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The Cushioning History of LeBron's Signature Line

Throughout 17 models, LeBron James’ signature line has continually iterated for the athlete’s primary, and dueling, need for propulsion and protection. His is a game of balance — leaping one second, crashing down on the floor the next. His shoes must support his dynamism, and also help preserve his energy. 

The evolution of cushioning in the LEBRON line is testament to a long-term partnership that has spearheaded game-changing innovations in two formats of Nike Air: Zoom and Max. Together, these two facets of Air have worked either singularly or in tandem to support James's design and performance goals, and fundamentally shift how we consider basketball shoes.

Nike Air Zoom Generation

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LeBron’s debut shoe featured Air Zoom in the forefoot and encapsulated Nike Air in the heel, establishing the protective and responsive characteristics that have become hallmarks of James’s footwear. 

Air Zoom LEBRON II

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The LEBRON II doubled up on responsive cushioning with high-volume Zoom Air units to the forefoot and heel. These were reinforced by a Pebax shell, which supported the cushioning system during quick lateral moves and hard landings. 

Air Zoom LEBRON III

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The double Air Zoom unit set up from the II continued in the LEBRON III, but with a reduction of weight to the midsole. 

Air Zoom LEBRON IV

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Introducing a full-length Air Zoom unit, the LEBRON IV eschewed a traditional midsole for a carbon shank. This helped provide torque and propulsion, neatly balanced by the protection and stability of the shoe’s Foamposite construction. 

Air Zoom LEBRON V

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The full-length Air Zoom unit remained for the LEBRON V, even as the upper shifted to a Phyposit Endoskeleton.

Air Zoom LEBRON VI

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For the LEBRON VI, the full-length Air Zoom unit returned, but was double stacked at the heel; this innovative solution maximized the responsive qualities of low-profile energy return.

Air Max LEBRON VII

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As the name suggests, the Air Max LEBRON VII was all about Max Air. The shoe housed the first full-length Max Air unit specifically engineered for basketball, which featured a slight downward slope from the heel to the forefoot.

LEBRON VIII

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The LEBRON VIII employed the same Max Air unit as the LEBRON VII and brought in increased support throughout the upper.

LEBRON IX

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Visible Max Air at the heel and a low profile Air Zoom unit in the forefoot gave the LEBRON IX a unique feel for the King’s first title run. 

LEBRON X

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LeBron’s back-to-back run was supported by an innovative breakthrough that fused the impact protection of Max Air with Air Zoom’s lateral responsiveness.

LEBRON XI

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A full-length, low profile Air Zoom unit was employed for the XI, a shoe that sought to balance an indestructible fortitude with malleability.

LEBRON XII

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With a network of 8mm Air Zoom pods, the LEBRON XII balanced responsive cushioning with new principles in natural foot motion. Each pod was placed strategically to create optimal energy return from key strike points underfoot.

LEBRON XIII

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The LEBRON XIII was all about building on the Air Zoom system initiated in the LEBRON XII, while reducing overall material usage.

LEBRON XIV

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The LEBRON XIV adapted the pod network concept, reducing the number to four, and introduced a larger heel unit. 

LEBRON XV

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LeBron’s favorite Air unit, a full-length Zoom, was reworked and improved for the LEBRON XV. Rather than a single fluid unit, the new component took into account lessons of natural motion for a low-to-the-ground ride.

LEBRON XVI

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The XV’s Zoom Air Unit formed a basis for the XVI too, the visible system helping provide strength, stability and impact protection. 

LEBRON XVII

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Air Zoom pods in the forefoot help provide propulsion, while a first-of-its-kind Max Air unit helps protect against the impact of the game.

Learn more about the LEBRON XVII here.