Right after signing LeBron James to a $90 million contract (before he played a single game, mind you), the Nike camp went immediately to work on the first signature shoe for the player that would potentially have a Jordan-esque effect on footwear. After months in the war room, the Nike Air Zoom Generation made its official debut during LeBron James first regular season game as a professional basketball player on November 5th, 2003.
The Nike Air Zoom Generation – colloquially referred to as the LeBron 1 – had a design inspiration based on LeBron James’ H2 Hummer. The primary cushioning unit utilized was Zoom Air, which served as a precedent for the entire Nike LeBron line until the Nike Air Max LeBron VII made the switch to Air Max cushioning. The AZG featured an upper constructed of leather and ballistic nylon; the White/Varsity Crimson was entirely leather while the All-Star “Wheat” Colourway was entirely nubuck. The sole captivating design cue was the faux-chrome bumper, which was important both visually and structurally; it acted as a heel stabilizer that prevented side-to-side movement. Other structural points of interest were the inner “bootie” and the Sphere temperature-regulating material. The Zoom Air, heel stabilizer, inner sock-liner, and Sphere material resulted in the Nike Air Zoom Generation being one of the most comfortable, well-ventilated shoes in the entire Nike LeBron line.
Only five colourways of the Nike Air Zoom Generation were released to the public. A colourway known as the “First Game” was released in limited quantities with “11-5-2003″ – the date of his first Home game – stitched on the inner liner. A second colourway of white/black/red, which was the first pair he ever wore as a pro, saw a general, non-limited released, as did the all-black and all-white pair. An All-Star colourway resembling a work-boot was also released in mid-February. Special colourways were also produced, one for Christmas Day, a special All-Star edition, one for his time on Team USA, and another in a desert camouflage motif in 2006, but none of the four ever made it to a store shelf. Three low-top editions slowly but surely became popular choices for both the basketball court and the street.