Late in September Nike released LeBron James’s twelfth signature basketball shoe, and for a player who routinely collects accolades, league records, and championship rings, the title of longest basketball sneaker sponsorship is likely far from his mind. But in the world of endorsements, it’s noteworthy. Durant, Carmelo, Shaq, Kobe, Barkley, Penny — they’ve all had signature lines, yet none of them come close to LeBron’s dozen consecutive shoe models. Like most aspects of his career, LeBron’s only competition comes from the long, towering shadow of Michael Jordan, who — eleven years after his third (and so far final) retirement — is still the reigning king of sneakers. Air Jordans sell at more than double the rate of LeBrons each year, benefiting from almost three decades of nostalgia and a legendary aura that’s impossible to replicate. But it’s Jordan’s first twelve pairs that many sneakerheads consider the canon of MJ’s groundbreaking line. So how do the first twelve shoes from the two biggest names in basketball really stack up? The only way to find out is with a completely subjective, yet painfully detailed, comparison of each athlete’s first dozen models. Lucky for you, this is that comparison.
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