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Designer John Elliott Discusses the Inimitable Style of LeBron James

February 14, 2014: LeBron James scores 31 against New York, while wearing a black carbon fiber mask.

Though the look was protective, it typified James’ swagger. It signaled the seriousness of his intent as a player, as well as disrupting basketball's usual on-court look. Award-winning menswear designer, John Elliott was among those who instantly recognized the importance of the statement.

A year later, Elliott unveiled his first work on a LeBron silhouette — a version of the LeBron 12 that became a centerpiece of the designer’s debut New York runway presentation. His second, a take on the LeBron Soldier X, is a centerpiece of a different source: One of the exclusive releases celebrating the opening of Nike’s new Nike Soho store.

Elliott began noticing James well before the first collaboration and over a decade before that famous mask game. With Nike News, he discusses watching James as a high school star and the impact of the three-time champion's subsequent signature footwear line.

I remember being in college and watching his high school games like with my friends in like small, almost like dorm-room, style apartments. Watching a high school kid thinking — you know, because I played at junior college — “Wow, I can't believe all of us are literally huddled watching this high school kid.” The stuff that he did…it was undeniable that he was going to be a transformative athlete even when he was in high school. 

He was "can't miss." And, stylistically, he bridged the gap between the previous generation of athletes and a new era. He has been in my basketball life for over a decade, and sometimes when I think back to where it all started, it can take me back to those college apartments. It's kind of cool.

I bought the Zoom Generation. I think it was the first time for me in my life that I ever bought a shoe made for someone who was younger than me.  I can remember thinking like, "Whoa. This is a real paradigm shift.” The LeBron 8 is definitely a favorite of mine too.  I had friends that hooped in those and the shoe translated off the court, those I think are iconic.  The 12 was the first one that I got a chance to work on, and having spent a lot of time and energy and thought those have a special place in my heart. 

Each shoe seems to define a time period, an era for LeBron, and he’s obviously ahead of that curve, in play and style, before almost anyone. And I think it really helps kind of set that new path forward. 

Seeing him in game three this summer, in that all-black Soldier X, that was like another moment where I don't think I'll ever be able to erase…there’s that kind of wow, like "Oh my God" moment about it. You knew that something was about to go down.  The all-black Soldier, it's a beautiful and disruptive design. It was almost a little bit of foreshadowing, really, for what was about to happen for the rest of that series.

You couple that with the way that he played in the shoe, it was—it is silhouette that I think instantly became iconic. The people who love it do so because it's new and because it's unexpected. It was instantly something that I was attracted to.

The LeBron Soldier X by John Elliott releases exclusively at the Nike Soho store.

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