This John Elliott x Nike LeBron Icon Was Never Meant to Release

Now, it can be yours

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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.

john elliot nike sketch
John Elliott's sketches for the LeBron Icon. / Nike

I imagined him walking into an arena for a big game and wanted to design a shoe that would help him feel his best, in terms of both comfort and confidence.

- Elliott on designing for LeBron James

Next weekend, Elliott and Nike will release an iteration of the shoe that was never meant for retailers. The “Summit White” colorway was first seen in 2018 on the feet of its namesake, LeBron James. The King debuted the shoe where most NBA players reveal exclusive sneakers: the basketball arena tunnel. The tunnel has become a fashion runway for new trends and emerging brands. James was heading into the office for a critical game in that year’s Eastern Conference Finals. Elliott was also seen wearing the shoe around the same time.

Immediate excitement for the shoe’s release began to circulate. However, those hopes were quickly deflated when it became clear that this particular style was meant for friends and family only. Limited to Elliott’s and James’s respective inner circles and dating back to summer 2018, it was widely reported that this particular LeBron Icon would only see the light of day for those elite groups.

Now, thanks to perhaps a well-oiled marketing strategy (or maybe the sneaker community’s collectively willing it to happen), the upcoming retail debut of the John Elliott x Nike LeBron Icon “Summit White” is one of the most exciting sneaker releases this season. It will be accompanied by a vibrant “Fuchsia” colorway, and on October 9, a third colorway will follow, the very soothing yet versatile “Parachute Beige” edition. Each version will retail for $250. 

Elliott has gone to great lengths to reach this moment in his storied career. Despite the groundbreaking success of his eponymous label and the permanence of its apparel offerings, one would be remiss to gloss over Elliott’s humble beginnings in sneakers. When he was very young, his ambition compelled him to sketch new sneaker designs and send them to Nike. To the company’s credit, the powers that be would always respond with an encouraging rejection letter, thanking young Elliott for his time. Fast-forward to years later and he’s creating sneakers not only for Nike but its most important athlete. Elliott, when speaking with GQ magazine last year, expressed excitement for this moment in his career with the same childlike enthusiasm that drove him to send his earliest works to the brand he now partners with. “If I sit and I think about it, it’s like goddamn, we just made a shoe for LeBron James!”

Look for the John Elliott x Nike LeBron Icon “Summit White” and “Fuchsia” styles at John Elliott retailers on September 13 and on Nike SNKRS on September 14. 

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