The design process for the John Elliott x Nike LeBron Icon began to take shape during the closing moments of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Elliott’s childhood dream was to design a sneaker for Nike and LeBron James, whom he considers the greatest athlete of all time. When the opportunity came to fruition, his research began with James’s now-iconic chase-down block that led the Cleveland Cavaliers to its very first NBA championship.
“If you look at the amount of ground LeBron covered, and the 2016 series in general, it’s almost unbelievable that a human can do what LeBron did to win a championship,” Elliott told Nike back in 2018 before the LeBron Icon sneaker made its debut. James’s unrivaled athleticism paired with his unrelenting determination called to mind the concept of a spillway, a structure used to control the flow of water to a dam. “This idea of water being released from a spillway—a force of nature—is actually really beautiful,” Elliott said. “There are literally layers of transparency that take place down a contained, concrete area, which really speaks to my aesthetic too.”
Elliott thoughtfully translated this idea into a sneaker design, producing one of the best new silhouettes of 2018: the John Elliott x Nike LeBron Icon. Rejecting conformity and embracing innovation, the San Francisco–born designer created a shoe that spoke to the modern sneaker consumer by utilizing elements from James’s past signature sneakers juxtaposed alongside contemporary translucency, proportion and imaginative layering. Elliott’s design was among the earliest to embrace 2018’s bold trend of creating sneakers that expose the socks worn underneath, allowing the wearer to customize the look of the shoes.