For Jason Donnar (@jason_donnar_03), collecting LeBron James sneakers has always seemed like a perfect fit–except perhaps for his physical location.
“I’ve always got a lot of crap for this since I live in Indiana. But I’ve never been a Pacers fan,” Donnar says with a laugh. “I usually have favorite players and not favorite teams.”
As such, though he doesn’t restrict himself to one brand or player, the Cavs superstar has been his primary focus over the years, leading him to become a respected LeBron collector in the sneaker community. His Instagram and YouTube channel feature general releases and limited editions alike, including pairs you might own yourself plus many more you’d probably kill to have.
What Donnar has found is that it pays to zig when other people zag. “When I first started looking at LeBrons,” he says, “I think people were still more into Jordans.” As a result, he was able to backtrack and scoop up GRs that other people had slept on to build his collection, and through Facebook communities and such, he was able to trade for other models he coveted.
“My dad’s side of the family was big in Philly, so Allen Iverson growing up was everything,” Donnar says. “I watched Iverson play in high school; I went to Bethel to see him play. I followed him pretty heavy until he went to Denver, and then he started switching from team to team.”
Iverson’s incredible run in Philly came to an end during the 2006-07 season, which happened to be the year LeBron went from a rising star to a full-fledged supernova, willing the Cavs past the Pistons to make his first NBA Finals.
“I had also seen LeBron play in high school,” Donnar says. “So once Iverson kind of fell off, I kind of picked up on LeBron from there. The shoes part of it came later on.”
Donnar had a few pairs of sneakers in college, mainly a pair of Soldiers here and there. When he graduated and started bringing in income, he discovered the LeBron 8 and became totally smitten.
“The All-Star Game 8s from L.A., the blues with the special East/West box, that’s my favorite LeBron ever,” Donnar says. “I don’t think there’s any other LeBron where there was a high and a low that was so well put together. That Sprite Low and the Solar Red Low, that whole model in general was just out of the park.”
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His crown jewel is a pair of Air Max LeBron 7 MVPs, which he was able to purchase from a friend of a friend for a fraction of the thousands the sneakers fetch on the open market. The seller’s only condition: He couldn’t flip them. Not a problem for Donnar, who firmly believes in wearing and displaying his kicks.
Donnar’s integrity bleeds through in his YouTube videos, which specialize in telling the stories behind sneakers. As he started making connections through his channel, brands like Champs Sports and Jordan Brand began reaching out, helping him expand his reach and work toward his goal of becoming an authority on all things LBJ.
“The one thing I wanted to always do, when people search for a shoe that was LeBron-related, I wanted them to find my video on it,” Donnar says. Sure enough, if you do a Google search for, say, the MVP 7s, his YouTube review is among the first five results. The sneaker is extremely rare, so Donnar’s pair is one of very few out there. But past that, his knowledge and passion are what have helped him carve a unique niche in the cluttered sneaker landscape.
“People can totally tell if you’re being genuine and honest,” Donnar says. “If you’re doing it just to make a video and you don’t have enthusiasm for it, people can totally see right through it.”
Donnar, who works in marketing for a trucking company, admits that his modus operandi has evolved a bit. For one, he’s basically checked off just about everything on his wish list. But he also sees the more recent models as lacking in street appeal and storytelling elements compared to the earlier releases.
The thing is, when you start to get older, your perspective and priorities can’t help but change. Donnar is considerably more selective now than he was fresh out of college, when he estimates he was prone to buying 10 pairs in a 2-week period. At 28, peer pressure doesn’t have the same effect; ostensibly, you don’t have to get something just because everyone else is.
All that said, a leopard doesn’t change his spots. With Nike having signed LeBron to a lifetime contract, retros are on the way, something Donnar is looking forward to.
“When it comes to the point where they start releasing LeBrons from 10-15 years ago, I know I’ll still be grabbing some if they’re ones I missed out on,” Donnar says. “I just don’t see myself grabbing every single colorway.”
all images via @jason_donnar_03