‘Protect Me From Myself’: Nike Designer Discusses the Pressure of Making Shoes for LeBron James

Published 10/22/2021, 11:04 PM EDT
LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 30: LeBron James attends a Los Angeles Sparks WNBA game on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


LeBron James entered the league with the cape of ‘the chosen one’. He had the giants like Adidas and Nike go to war for cutting the first deal with him. As a result, his first contract alone got him a whopping $90 million deal while he was still a teenager. 

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From that day in May 2003 until today, the star has won four NBA titles, multiple MVPs, and is on his way to break the all-time scoring record too. Now, designing shoes for one such personality can never be a cake-walk. So the designing brain behind Bron’s shoes recently walked through his experience with the same.

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What is it like to design sneakers for LeBron James?

In a recent interview, Jason Petrie, a senior footwear designer for Nike, revealed his feelings that went into the creation of Bron’s shoes. He first remembered the days when Nike was trying to get a contract to LeBron and hinted how Bron keeps a similar committment to the design process as Kobe Bryant once did.

He expressed, “Oh my god. We always say, protect me from myself, which is something he told us very early on. Just a big dude, so fast, those forces not only take a toll on your body but on your footwear. So building a court release is a big part and… we really wanna make sure we help him live longer on court and feel younger out there.” 

True, the Lakers star is a 6’8” 250 lbs giant and his athleticism is still on the elite level. So designing shoes to match those aspects can be an overwhelming challenge. But a 12-years association with LeBron James’ shoeline has made Jason understand the responsibility very well. 

As he added, “You talk about pressure, at the end of the day, he shouldn’t be thinking about his footwear. He should be allowed to let his natural ability take over and do one of those things that he does so well, which is playing basketball.”

Even last year, Bron had his right ankle bother him throughout the season and it became the prime factor the Lakers did not reach round 2. So regular eyes might miss it, but those soles under the feet, the mesh supporting the front and the wall around the ankle, do matter.

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In May 2019, a report showed a jump of 10% in the sale of the Air Jordan brand. This helped MJ take home an insane annual income of $130 million from the $3.14 billion revenue. More surprisingly, that number proved four times ahead of what LeBron James managed.

December 27, 2020 – LeBron James writhes in pain after twisting his ankle during action against the Wolves at Staples Center. (Robert Gauthier/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

As a #2, right behind His Highness, the Akron Hammer had to stay content with his $32 million. In fact, in terms of total earnings too, MJ’s $145 million (sneaker income + other deals) beat King James’ $89 million (NBA Salary, sneakers, and other income). No wonder why LeBron is so committed to the design of his signature line (or say, soldier line). 

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In the future, LBJ will stand a shot at beating Jordan but it will take the juice off him, Jason Petrie, and team. Do you see that happening in the next decade? Help us know what you think in the comments section below.

Watch this story: Business Investments That Made LeBron James the Richest Active NBA Player

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Sourabh Singh

1739 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

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