When LeBron James arrived in South Beach after the 2009-10 everything changed, literally everything. James proved that player mobility and freedom was possible in the NBA and this trend has continued ever since. The Cleveland Cavilers fell apart, D-Wade got to play with his bestie and Nike got to experiment with new colorways for King James’s kicks. Jason Petrie, head designer of the LeBron line absolutely murdered the LBJ VII from a design and storytelling point-of-view and his next creation, the LeBron 8 delivered on much of the same great concepts and then some! The LeBron 8 was a hit with casual fans and the sneaker community. Highlights include: the first use of LeBron’s Lion logo on a shoe, Full-Length Air Max returned and Flywire provided great lockdown & stability. Upon the 8’s release excitement was high but then magic struck in the form of a new South Beach themed colorway. Drawing inspiration from Miami Vice and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City the South Beach instantly broke necks and turned the sneaker game on its head. By no means were the South Beaches the first sneaker to cause hysteria, but these shoes changed how footwer released to the public, the perception of Nike Basketball shoes as lucrative resellable items, and how themed kicks are executed.
The South Beaches literally wrecked the game (in a good way); and because of their massive success many of the other LeBron 8s were overshadowed. Stupid amounts of quality releases dropped over the course of the 8’s lifecycle, many of which never get the love they deserve. But don’t worry, shoes that can’t read, we’ll show you some love! For today’s Throwback lets countdown our top-3 favorite LeBron 8’s that aren’t the South Beaches. We didn’t want to include the PS (post season) or low versions of the LBJ 8 because the PSs underwhelmed and if we included low tops then both the Sprites and Solar Reds would make up 2 of our top 3 spots. Don’t get it twisted though, the LBJ 8 Lows are some of the hardest low top variants of mainline signature basketball shoes…. ever.
First on our list in the understated yet effective ‘China’ kicks. Dressed in nice white leather and contrasting red accents, the kicks keep it too clean. A lot of the 8s gave off a tech-y vibe (by today standards this feeling doesn’t hold true) and looked exclusively like hoops shoes, but the China colorway looks like a premium sportswear release. A nice ‘Un-China’ released too with more red contrast throughout the upper but we like the cleanliness of the originals much more. With a speckled, translucent, outsole and Air Max unit these the Chinas are classics on all continents.
The lone LeBron 8 V2 (meaning version 2, the midseason switch-up) on our list has a feature we’re suckers for – tonal fades! Dressed in Eastern Conference blue, these All-Star editions popped on-court and will pop on your feet too. A gorgeous north-to-south gradient fade flows down the shoe’s upper with pure white accents on the Swoosh and midsole capping off this beast. The All-Star 8s were the last LBJ All-Star kicks to be covered in various hues of blues (the V & VI used a similar color scheme too) and this pair definitely utilized the motif with the most success. The V2’s transparent fused upper panels play off of the fade effect perfectly – allowing for an added layer of color depth. There’s nothing to like about this pair of 8s, and they’re the most dynamic looking pair of our picks; but there’s something classically fulfilling about our top pick…
This ‘Bred’ colorway has been used a million times across Nike’s diverse footwear catalog but few capture the subtle complexity this pair does. Correct us if we’re wrong, but the LBJ 8 was the last LeBron signature shoe to use predominantly traditional upper materials. Synthetic leather and nubuck complement the upper’s use of carbon fiber and Flywire – it’s a beautiful mix of old school and new. The Miami heat hue of red works great alongside the shoe’s various textured blacks and the white/red speckle midsole looks fresh and clean. Coloring the Full-Length Air Max bag translucent red was a nice touch too. Overall the Bred LeBron 8s get next to zero love for no reason. They work great on the court and in the streets, if you can find a pair online then we really recommend you cop a pair!