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With Space Jam: A New Legacy hitting theaters (and HBO Max) on July 16, this week is sure to be one of the biggest weeks in LeBron James’ life. Today, Epic Games made an announcement that makes this week that much bigger: LeBron James will be joining the Fortnite universe as a part of their Icon Series on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 at 8 PM ET.
This massive collaboration between Epic Games and The SpringHill Company not only highlights what makes LeBron LeBron (from the crown on his head to the number on his chest to the kicks on his feet), but takes things a step further: The LeBron James Outfit that the King arrives in was recreated IRL, with LeBron showing it off on his Instagram.
LeBron James, according to Epic Games President Adam Sussman, is the perfect fit for their Icon Series; Founder and CEO of The SpringHill Company, Maverick Carter, mentioned that LeBron is a huge Fortnite fan, so bringing LeBron James into the game feels like a no-brainer, especially during the week that SpringHill releases its long-awaited Space Jam sequel, although you should keep it in mind that this is a deeper partnership between SpringHill and Epic Games.
“We really focused, with this Icon Series, on picking personalities that had some relationship with Fortnite,” Sussman explains, “and really found unique ways to bring those personalities into the universe where they can express who they are in a way they can’t do in the real world, and then connect that expression with what happens in the game [and] what’s happening in real life in a way that they can’t do anywhere else on the planet.” That started in a number of different ways, primarily from the Fortnite enthusiasts and influencers, and soon evolved into sports. “That’s why we’re so excited with LeBron,” Sussman continues, “because this is really unique opportunity for us to take the Icon Series to an entirely new level.”
The LeBron James Outfit is an ill mixture of LeBron’s personality (the lion, the crown) alongside his on-court person and pre-game Tunnel looks. “With LeBron, we want to do way more than just putting LeBron in the game,” Sussman says, “in a way that was authentic to his legacy, to his personality, and we wanted to make sure it was at the right time and [that] we had this expression of his legacy. That was multi-dimensional. It’s him as obviously one of the best players in the world, but it’s also him as an actor in Space Jam: A New Legacy, and it’s him as a family man with the Taco outfit, and that really is a well-rounded 360-degree view of who LeBron is that we’re bringing into the game in a very authentic way.”
That’s right: While the LeBron James Outfit is the main Outfit, there are two other LeBron options coming to Fortnite on July 14. The first is Tune Squad LeBron, which is an obvious nod to Space Jam: A New Legacy, and includes LeBron’s Taco Tuesday variant, with its own back bling. All of this is included in the King James Gear Bundle, which also comes with a Lion Pickaxe and a Wingspan Glider. And with the Outfit, Back Bling, Pickaxe, and Glider all featuring a progressive edit slider, that gives you more than 20(!) golden variations on your LeBron Outfit. Each outfit also comes with LeBron’s upcoming Nike LeBron 19.
That’s a lot of LeBron in your Fortnite—which is fitting for a four-time NBA champion who’s also a four-time NBA MVP, scoring champion, and philanthropist—but it speaks to what’s shaping up to be the beginning of a partnership between Epic Games and SpringHill. “We’ve always admired what Epic has done,” Maverick Carter says, “specifically around the idea of empowering creators o really be their most authentic self within Fortnite.” That’s what makes things like those awesome lion cauldrons on the LeBron James Outfit’s shoulders or LeBron having a Taco Tuesday variant of an Outfit so important. “They allowed us to be our most authentic selves,” Maverick professes.
Bringing that authenticity to life fell on the hands of the Academy Award-winning designer Ruth E. Carter alongside frequent collaborator Jose Fernandez of Ironhead Studios (who you saw making sure LeBron’s ‘fit was pristine). Getting Carter, a Hollywood legend who’s designed looks for kings like T’Challa (Black Panther) and Akeem (Coming 2 America), was important, as she totally understood the assignment. “I’m a huge fan of LeBron James,” she admits, “not only as a champion of basketball, but also as an active supporter of Boys & Girls Clubs, of which I am also an alumnus. He represents a real living king in our community, and I think that we don’t uplift our community enough when they do huge things like LeBron is doing. I just wanted to be a part of it.”
[Ed note: That may have also been the last time Ruth E. Carter referred to James as “LeBron,” preferring to simply call him “King,” explaining that “it’s befitting of where he is. He’s still an active master of the game at 36. He was a 17-year-old prodigy and he is also involved in films and building schools. ‘LeBron’ is almost a step down. It’s King James to me now; it just felt so befitting.”]
Putting a project together like this can’t be easy; the amount of approvals for each stage of production have to be insane (and necessary). Add a global pandemic to the mix and things can get interesting, but surprisingly, it doesn’t sound like the global pandemic had an impact on this collaboration. Sussman admits that things really started coming together over the “last few months,” but there was an interesting synergy in the design and production of the IRL outfit. Ironhead Studios already had a working relationship with Ruth E. Carter—they are even currently working on Black Panther 2 together—with Carter explaining that she “already had a shorthand” with Ironhead. “Jose has a wonderful eye,” she shares, “and when we’re working in this being virtual and not always face-to-face, we do need to rely on our tried-and-true contacts that get things done, but also can make decisions for us when we can’t be there. It was a challenge, but I made the most of it.”
With the fruits of their labor set to hit the Shop starting this Wednesday, it’s interesting to look towards the future. Sussman made sure to point out that this was just the beginning. “This isn’t just a one-time thing with LeBron. We have a long-term partnership with LeBron,” he states plainly. “We have a long-term partnership with the NBA and we have a great partnership with SpringHill.” It’s easy to look at this as an awesome in-game collaboration that birthed an awesome IRL component, but there’s a lot of potential in having a figure like LeBron residing in your game. “We’re going to see how this goes. We think it’s going to be amazing and that’s going to inspire us for whatever is to come next, [and] we know there’s going to be more exciting things to do together in the future.”
And for those wondering if we can see more of Fortnite going IRL? “I can’t speak to the specifics right now,” Sussman explains, “but I think that we have intentionality around how we create experiences in the game that extend IRL, and we’re excited about how those are shaping up and we’ll see some of those moments come in this calendar year.”
You can check out more of the IRL LeBron James Outfit and images of LeBron’s in-game character below. The Outfit and the King James Gear Bundle hit the Shop at 8 PM ET on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. Maybe you’ll run into LeBron, as LeBron, in-game!