The Man-child

Some things make you feel old. It’s inevitable as you age, but palpable reminders can still hit you in the face. LeBron James is one of them. Why? Because I’m rocking his kicks, and the kid is nearly ten years younger than me.

Imagine being Michael Jordan – in high skool. Welcome to the first phase of LeBron’s life. Kid was on the covers of Sports Illustrated and SLAM in his junior year (Grade 11)!?! And it’s only gotten bigger.

I remember watching LeBron’s first NBA game with baited breath. Would the most-hyped athlete EVER (relative to his age/experience) live up to top-billing? Mos Def – he was on some legitimate universal magnetic from Game One. Oops, dunks, dimes, he had it all – including one of the most hotly contested sneaker signings of all time.

Nike won (of course), and the LeBron era was on. Well, not really – not until his second shoe – the Zoom LeBron II. I skipped his debut joint, the Zoom Generation, mainly cuz it was ugly. It didn’t reflect the genius in LBJ’s game – a steep disappointment considering the design team consisted of Tinker Hatfield and Eric Avar, two Nike gods.

But the LeBron II made me a believer or a witness or whatever Nike’s slogan is. Cuz the shit was dope, from the reflective fabric to the extensive lasering (a first for a non-limited edition Nike) to the assymetrical straps. And the shoe was as rugged as you’d expect for a 6’8”, 250 lb b-ball monster, but also supremely comfortable, thanks to Zoom Max cushioning.

And somehow they topped in with the LBJ III. I won’t draw parallels between LeBron and Jordan from a basketball P.O.V., but sneaker-wise, James is on-track for a career on par with the Man himself. When it comes to kicks, I try to discipline myself. For example, I don’t like rocking shoes when they first drop – I try to wait a couple years until cats have beaten them to death or they’ve just been forgotten (trust me, the backlog is big enough that this isn’t a problem).

But I broke that rule as soon as I copped my LBJ IIIs – started rocking them from Day One. I copped three colorways, included another of the O.G. for box-freshness purposes. And don’t think it hit me when I bought them that I’m wearing the shoes of a someone much younger than myself. With Jordan, I was a kid growing up watching the Man do his thang. With LeBron, I’m a man now, watching a kid grow to be the Man.

So who’s the kid, me or LeBron? Both, I suppose. James stopped being a kid a long time ago (and stopped looking like one a million years ago). And just like the kid/Man, the LeBron IVs are ahead of their time — from the foamposite shell to the sleek design and newly-incorporated Free technology (Nike’s latest running-shoe breakthrough). Compare the LBJs to the signature offerings from the other guys (T-Mac with adidas and A.I. with Reebok), and it’s like those other shoes aren’t even in the same millenium. Can’t wait to leave work and cop them LBJ IVs today…. So I guess I’m still a kid, too.

Rick Kang

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