Five years ago today, LeBron James made “The Decision” on an ESPN special. He announced his choice to sign with the Miami Heat. Of course, The Decision was criticized by everyone under the sun. Not just the typical antagonists like Skip Bayless, Steven A. Smith, and the rest of the media, but even Michael Jordan had something to say about LeBron’s choice. But aside from whether you loved or hated The Decision, or whether LeBron stayed in Cleveland or bounced to Miami, there was something about that day that started a huge change in the sneaker world.
Nike Tokis became the most sought after sneakers ever. Or not.
Actually, it’s funny that most people will not remember the shoes LeBron wore for the special. That may be because Kanye West was falling asleep during The Decision and he might have more influence on sneakers than even King James. Or it could be that Nike was so quick to get the “Pre-Heat” LeBron 8 buzzing that it erased the memories of the Nike Toki being on James’ feet during the ESPN special.
The hype generated around the release of the South Beach LeBron 8s was unprecedented. In my opinion, it was a perfect storm. Nike’s marketing prowess is always incredible but the timing also seemed to coincide with the growth of “Sneaker Twitter” as well. Twitter was popular but niche audiences, like the sneaker community, really began to blow up around this time five years ago.
Even to this day, the South Beaches are one of the highest priced LeBrons when it comes to the resale market. At the time, it was apparent that everyone and their brother knew about the Miami inspired colorway. Did anyone think they would become as big of a deal as they did?
In hindsight, The Decision probably wasn’t the best decision for LeBron’s public image but his time in Miami solidified him as one of the best player’s in history. It also allowed him to turn the page in the sneaker world and become unquestionably the premier athlete in the business. Some would even call the South Beach LeBron 8s the greatest LeBron sneaker in history.
Michael Jordan’s sneakers have long outlasted his time on the court. Maybe, for LeBron James, “The Decision” wasn’t such a bad choice after all.
Nick Engvall is a sneaker enthusiast with over 15 years of experience in the footwear business. He has written for publications such as Complex, Sole Collector, and Sneaker News, helped companies like Eastbay, Finish Line, Foot Locker, and StockX better connect with their consumers, has an addiction to burritos and Sour Patch Kids, and owns way too many shoes for his own good.