A pair of game-worn sneakers from King James’ freshman season has hit the auction block in autographed form.
Even at age 14, LeBron James had big shoes to fill — size 14, actually.
Before becoming the Air Apparent or christened as The Chosen One by the great Grant Wahl, LeBron was arriving quite literally. As a freshman phenom, he was finding his way around the hallowed hallways of St. Vincent/St. Mary’s High School in Akron, Ohio.
Young in age but colossal in stature, Bron’s big personality and unprecedented athleticism made him popular among his peers as a star and starter on the boy’s varsity basketball team.
Having not won a state championship since 1984, the tall kid in English class quickly changed the narrative by bringing his school a title as only a freshman.
That was literally just the beginning, as he’d do it again in 2001 and again in 2003.
Not bad for a boy who wasn’t even named Most Athletic in his eighth-grade yearbook.
While what LeBron has done over the years is a story still being written, what was on his feet when it all started proves an ironic footnote.
This week, Heritage Auctions listed the sneakers worn by the teen talent who won a state ring as a freshman.
Tied to a time when Bron was too low in stature to even wear No. 23, the once-discounted Team Jordans from 1999 could now bring in $200,000 by bidders.
In a roundabout way, the numbers and nostalgia all make more sense than one would think.
Started From the Bottom
Years before LeBron James was a billionaire baller sporting the purple and gold No. 6, he was simply a promising student-athlete enrolling in his first year of Catholic school.
Raised by his mother Gloria with the support of an Akron community, LeBron began making a name for himself on the AAU circuit as a middle schooler. Blessed with an innate IQ for the game, uncanny agility, and natural leadership skills, friends loved to play with LeBron and be around him.
Because of this, travel teammates Dru Joyce III, Willie McGee, and Sian Cotton chose to enroll at a private school with their rising phenom friend. This move proved controversial at first, but plentiful shortly after.
As a 6-foot-2 freshman, LeBron James led SVSM to a 27-0 season. Pouring in 21 points a night while grabbing six boards, his play propelled the Fighting Irish to a state championship and soon much more.
By his sophomore season, Adidas was sending shoes to the school and the University of Akron was hosting home games. The team took home its second straight state title with LeBron being named Ohio’s Mr. Basketball and a first-team All-American.
At the time, neither individual accolades had ever been accomplished by an underclassman.
Though King James’ last few seasons in high school came with national press, televised games, and a bidding war by basketball’s biggest brands, the stakes were different when he was only a prince.
Foreshadowing the future, LeBron played his first season at SVSM in the Jordan Jumpman Swift 6. The avant-garde Air Jordan 15 takedown served as a signature shoe for Los Angeles Lakers swingman, Eddie Jones.
Sporting No. 6 in LaLa Land decades before Bron arrived, Jones epitomized the early ethos of Team Jordan. As one of the brand’s first signees and signature athletes, EJ had it all going for him.
Playing in a major market and making an impact on both sides of the ball, Eddie’s pairing of professionalism and All-Star status all aligned with the image of MJ.
Priced at $129, the Swift 6 was easier to afford than the brand’s flagship model yet still striking in appearance. Wearing said shoe in the 2000 Ohio state championship game, Bron balled out to the tune of 25 points, nine rebounds, and five assists.
Akin to the era, a young LeBron signed his shoes with a Sharpie, commencing the undefeated season and hinting at the number he’d sport in the repeat.
Twenty-two years later, the game-worn sneakers are expected to earn $200,000 on the auction block.
The Midas Touch
From film production companies to fledgling franchises, LeBron James has proven the capacity to add value to anything he adjoins himself to.
An all-time great on the hardwood and a boss in the business world, LeBron’s been able to earn millions for those he’s played for, played with, and simply lent likeness to.
This trickle-down effect transfers all the way to the world of memorabilia where his rookie cards and game-worn sneakers sell for more money than most Americans make in a year.
The latest hit is this played-in pair from high school. Gifted to his stepfather, Eddie Jackson, the shoes have sentimental meaning to those down since Day 1 but high dollar dubbing to a growing world of collectors.
This year alone, LeBron’s No. 6 Lakers jersey — strikingly similar to the one once worn by Jones — was listed for an IPO on Collectible with fanatics purchasing fractional shares.
Back in June, a LeBron Triple Logoman card sold at auction for a whopping $2.4 million.
Though these Jumpman Swift 6s may not connect with a mass audience the same way his first game sneakers from 2003 do or even the strapped Soldiers worn during his infamous chase-down block, they do play a part in the loaded legacy of LeBron’s impact on the sneaker industry that literally started in his adolescence.
Even as a high school student, LeBron James was shaking hands with execs and shifting strategies for global corporations. These game-worn sneakers take it all the way to Day 1.
Humbler times for certain, even if it’ll take $200,000 to take home the history.
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