Why LeBron James's First Women's Basketball Shoe Is More Than Just A Shoe

“I believe that African American women are some of the strongest people on earth."

Fashion can tell a story. A simple piece of clothing, or even a shoe, can make a statement about how a person feels, causes they might support, or simply show off that person's specific aesthetic. Athlete LeBron James understands the power of fashion, which is why he just came out with a new basketball sneaker for Nike — the HFR x LeBron 16 — that makes a statement about empowered women. 

This week, James revealed his first women's basketball shoe at the Harlem Fashion Row Showcase Gala, The shoe is designed in collaboration with Nike and Harlem's Fashion Row, "a social company that provides a voice for multicultural designers; through a creative platform that enables these designers to sell and present their collections to key leaders within the fashion industry," it says on their website. 

James worked with Nike's global basketball footwear designer Meline Khachatourian and Harlem's Fashion Row designers Kimberly GoldsonFe Noel, and Undra Duncan on the project. 

"I believe that African American women are some of the strongest people on earth," James says in a statement from Nike News. "I grew up around some amazingly strong women and am inspired by the strength I see around me, including my mom, wife and daughter." 

"As someone who has a platform, because of what I do, I thought it was important to lend that platform to a group of people that I believe are under-recognized," James says. "Being the son, husband and father of strong African American women, I felt like this was something I wanted to do for them and for all the strong women out there who are succeeding despite what might be stacked against them."

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"The collaboration has led to a fusion of something that's incredibly exciting — not just a shoe, but a message that's inspiring to other women," Khatachourian adds

Designer Goldson adds that there was a strong connection between the designers and Lebron. "We each had something that connected the four of us based on what LeBron saw from his mom, and the sacrifices she made for him ... My mom did it. LeBron's mom did the same for him. The connectivity was there between all of us."

Goldson's brand, according to its website, launched in 2011 by Goldson and her sister, Shelly Powell. It is inspired by their hometown, Brooklyn, and "draws from the dynamic cultures encountered during their international travels. It was created as a mix of those worlds for women who love luxury and dare to be bold and vivacious, fearless and distinctive." 

The other designers on the project have empowering missions behind their brands, too. Noel's, for example, is influenced by her Grenadian heritage and love for travel, it says on her website. Noel also founded the Fe Noel Foundation, a foundation with a goal of providing "underserved young people, through hands-on mentorship, with the tools and knowledge they need to open their own business."

Duncan's brand, Undra Celeste, aims to make women "feel bold, beautiful, and inspired to live their very best life." 

"We believe if she looks good and feels good, her confidence is boosted, making her more equipped conquer her dreams," it says on the website. 

At the Harlem's Fashion Row's annual gala, prior to the sneaker's reveal, James accepted the Harlem's Fashion Row Icon 360 award. During his acceptance speech, James thanked his mother, Gloria James, for helping him get to where he is today, in a position where he can give back. 

Nike sums up the sneaker in its statement: "In its cooperative creation, the HFR x LeBron 16 is a symbol of unified strength. The shoe was always driven by a mission greater than its individual parts — one focused on assisting others."

Cover image via  Everett Collection I Shutterstock

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