During my routine social media run, I logged on to Twitter to see if there were any worthwhile Kermit the Frog memes that deserved my attention. Instead, I was greeted with the news that LeBron James will be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
My feed was filled with virtual celebrations, impractical scenarios, and, of course, the unfortunate trolling of Dwyane Wade. However, people failed to recognize the possible effect that LeBron going back to Cleveland will have on sneaker culture.
LeBron will be joining one of Nike’s up-and-coming superstars, Kyrie Irving. LeBron and Kyrie have an existing relationship and, in the sneakerverse, there is endless speculation regarding if Kyrie is the front-runner to be Nike's next signature basketball player. LeBron joining the Cavaliers could have a positive effect on Kyrie’s chances to receive his very own sneaker.
LeBron will be joining one of Nike’s up-and-coming superstars, Kyrie Irving.
Being that LeBron and Kyrie are both charismatic and have proven marketability, Nike could create endless campaigns with the two players. With Kyrie recently inking his extension with the Cavs, and the assumption being that LeBron will retire in Cleveland, Nike could also engineer a shoe for Kyrie as a symbol of the passing of the torch from LeBron.
LeBron's other new teammate (if he's not included in a deal to get Kevin Love) and fellow first overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins is the new member of adidas—so they probably will not be talking sneakers much. But with the plethora of signature colorways from LeBron, and the various PEs Kyrie and Wiggins will receive, they could form the new Sneaker Big Three. Until recently with LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Ray Allen, we have not seen a team with star-studded signature sneaker power since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The world should start sending "thank you" letters to Nike for the Cavalier colorways that will be in store.
However, with LeBron coming home, it may really hurt Wiggins' chances of obtaining a signature sneaker from adidas. It goes without saying that adidas is Nike's direct competition. Even more, the majority of the market's attention will be on what Nike's next move is with LeBron and Kyrie. With that being said, it will be tough for Wiggins to really hold his share of exposure and create a buzz that would make sense for adidas to introduce a new shoe opposed to just decking him out with exclusive colorways.
Who knows? LeBron's return to Cleveland could possibly push Nike to begin retroing King James' signature line of shoes. With LeBron coming back to the place where it all started, it makes sense for the good folks in Beaverton to get the ball rolling on the project. After seeing the success of Kobe Bryant's "Prelude" series, it's only a matter of time before we get our dose of remastered LeBron signature sneakers. With the buzz and LeBron's revamped likability at an all time high, it could be perfect timing.
Think about it: "The Decision," in the summer of 2010, will forever be the biggest knock on LeBron's overly scrutinized career. Though the event raised million's of dollars for the Boys & Girls Club of America, it painted James as an egotistical maniac with people across the globe. James' Decision to join the Miami Heat four years ago even carried over into the sneaker marketplace. According to Shoefax, the resale value of the LeBron signature line has decrease over the past few years. For example, James' latest sneaker, the Nike LeBron 11 EXT "King's Crown," garnered early resale values ranging from $500-$550, but quickly feel to a asking price of about $350 on average.
But LeBron's return to Cleveland could be a marketing jackpot for Nike to rejuvenate LeBron's overall image. His brand can be strengthened within the sneaker community. We now live in a society where it is easy to find targets to make fun of or put down, especially with the rise of social media. Over the last few years, being a supporter of LeBron James made you a target as well. So a casual fan that isn't deep into the sneaker community wouldn't buy LeBron's shoes or merchandise. That now could change with the right marketing plan, forward thinking, and resources that Nike has. I can see it now: The first colorway of the LeBron XII will be called "The King's Return."
In the end, LeBron found himself in yet another NBA free agency whirlwind. The Heatles are now finito, and The King is returning home. The sneaker culture as we know it will not be the same. And, thank God, there will be no more South Beach colorways.
Joe Sherman is a contributing writer to Complex and he never burned his LeBron James Cavaliers jersey. You can follow him on Twitter here.