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Nike Air Zoom Generation Buyers Guide

Nike Air Zoom Generation Buyers Guide
Nike Air Zoom Generation Buyers Guide

Nike Air Zoom Generation's history and background.

Original Design Sketch For The Nike Air Zoom Generation (image via
Original Design Sketch For The Nike Air Zoom Generation (image via

Looking back on LeBron James’ career and legacy, it all began back at St.Vincent-St.Mary Catholic High School. This is where a young James received large media buzz before he could even legally drive to school. The insane hype around him as the next basketball superstar has been met (though some would argue against his legacy) and his partnership with Nike played a major role in the continuation of his popularity.

The Nike LeBron lineup of performance basketball sneakers has now reached its 20th iteration and at one point his line contained some of the most sought-after silhouettes. This took place when the Nike Basketball era of the early 2010s was alive and well. However, his first model was released with The Swoosh way back in 2003, the Nike Air Zoom Generation, and it has since received very few retros. Marking the 20th Anniversary of James’ NBA career and deal with Nike in 2023, we’re set to receive a slew of Nike Air Zoom Generation colorways throughout the year, so what better time to brush up on the history of the model?

For an 18-year-old LeBron James, Nike went all out for both his sneaker’s design as well as his shoe deal. The legendary Tinker Hatfield, Eric Avar, and Aaron Cooper set to design his first model, the Nike Air Zoom Generation, while he pocketed $90 million (over a 7-year deal) before setting foot on an NBA floor. In a meeting with James, Cooper told him “We will design you the most comfortable basketball shoe you have ever worn. Period.” This goal was achieved as the Hummer H2-inspired military-esque design of the AZG featured Max Air in the heel, Zoom Air in the forefoot, and a “Sphere Liner,” a zonal collar padding that was present throughout the entire interior of the model.

Cooper certainly reached his goal as he told Nice Kicks back in 2017 about the first time LeBron tried on the Air Zoom Generation, “LeBron put them on [for the first time], jumped up about four to five times, stopped and said, ‘These are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn.’”

Early designs of the model also showcased different branding details with the LeBron logo featuring “LJ” and a five-pronged crown to represent the jersey number (5) that Nike wanted James to rock when he entered the league as well as a smaller Nike Swoosh featured on the collar. This was obviously changed at retail as James rocked the number 23 and his lion logo was born.

If you’ve been eyeing a pair of the Nike Air Zoom Generation for yourself, you’re in luck as the Sole Retriever Nike Air Zoom Generation Buyers Guide should answer all the questions you have about the Nike Air Zoom Generation.

What are the best Nike Air Zoom Generation colorways?

LeBron James Wearing The Nike Air Zoom Generation White Black
LeBron James Wearing The Nike Air Zoom Generation White Black

The Air Zoom Generation was originally released in eight colorways with three of them coming in low-top. However, we have seen James rock pairs past the original run from 2003-2004 like the upcoming “Purple Suede” PE that will release to the public in 2023. Other notable classics include the “First Game” (also returning this year) with its patriotic red, white, and blue color palette. Aptly given its name due to the fact LeBron rocked the pair in his first-ever home game in the NBA, the upcoming retro of the colorway features the date (11/05/2003) embroidered in gold on the sockliner.

During this initial run of releases, we would see plenty of simple color-coded pairs that took on different combos of white and red mixed in which shades like black, silver, and navy. Examples include the “White Black Red,” “White Varsity Crimson Silver,” and “Black Varsity Crimson,” however, for James’ first NBA All-Star appearance Nike crafted a special commemorative pair. Taking on an all-wheat suede similar to what you’d find on a pair of Timberlands, the pair released in 2004 in limited quantities with a retro coming back in 2018 around the NBA All-Star Weekend in that year.

When it comes to PE colorways, James was given a few standouts like the St.Vincent-St.Mary branded AZG. Giving LeBron that feeling of playing for his high school team, the pair featured the Fighting Irish’s green, gold, and white color scheme while featuring SVSM branding on the heel. Luckily for collectors, the pair did make it to retail shelves in 2018. Another iconic PE (though this unfortunately has never made it to the public) is the two “Gloria” colorways that honor James’ mother. One pair featured a pink tongue while the other came with a white one, both came constructed with accenting hits of pink along the midfoot and collar.

What material are Nike Air Zoom Generation Sneakers made of?

Nike Air Zoom Generation Purple Suede PE (image via
Nike Air Zoom Generation Purple Suede PE (image via

The Nike Air Zoom Generation’s original colorways mostly came constructed out of the same materials, leather around the mudguard, toebox, eyestays, and portions of the midfoot while the rest of the upper came with a thick mesh build. Virtually every pair came with this construction, however, select colorways like the aforementioned “Wheat,” “Purple Suede,” and “Vachetta Tan” took on a different build. Cushioning was touched on earlier but to reiterate we have a Zoom Air unit placed in the forefoot and a Max Air unit back on the heel.

How do Nike Air Zoom Generation Sneakers fit?

Like many Nike Basketball models, the Nike Air Zoom Generation fits true to size compared to your normal Nike shoe size. As mentioned earlier on in this Buyers Guide, the cushioning system utilized as well as the Nike Sphere technology in the sockliner made this one of the most comfortable sneakers of its time. This still holds up today with the latest series of retros fitting TTS. To truly figure out what size you need for the AZG, it's best to try and find a pair in-store (though we are still waiting for 2023's retros to hit shelves).

How much do Nike Air Zoom Generation Sneakers cost?

During the original 2003-2004 run we would see the Nike AZG retail for a cool $110 (approx $180 with inflation taken into account) while retro releases in 2017/2018 would hover around the $175-$200 price point depending on the colorway. Now in 2023, Nike has set the retail price for the “First Game” colorway at $180 while the “Purple Suede” PE and brand new “Dark Grey” colorways come in at $190.

Where do I buy Nike Air Zoom Generation Sneakers?

The Nike Air Zoom Generation will likely not see a massive GR release as modern-day basketball sneakers do, however, expect to see pairs release through Nike SNKRS and select retailers like Finish Line, JD Sports, Champs Sports, and other various footstores, as well as boutiques and mom and pop shops.

What’s the hot take?

As James is entering the end of his career, we can all appreciate the sneaker that started his NBA journey with the Nike Air Zoom Generation making a triumphant return for the model's 20th Anniversary. On top of OG colorways coming back, new renditions and PEs finally becoming available to the average consumer has everyone excited to be taken back to 2003 when an 18-year-old LeBron James first began to prove his worth on-and-off the NBA court. Even with its design coming from a bygone era, the model fits into today’s trend of vintage and retro kicks while maintaining a comfortable construction, even if we don’t want to think of ‘03 being considered “vintage.” As we are expecting the model’s return on March 21st, 2023 and plenty more throughout the year, keep it locked to our Twitter and the Sole Retriever mobile app to stay updated on all AZG releases and more in the sneaker and streetwear world.

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