BEST LEBRON JAMES SNEAKERS OF ALL TIME? ('Chamber of Fear' AF1s)
LeBron Zoom II 'Chamber of Fear' Nike Ad
The ‘Chamber of Fear’ Air Force 1s are entirely based on the promotional campaign for the Nike Zoom LeBron II, which was LeBron’s 2nd signature sneaker. The ad was inspired by vintage Chinese kung-fu films. At the time of the ad, LeBron is only 19 years young, and was in the 2nd year in the NBA.
The campaign is one of the most memorable Nike ads from the time, and also carries a fair bit of history around it:
While the theme, the language of the narration of the ad as well as the inscriptions on the AF1 pack are all Chinese, the ad was actually banned in China as the Chinese government considered it to be offensive and blasphemous to "national dignity”. The communist regime may have been provoked by Western entities like Nike and LeBron James appropriating Chinese traditional symbols and defeating them.
I must mention the involvement of The RZA on the soundtrack, who’s one of the main members of the Wu Tang Clan. Both The RZA and the Wu-Tang have been heavily inspired by kung-fu cinema: The name of the group actually comes from the martial arts movie ‘Shaolin vs Wu Tang’, and the name of the group’s debut album was ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’, in reference to the movie ‘The 36 Chambers of Shaolin’. This film tells the story of a warrior having to overcome different obstacles in 36 chambers to reach glory, which was more than likely a source of inspiration for the ‘Chamber of Fear’ LeBron ad.
The fact that The RZA was involved on the soundtrack is super relevant given the many parallels between the ad and the Wu Tang’s identity.
Now, let’s jump into the pairs that make up this legendary pack.
Hype (Neutral Grey/Varsity Purple)
The ad starts with LeBron facing an old martial art master whose special powers mimic camera flashes, symbolizing the enormous media pressure that was surrounding LeBron James from the earliest stages of his career. The master is dressed in grey and purple, which was applied to this Air Force 1.
Every pair of the pack came with these special insoles, with the artwork from the Zoom LeBron II campaign.
The Chinese inscription on the heel reads ‘Hype’. Each pair of the pack was released in a different city in the US, with Sole Collector magazine playing a central role in holding the events surrounding the releases. The Hype colorway came out in San Francisco. Promotional items such as tshirts, CDs, posters, cartoon books, as well as charity auctions animated the launch events.
LeBron is thrown money at him and seducing women, representing the distractions LeBron was to face as a young rising superstar. The purple panels on the pair are patent leather while the white ones are regular leather. This pair was released in New York.
Hater (Redwood/Varsity Red/Taxi/Black)
In the 3rd chamber, LeBron is met by a group of fighters who represent the haters, as they talk trash at Lebron. The pair is made of full patent leather and was released in Denver.
Complacency (Stealth/Silver/Varsity Blue/Taupe)
The Complacency pair is made out of a very short premium grey suede and tonal leather swoosh and released exclusively in Chicago.
The final obstacle that LeBron must face before reaching the top is self-doubt, represented by a cartoon version of himself. The pair is full patent leather just like the Hater pair. As the final fear of the ad and of the AF1 pack, it only made sense that this pair be released in LeBron’s hometown of Cleveland.
Fearless Warrior (Black/Gold Leaf/Sport Red/Pilgrim)
The 6th and final pair in the pack is kind of a standalone pair as it doesn’t represent a specific fear, but rather summarizes the whole set.
It serves as a way of representing the ultimate success after overcoming the 5 chambers of fear. This one was limited to 523 pairs, and each pair was individually numbered. My theory for why they made 523 is that there were 5 chamber and LeBron’s number was 23.
The quality of the materials however is significantly poorer on this one than on all the other pairs of the pack in my opinion. The upper is made of a cardboardy nubuck which doesn’t look to age well when seeing worn pairs out there.
Which of the 6 pairs of the pack is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!