LeBron James might have thought he had put the discussion to rest with his “I’m not MJ, I’m LJ” tweet regarding his career legacy, but he didn’t account for the signature sneaker comparison argument. After being teased with a first look at the upcoming Nike LeBron X, and keeping in mind that the Air Jordan 11 was undoubtedly a milestone for the Air Jordan line, it’s about time that we reflect upon the LeBron signature line. To ensure that this isn’t a boring history lesson, we’ve livened things up by stacking LeBron’s kicks up against the gamut of Jordans in a head-to-head matchup to see how it measures up with the legendary line. Cast your vote, and help decide whose kicks come out on top in the Jordan vs. LeBron Signature Line Showdown.
Nike Air Zoom Generation vs. Air jordan 1
Predicated on catering to the technical side of shoe design while providing optimum comfort, the Nike Air Zoom Generation still managed to be an aesthetically pleasing and provocative sneaker. The Air Jordan 1, on the other hand, sported a silhouette that took cues from the Nike Team Convention and Nike Dunk. Interestingly, going the safer route with the Air Jordan I proved to be effective, as it has been the most retro’d sneaker in the line, transitioning well as an off-the-court shoe.
Nike Zoom LeBron II vs. Air Jordan 2
With the LeBron II, Nike went in a different direction, enlisting a new designer, Ken Link, to push the line even further from a performance standpoint. Featuring more rugged materials and a thick ankle strap that is removable, this model proved more suited for the hardwood. For the Jordan 2, Nike stuck with the designer of the Jordan I, but moved the production of the sneaker to Italy while utilizing premium materials to give the Jordan 2 a luxury feel.
Nike Zoom LeBron III vs. Air Jordan 3
To change things up, yet another designer was commissioned to mock up the Zoom LeBron III. Keeping most of the technology at a constant, more focus was placed on making the shoe more visually appealing, which ended up translating well off the court. With the Jordan 3, the legendary Tinker Hatfield was brought onboard at a time when Michael was contemplating leaving Nike altogether. It goes without saying that the 3 was a winning model, ultimately convincing Michael to stick around, and becoming one of the more-beloved AJ iterations.
Nike Zoom LeBron IV vs. Air Jordan 4
Moving away from the military boot style of the LeBron III and continuing to evolve with each model, the Zoom LeBron IV was constructed using a Foamposite upper to set it apart from its predecessors. A daring design, to say the least, it was tough and durable, garnering on and off-court appeal, and ultimately being a fan-favorite because of the Foamposite inclusion. Piggy-backing off of the success of the Jordan 3, Tinker Hatfield was brought back as lead designer for the Jordan 4, crafting a shoe that was a loose derivative of the Nike Air Flight ’89. Jordan liked it, and fans of the brand loved it.
Nike Zoom LeBron V vs. Air Jordan 5
Going away from the use of Foamposite seen on the previous model, the Zoom LeBron V differed in its inclusion of a midfoot strap, while also possessing a higher cut to make up for the decrease in ankle lockdown. Naturally, these implementations translated into a more technically advanced sneaker, leaving much to be desired for the casual wearer. Coming back again to design another signature Jordan model, Hatfield bucked his trend of “tinkering” with other Nike silhouettes, and crafted an original design for the Jordan 5, making use of 3M reflective material and taking inspiration from World War II fighter planes. The inclusion of an oversized tongue and translucent outsole on the V started the trend of innovative design that ushered the line to cross over into the fashion realm.
Nike Zoom LeBron VI vs. Air Jordan 6
Ditching the complexity of the V, the Zoom LeBron VI simplified things by implementing a smooth and virtually seamless upper, and the move equated to the model being the lightest since the Zoom Generation. Going with simplicity and returning to a boot-styled silhouette, it was clear that the LeBron 6 was designed to complement street style. Bringing back the visible air unit on the fourth consecutive model, the Jordan 6 also featured another holdover from previous models, the translucent outsole. Another way the VI stayed in line with those that came before it was the use of black suede seen on the “Away” colorway, further adding to its luxurious aura.
Nike Air Max LeBron VII vs. Air Jordan 7
Taking it back to the drawing board again, Jason Petrie led the design team in charge of blueprinting the LeBron VII, which was the first to feature visible Flywire technology and traded out the use of Zoom Air in favor of a full-length Air Max unit. What made this model special was the utilization of the ever-popular patent leather material on the upper, that was a stark contrast from the aesthetics of the LeBron VI. Bearing similarities to its predecessor, the Jordan 7 was more of a remix of the 6, expanding upon the inner bootie and transforming it into a huarache-inspired inner lining. While the Jordan 7 bore a certain bulkiness, the 7 showed up with a more streamlined profile.
Nike LeBron 8 vs. Air Jordan 8
Jason Petrie made a return as lead designer of the LeBron 8 as we saw Flywire and a full-length Air Max unit also make a return. Being that the new model was not as flashy as the VII, the 8 was released in three different variations in addition to numerous colorways that made this iteration a big win for the LeBron line. Having built his reputation as an innovator, Tinker Hatfield exercised his creative license on the Jordan 8, incorporating double crossing straps in addition to the use of premium suede and chenille. By this time, Hatfield seemingly established a system of crafting a sneaker by stringing along particular elements from shoe to shoe as evidenced by the perforated side panels dating back to the Jordan 7.
Nike LeBron IX vs. Air Jordan 9
Nike LeBron X vs. Air Jordan 10
Hyperfuse, Flywire and Zoom Air all make an appearance on the LeBron X as Jason Petrie once again was at the helm to design the LeBron X. Going against the previous model, but sticking to his guns in terms of packaging high performance technology into a sleek-looking sneaker, the LeBron X was an instant gem that was well-received upon its first sighting at the 2012 Olympics. With no sign of Jordan making a return to basketball, Tinker spearheaded the design team in charge of creating a basketball sneaker that would possibly also never be worn by Jordan on the court. Following the motif of the Air Jordan 9, the designer went with a “less is more” approach, utilizing premium materials, all-new technology in the midsole and chronicling Jordan’s career achievements on an unorthodox-styled outsole.