Imagine you could dig into the vast catalog of unreleased Nike LeBron sneakers and pick out any one to have. You could flip through every player exclusive, every rare pair that went for thousands of dollars on the secondary market, and make one your own. What would you pick? Nike asked that question this week on SNKRS but, as with most things relating to that app, it came with some caveats. The brand set up a Nike LeBron bracket that pitted 16 unreleased LeBron James sneakers against each other, letting users vote in a contest that will ultimately result in a never-before-released shoe getting a first retail release. But you couldn't pick just any sneakers, you had to go with the ones Nike whittled it down to. Which meant some omissions and odd choices—none of the "Gloria" colorways paying tribute to James' mother were present, the coveted "Fruity Pebbles" LeBron 4 wasn't there, and the "LeBronald Palmer" was absent.
We are not here to gripe about the choices, though. We are here to gripe about the surprising results from the first round of voting. This isn't about gatekeeping. Hopefully, at the end of it all, some small number of people will be able to buy a shoe they've always wanted, and that's a good thing. But it's still hard to look at the shoes advancing and wonder about peoples' priorities. Historically important pairs have already been flushed from contention. Grails that felt like a lock to advance have been eliminated. According to SNKRS, over 500,000 people weighed in on each round. Their desires reveal that the audience there doesn't revere the same shoes that sneaker media has touted as the best LeBrons. Are we so out of touch? No, it's the children who are wrong. In a maybe futile attempt to make our case for some of the losing shoes and explain their worth, we've gathered here the biggest upsets from the first round of the Nike LeBron vote back program.