During the opening months of the 2013-14 NBA season, LeBron James reaffirmed his status as the game’s best player. Miami won 14 of their first 17 games, and James pushed his efficiency to alien levels, shooting 61 percent from the floor in the month of November while also hitting nearly half of his three-point attempts. Kevin Durant would eventually pull away for the MVP, but for much of the season, ‘Bron was doing things that no wing player had ever done before.
Ironically, after the fuss over the launch of the Nike LeBron 11, the two-time defending champ was doing a lot of this in a different shoe. He struggled with the fit around the 11’s toe area and often switched into the previous year’s model during the middle of games. He also routinely went to work in the Nike Zoom Soldier VII, a longstanding sub line of his that’ll continue this weekend at Champs Sports with the release of the black/metallic silver Zoom Soldier VIII. It became somewhat of an awkward moment. Do you buy the LeBron 11 if all he wants to wear is the Soldier VII? Is the Soldier VII now his unofficial sneaker? Apparently, that didn’t affect fans’ mindset too much — when Nike issued a statement saying they were tweaking the 11 for LeBron, sales of the signature 11 were still up 18 percent over the previous year.
In the end, it said less about the 11 and more of the Soldier series, because James has repeatedly shown over the years that he’s not afraid to hit the court in the Soldier. He scored 45 points in a 2008 Game 7 in Boston in a player exclusive colorway of the Nike Zoom Soldier II, and he made a buzzer-beating triple in the Eastern Conference Finals the following year in the Zoom Soldier III “Playoff” edition. But his most memorable moment in the Soldier series came in 2007.
During the 2007 Playoffs, which ended in LeBron James’ first run to the Finals, he wore home and away versions of the Nike Zoom Soldier throughout the playoffs. The home colorway was all-white with gold accents, while the away version was a standout: a white base with navy blue straps along the heel and laces. One of the greatest moments of his career happened in the Soldier. Scoring 48 points, including 25 straight at one point for Cleveland, James handed Detroit a stunning Game 5 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was the game that probably pushed the Cavs to the Finals, and also marked a performance that’ll forever be remembered as the real start of ‘Bron’s legacy.
Since then, the Soldier series has continued with new versions each year, starting strong before fading somewhat with the V and VI. But the VII, complete with a Hyperfuse constructed upper, a Nike Zoom unit in forefront and heel, and the mid-foot strap, was a hit. After wearing them throughout the regular season, LeBron even donned a red and white player exclusive colorway in the Finals against San Antonio.
This weekend, the Nike Zoom Soldier VIII will hit Champs Sports in a black and metallic silver colorway. To longtime LeBron fans, it’ll certainly look familiar with the mid-foot strap and Zoom tech, while also adding Flywire into the mix.
All those years ago, when Nike first signed LeBron James out of high school to a $90 million contract, lead designer Aaron Cooper promised, “We will design you the most comfortable basketball shoe you have ever worn.” Since then, they’ve been hard at work outfitting the best player in the world — a guy they described as a warrior on the court… a soldier — with a sneaker that both supports and comforts. The Nike Zoom Soldier series is a reflection of that.
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