devoid of personality, Nike realized they needed to step it up a bit with the LeBron 3. Luckily for sneakerheads everywhere, they were able to deliver on their promise with an exceptional sneaker that is a classic in LeBron's catalog. The color blocking and patent leather details make for a flashy shoe that looked like a military boot on LeBron's foot. With straps on the side that hold the laces in place, this silhouette was always destined for a maximalist label. Like the other high-ranking silhouettes on this list, the LeBron 3 boasts some incredible colorways. The Houston Oilers, Bred, and "Superman" models are all great examples of this shoe bringing its best foot forward. If you want an entrance into the world of LeBron signature sneakers, this might be the model to go with.
4. Nike LeBron 16
Nike flipped the performance basketball sneaker world on its head with the LeBron 15 so when it came to the LeBron 16, many were watching with attentive eyes. In the end, Nike came through with a shoe that bore a similar silhouette to the 15, except this time, LeBron opted for a mid-top as opposed to a high-top. The resulting silhouette isn't as iconic as the 15 but that doesn't mean the 16 is some slouch or worse, a disappointment. Instead, the 16 is easily a top of LeBron model with some dope colorways to match. The "SuperBron" and "Martin" colorways are fan favorites that encapsulate the personality typically espoused by the LeBron line. With knit uppers and an Air midsole, this is one of those basketball sneakers you have to try.
3. Nike LeBron 9
Some will tell you the eight is the best of the group when it comes to the LeBron 7-13 era although the cake really has to go to the LeBron 9. With curvy cuffs that point upwards and tooling that contains the same funky designs, this is by far one of the most creative LeBron sneakers to date. It doesn't have the same iconic colorways as the LeBron 8 but the deep cuts are a lot more solid, in our humble opinion. Perhaps what puts the LeBron 9 over the edge is the "Watch The Throne" colorway which is among the rarest LeBron sneakers in existence. It also needs to be stated that the LeBron 9 ushered led to even wilder concepts in the 10, 11, 12, and 13. Simply put, this shoe is the perfect balance of weird and clean.
2. Nike Air Zoom Generation
Just like Michael Jordan's first signature shoe, LeBron's inaugural sneaker remains one of his most iconic. Admittedly, the Air Zoom Generation is one of those shoes that you really have to let sit for a while before making up your mind on it. At first glance, it's bulky and unattractive but once you start truly delving into all of the details, you realize it's a modern masterpiece. It's a fairly hard sneaker to describe as there really aren't any design elements that you can point to and say "that's what this shoe is all about." For the Air Zoom Generation, the bulky aesthetic does the talking. On-foot, the shoe looks a lot sleeker then meets the eye and the colorblocking is laid out in such a way that promotes some basic, yet stylish colorways. LeBron's first season and first game will forever be associated with this shoe which lends even more to its status as one of the best Nike LeBron's of all-time.
1. Nike LeBron 15
Last but not certainly not least, we have the LeBron 15. Sneakerheads were starting to lose hope in the LeBron line until this sneaker came around and changed everyone's tune when it came to basketball shoes. Immediately we notice a high-top silhouette that looks a lot like the LeBron 14. What makes this silhouette so much better, is that the upper is completely made out of a knit material that lends itself to dope new colorways and even some flashy designs. For instance, the LeBron 15 x Kith collab resulted in flowery kicks with gorgeous embroideries that will forever stand the test of time. Regular colorways like "cereal," "rust pink," and "Black History Month" are all beautiful in their own right. There's a certain elegance to the LeBron 15 that none of the other models have and that's exactly why this one has to top our list. Try to find a better LeBron shoe and you simply won't be able to do it.
Which LeBron shoe do you like the most? Let us know in the comments below.