When LeBron James signed a lifetime deal with Nike in December 2015, the writing was on the wall: Nike was committing to retro the LeBron shoe line, which debuted in 2003 with the Air Zoom Generation.
However, there was little indication of when Nike would move to push the retro line to market until Thursday night, when James revealed in a video on the Uninterrupted platform that it was time and that the retro sneakers were coming "soon."
James didn't give a specific timeline for the sneakers, but a limited edition of the Air Zoom Generation, sold at a high-end price, is expected to be released later on Friday, coinciding with the Cleveland Cavaliers' visit to Sacramento, where James made his NBA debut in 2003.
At shootaround before Friday's game against the Kings, James talked about the idea of the retros coming back.
"The conversation has been going on for a couple years now, but we wanted to make sure the timing was right," he said. "We've been listening to a lot of the people that's been following my career, and sneakerheads been following my career. I've been giving a little bit of a hint every now and then, wearing retros, things of that nature, just to gauge my fans and gauge my people who have been along the journey with me. It's been a conversation, but it finally came together the last couple months."
Beyond Friday's limited release, the Air Zoom Generation will receive a mass-market retro release on Jan. 25 in the red and white colorway commonly known as the "First Game", which LeBron wore not in his debut in Sacramento, but his home debut a week later in Cleveland. The shoe will be available on the Nike SNKRS app as well as through the usual high-end stores like UNDFTD in L.A. and San Francisco, Kith in NYC, and Xhibition and Next in Cleveland and Akron.
The shoes will be priced at $175 a pair, a 20 percent markup factoring for inflation, compared to the $110 price in 2004.
Nike has yet to disclose any further plans on additional retro rollouts from the LeBron line. The most highly coveted LeBron model among fans is the 8, which he wore in the 2010-11 season. Out of all the models -- there are now 14 -- James said the first one is his favorite.
"It's the beginning," said James, who revealed he might wear his first signature shoe for Friday night's game. "It's like your first child. I know you're not supposed to pick one over the other, even though my daughter is above everybody in the household right now. But it was the first; it was the start of it all. I'm just blessed to be in this position today."
Going back to the beginning led to James reminiscing about putting on his shoes for the first time.
"It was just a dream come true," said James. "Just an 18-year-old kid that has so many dreams, and the odds are stacked up against him. For me to be in a position where I was putting on a pair of shoes that have my name on them, putting on a jersey that had my name on the back, my family's name on the back. It was just a moment where anything is possible, and if you just put your heart into it and you have a great supporting cast and you put in the work, then things can come true. It was a great moment for me."