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LeBron James on His Newest Nike Sneaker, Inspired by Strong African-American Women

Love him or hate him, there is no denying that LeBron James is a powerful man. He’s often referred to as King James, or the GOAT (greatest of all time). He has three championship rings, and this spring surpassed Michael Jordan’s scoring record for consecutive games. And he just opened up his own public school in Ohio, US.

James may be a glorified and well decorated figure in the sports world, but he is also a man who knows a woman’s worth. His latest venture has nothing to do with his godliness on the court, but instead serves as a tribute to the powerful females who raised him, and who still inspire him to be his best self. Tonight, James revealed the HFR x LeBron 16, his first women’s basketball shoe, launching this month and designed in collaboration with Nike and Harlem’s Fashion Row, an organization that helps promote and nurture multicultural designers.

James, along with Nike’s global basketball footwear designer Meline Khachatourian and three of the Harlem’s Fashion Row designers—Kimberly Goldson, Fe Noel, and Undra Duncan—initially set out to create a sneaker that emphasized his belief in the power of the strong African-American woman, and specifically those in his own life, including his mother, wife, and daughter. As Khachatourian explains of the design elements, “We wanted to make this shoe a luxurious twist on the basketball sneaker, with hints of regal gold hardware and a powerful 3-D lion motif on the heel.” She adds, “On the inside sole, there are four words that you will see visualized: strength, courage, loyalty, and dignity. Every time you reach down to put the shoe on, these words will serve as a reminder of encouragement and empowerment.” Khachatourian’s signature, along with Goldson’s, Noel’s, and Duncan’s, is featured on the tongue of the sneaker, and the leather ankle strap can be removed and worn as a choker or a bracelet. “LeBron loved this when we showed him,” the designer says.

James worked closely with all four women. “The designers that we chose from Harlem’s Fashion Row are strong, hardworking women who have faced a lot of obstacles in their career,” he says. “As soon as I had the opportunity to meet them, I knew they would be perfect for this. I knew that they would bring a perspective that would make this shoe something special.”

As James puts it, he HFR x LeBron 16 was a deeply personal passion project. “I believe that African-American women are some of the strongest people on earth,” he says. “I grew up around incredibly strong women and continue to be inspired by the female strength I see around me, mainly in my mom, wife, and daughter. I thought it was important to recognize that strength through this shoe.”

James acknowledges how crucial it is for him to use the enormous platform he has been given for social good, especially in these turbulent political times when women’s rights, those of African-American women especially, are being threatened. “I thought it was important to lend that platform to a group of people that I believe are undervalued,” he says. “I want women to know that they are recognized, that there are people who appreciate them and know that they are facing odds that others are not having to face. In spite of those odds, I want them to know that they can succeed and create the positive change that we need more of right now.” What’s more GOAT title-worthy than that?

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