A week ago, Nike unveiled LeBron James‘ newest shoe in his signature line. The Nike LeBron 12 continues the global brand’s ongoing effort to improve and refine the sneakers worn by their signature athletes, none of whom are bigger than James. Dime was one of a handful of media reps invited to the unveiling at Nike world headquarters on their campus in Beaverton, OR, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the research for the construction of James’ newest kick and a chance to take the LeBron 12’s for a spin on the court.
Before the unveiling, our Nike tour guide, the bespectacled Scott, led us around Nike’s futuristic campus — so dubbed because founder Phil Knight believes college is the one time in people’s lives when they’re the most open-minded.
[RELATED: Nike Officially Unveils LeBron 12 (Pics)]
It was little factoids like the one about Mr. Knight that peppered our conversations with Scott as he led us through the Bo Jackson Wellness Center and Gym, the Michael Jordan Building, the Nolan Ryan Building, the Mia Hamm Building — where all the big name designers, like Tinker Hatfield, design the most well-known sneakers ever made — and a multitude of other edifices named after various internationally known athletes within Nike’s star-studded crop.
The highlight was the Michael Jordan Center, naturally, where every iteration (at the time it was put together) of the Air Jordan was lined up side-by-side and splayed under a glass-encased structure in the middle of the lobby. True story, according to Scott, Nike had to buy the sneakers from a Japanese collector who had gotten the till-then complete set autographed on his own dime. Yeah, pretty crazy that Nike had to buy back what they created.
There was also a Nolan Ryan sculpture composed of various bric-a-brac from when he was cleaning out his garage.
And there were a large group of employees (we asked) who were playing pick-up soccer on the Ronaldo field in the middle of the South Campus. Here’s his statue, though he’s put on some weight since it was created from his likeness.
The main event wasn’t until the afternoon.
After the tour, we broke for lunch to await Nike’s presentation. The wait was worth it with Kristin Ledlow emceeing the event. Nike also trotted out Ken Gennaro, the Vice President of Information Technology at the NBA, Matthew Nurse, the Senior Director at the Nike Research Lab, and Taryn Hensley, the Director of Nike’s Cushioning Innovation Team to speak to us about the role they played in the evolution of the shoe.
John Brenkus, the co-CEO and co-founder of BASE Productions put together some crazy spliced videos of James in action to break up the speakers and introduce everyone.
Finally, after all the speakers had sufficiently amped up our anticipation, James made his appearance and showed off the lead turquoise colorway of the Nike LeBron 12, called the “NSRL” after the ingenuity and hard work necessary for the shoe’s creation in the Nike lab.
James sat with Ledlow to talk about the sneaker, Kyrie Irving, and what he’s hoping to bring to the court for the Cavs next year.
“There are so many things that this shoe has that are personal to me,” said LeBron. “And then also being able to match up with the NSRL. Bringing it to the lab, then bringing [things] to the shoe that make it more durable, more comfortable for me. Last longer. Maybe [it will allow me to] be more explosive, maybe jump higher if that’s possible — if that’s possible!
“We don’t know,” he smirked towards the crowd. “We’ll see.”
As the woman next to me eagerly snapping pics whispered to me, “He’s really good at smiling.”
He really is.
After the event concluded, the TV people got their interview time with James and we adjourned to the spacious Bo Jackson gym where we spoke with designers about the different colorways and the story behind each creation.
We also got to play with the Nike Zoom airbag springs while Hensley (in profile below — she seemed a little nervous while on stage) explained the pressure mapping they used to create the different zoom air cushioning brackets (in the hexagonal shape) on the sole of the LeBron 12.
“When you look at a pressure map of a foot, you see the different parts of the foot experience different pressure during impact. We wanted a design tuned to reality,” said Hensley. “So each air bag is designed and engineered differently to tune the overall performance of explosive precision. We used different sizes, heights and placement to create the ideal tuning.”
Then there were the adorable pairs for kids of all ages in the “Heart of a Lion” colorway:
One of the designers of the Nike Zoom Hypercross Trainer, which we wear-tested next to the LeBron 12 the next day, spoke to us about the innovation behind the shoe. We were a tad too busy preparing to play.
Here’s another birds-eye view of the Zoom Hypercross, which was surprisingly durable during the first portion of our wear test and sports the same hexagonal zoom air bags on the sole:
Eventually we played in the LeBron 12, but not before we got to watch a brief workout from the man of the hour.
The cushioning really is first-rate, able to withstand the fastest cut any normal human might experience on the hardwood. It’s not like we’re exploding across the court like James, but the comfort and ease of movement is a credit to the engineering.
The upper is different than the LeBron 11, and the performance capacity for the newest iteration in the LeBron line far surpasses the 11, which James himself only wore a few times last season.
If you’re wondering about our own personal favorite, the “Six Meridians” orange colorway with a yellow/gold graphic speckled on the Hyperposite shell probably wins that battle, but we’re sure there will be plenty of other colorways aside from the seven unveiled last week.
It was an exhausting week, but not as tiring as it was for all the Nike people involved in the development, design and implementation of the Nike LeBron 12.
What do you think?
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