Style - Kicks and Gear / Sep 20, 2012 / 1:00 pm

The Top 10 Basketball Sneakers Since 2000

Zoom LeBron II

Zoom LeBron II (photo. Sole Collector)

The Air Zoom Generation was a great sneaker. But it wasn’t necessarily a great LeBron James sneaker. It did have his name on the tongue and featured silver accents intended to connote LeBron’s vehicle of choice back then, his infamous H2 Hummer. But except for the Timberland-inspired “Wheat” colorway – a stroke of genius – you couldn’t really differentiate it at a distance from any other awesome Nike basketball sneaker.

Not so for the Zoom LeBron 2. On the base level, it had LeBron in the sneaker’s name. And like its namesake, it broke so much new ground: The sneaker perfectly melded retro and new-age elements, with a removable oversized strap covering an upper enhanced with laser-etched LeBron-themed details. Performance-wise, it still might be the finest sneaker in the line: Ruggedly constructed using ballistic mesh, it featured highly responsive full-length Zoom Air.

In terms of marketing, Nike was still feeling its way with its would-be King. The Chamber of Fear ad campaign – which we adored – was based on 1970s Kung Fu films and gave the sneakers a bit of an underground feel.

But the all-black birthday edition released in December of 2004 was more a sign of things to come: There were only 500 pairs made, they were sold exclusively on Nike’s site, and they sold out within minutes. Part of that was LeBron’s rapidly growing bandwagon. And part of it was Nike had cooked up an unquestionably classic sneaker.

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