The Nike Zoom LeBron 2 is expected to get the retro treatment in 2022. (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
SNEAKERS & FASHION

A New Nike LeBron Retro is Finally in the Works

Tucked away in the Nike vault for almost two decades, the second signature shoe from LeBron James is expected to return for the first time ever next year.

Christmas may be coming early for fans of LeBron James and his signature series of Nike Basketball bangers:

The beloved Nike Zoom LeBron 2 sneaker is reportedly set for a comeback.

As first reported by Brendan Dunne at Complex, the 2004 favorite is expected to receive the retro treatment for the first time at retail in 2022.

Sign Up For Our Newsletters

Get on our list for sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

From a branding standpoint, the Nike Zoom LeBron 2 was the first Nike model to noticeably carry King James‘ title tagging. While 2003’s Nike Air Zoom Generation was most certainly a LeBron in intention and endorsement, the debut model lacked his name on the box.

Quickly, the course would change as it was overseas in Athens, Greece where the world first saw the Nike Zoom LeBron 2.

LeBron at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens (Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty Images)

King James was called up to Team USA for the 2004 Summer Games shortly after the end of his Rookie of the Year season. His unreleased second signature appeared on his feet in sport’s grandest stage.

Months later, on Nov. 6, the LeBron 2 hit retail in Black/Red-White, with the White/Navy makeup from Athens hitting stores weeks later.

Only four colorways of the original mid-top Nike Zoom LeBron 2 released at retail over the course of the shoe’s 2004-05 run. This includes an all-black “Birthday” pair that launched to the tune of only 500 units.

Famously, James wore the Nike Zoom LeBron 2 in his first-ever All-Star Game in 2005. That “Cool Grey” colorway hit stores in February of that year, coinciding with the midseason classic and proving to be the last mid-top makeup of the LeBron 2 made available to the public.

While retail renditions of the LeBron 2 were somewhat scarce in styles, player exclusive iterations were plentiful.

On-court, the Nike Zoom LeBron 2 “Chamber of Fear” PE played off the shoe’s cinematic ad campaign. This home-hued exclusive was worn by LeBron often during his first stay in Cleveland, and even tracked down years later by sneaker superstar Nick Young.

Oregon’s Malik Hairston of Oregon drives on Illinois’ Deron Williams in a Ducks PE pair of Zoom LeBron 2s, December 2004 (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

In turn, excitement regarding what LBJ would wear in-game heightened through his own PE pairs.

“Nike started to ramp up LeBron’s PEs for his second season,” says industry insider and Boardroom host Nick DePaula. “Immediately the white and crimson pair sticks out that he registered his first Triple Double in during his lone visit to Portland.”

In addition to Cavs-centric colorways, Nike also laced the University of Oregon in exclusive iterations of the Zoom LeBron 2.

It was the home Ducks PE that James somewhat surprisingly donned during the Cavs’ momentous 2016 Championship Parade.

Such school exclusives upped the ante and reach of the then-young LeBron brand, while also creating some cache for colleges long before annual signature PEs became the norm.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle / Getty)

Because of the allure attached to the Nike Zoom LeBron 2 and its PE pairs, both collectors and competitive hoopers have continued to chase down pairs from the 2000s, as well as sample styles made strictly for James in the 2010s.

PJ Tucker — who happens to be a renowned sneaker collector in addition to being an NBA champion — has broken out PE pairs of the LeBron 2 over the years, including the exclusive “Dunkman” do-up and an animal-inspired “Beast” rendition.

So, what do all these sample styles mean for round two of LeBron 2 launches?

When it comes to the short list of LeBron retros that have released at retail, like the Air Zoom Generation, LeBron 3, 7 and 8, pairs that were once player exclusives have crossed over in their second life to limited launches accessible by the public.

For those not already in possession of the original rarities, one would hope this trend continues with the LeBron 2 Retro.

“Since the OGs mostly stuck to on-court colorways, it’d be great to see some more versatile PEs like the Dunkmans or the Croc pair come back too,” DePaula notes.

Aesthetics aside, perhaps the most compelling category regarding a retro LeBron 2 is its initial performance prowess on the court.

In 2015 — 10 years after the original LeBron 2 last released at retail — James himself wore a pair in a regular season game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers,, 2015 (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)

James led the Cavs in throwback uniforms over Giannis and Co., scoring 27 points in a model he hadn’t worn on court in nearly a decade.

Technically speaking, the Nike Zoom LeBron 2 was a triumph upon its arrival — well renowned for its innovation and play by the likes of performance review pioneer Ernest “Professor K” Kim, as well as active players on the amateur level.

This mattered much for Nike and LeBron as the stakes were high given his Rookie of the Year arrival and $90 Million shoe deal.

Tasking designer Ken Link to follow up the Nike Air Zoom Generation — a statement model made by Eric Avar, Tinker Hatfield, and Aaron Cooper — the sophomore signature was built off of the prompt by King James himself to “feel bulletproof.”

Link made this happen by way of ballistic mesh on the upper, backed by leather reinforcements for support. Caged Zoom Air brought visible technology to the Nike LeBron line, while laser-etching underneath the strap was a first for Nike Basketball.

It was all capped off by a repeating “LJ” pattern on the outsole, offering both an Easter egg for fans and top-notch traction for hoopers.

Original Nike Zoom LeBron 2 Sketch by designer Ken Link

“This was an insane shoe for $125 retail back in the day,” DePaula says. “Possibly the most value in a shoe ever.”

Pricing regarding the retro release of the LeBron 2 is yet to be revealed; for context, the closest comparison may be 2005’s Nike Zoom LeBron 3, which originally retailed for $125 but packed an MSRP of $175 when it returned in 2018.

According to Complex, the LeBron 2 Retro is currently slated for September 2022. However, as continued COVID constraints push product logistics and delay launches, this could be subject to change.

Sign Up For Our Newsletters

Get on our list for sports business, industry trends, interviews, and more.

Subscribe

Enter your email below