Nike Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of LeBron James’ First NBA Game with Special Zoom LeBron NXXT Gen PE

On October 29, 2003, LeBron James made his NBA debut with a 25-point, nine-assist, six-rebound, four-steal performance in a 92-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings, announcing his arrival as a bright beacon of hope for the moribund Cleveland Cavaliers and a budding superstar in the league. 20 years and 39,696 more points later, James is a four-time NBA Champion, four-time NBA MVP and the league’s all-time leading scorer, held aloft as one of the greatest players in NBA history.

James’ footwear journey with Nike (NYSE:NKE -1.84%) also began that night in 2003, as he stepped onto the court in the Air Zoom Generation, his first signature shoe. Last night, James was back in Sacramento as his Los Angeles Lakers‘ faced off with the Kings, 20 years to the day of his debut, and he commemorated the occasion with a homage-filled PE colorway of the Zoom LeBron NXXT Gen.

Boasting a near-identical white, black and red color scheme to the Air Zoom Generation that LeBron made his debut in, the Zoom LeBron NXXT Gen discarded the standard synthetic textile construction of its counterparts in favor of a throwback leather build and also added chromed-out top eyestays plus a “First Game” hit on the heel, though it did retain some of the new model’s signature design details like the doubled-up midfoot Swooshes. As he often does, James wrote “B.B.Z.” on his shoes with a black Sharpie for a loving nod to his children: Bronny, Bryce and Zhuri.

This PE is the latest chapter in Nike’s push to bring more attention to the Zoom LeBron NXXT Gen, an alternate model that’s a supplement to the LeBron 21. More a counterpart to the LeBron 21 than a continuation of the budget-conscious takedown shoes that Nike has released for NBA athletes like James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant in the past, it’s received collaborations — FaZe Clan and TITAN — and been spotlighted with special makeups, putting it on equal footing with its “big brother” silhouette.

Since this colorway was a PE created for LeBron, it won’t see a retail release. However, several other colorways of the Zoom LeBron NXXT Gen are available now via the Nike webstore.

And, for the record, James’ most recent trip to Sacramento ended much the same way his first one did: the Lakers fell to the Kings 127-132, though he put up 27 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Another fun fact: no player from that Kings team LeBron played against as a rookie is still in the NBA, and Kings rookie Colby Jones was born just 17 months before James’ NBA debut.

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