It was about time I shared my Nike LeBron 15 Performance Review, so here are my thoughts.
15 years is a career in professional sports — unless you are LeBron James. If you haven’t noticed, he is having arguably the best statistical year of his career when most athletes are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
And he is racking up those numbers, for the most part, in the LeBron 15. The last few years have seen him wear mostly shoes from his Soldier line, so the 15 must be doing something right, right? Well, you know how we do…
Turf spikes for the hardwood — that’s really the best way to describe the pattern, and it is really a shame, because on dusty floor spikes don’t work.
For the first three days of testing I was on a severely unfinished wood floor at 24-hour Fitness (no clear coat at all). On quick lateral moves or curls for jumpers, while planting the lead foot, slides were impossible to stop no matter how much I wiped. Heel strike, toe strike, whatever — it was like the shoe was allergic to stopping.
On clean courts I had no problems at all. Stops were quick, directions were changed immediately, and all was right in the world. Still nowhere near the best, or even great, but it was good enough.
As for durability outdoors — I wouldn’t. Once the peaks wear off outdoors, the rubber will be quick to go, and then the Zoom Air unit will wear with the quickness. Better leave these for the indoor ball on clean courts.
Best. Zoom. Ever. I know I said that last year about the KD9 (I think), and a few years ago about Unlocked Zoom in the Air Jordan 28, but this is the stuff you dream about (what, you don’t dream about shoes and basketball? Just me?).
The huge Zoom units, blended with the Max Zoom in the heel, provide impact protection beyond anything not made of little white pebbles that still bounces back to provide responsiveness underfoot. The segmented units allow for a flex never felt in a 360° Zoom unit (or Air Max for that matter) and let the shoe roll underfoot — no stiffness here.
I was a little worried about the height of the midsole, and did actually feel the Zoom compress along the edges on hard drives and cuts to the rim, but a complete rollover never occurred, and again, all was good.
For a bigger player that puts some serious impact on his or her feet, this is almost a perfect setup. Smaller players who are lighter and shiftier, well, there is always the Kyrie or Curry line. If you are needing some intense impact protection because of age or injury, the LeBron 15 will have your knees feeling, well, not so damaged.
Otherwise known as a really thick Flyknit, Battleknit sounds better — especially when dealing with an athlete like LeBron. The comfort is still there, the flexibility is freaking awesome, and the durability, so far, seems to be way better than past builds.
The thicker weave seen above is stronger and tighter in areas needing containment while over the foot there is more elasticity for better comfort and fit. This, seriously, is the best knit Nike has put on a basketball shoe.
Flywire cables run the lacing system and can be felt pulling the shoe around your foot. The pull tabs are leather and add a perfect contrast of old and new to the LeBron 15’s appearance.
Debate and discussion time. Some have said half size down because the knit stretches. Some have said half size up because the shoe fits snug. I say stay true to size because it just feels better to me.
The ankle area is stretchy and should accommodate even the widest of feet, and once inside, the padding from the Battleknit wraps perfectly around your foot without feeling restrictive. Because of the knit, all of the little differences in foot shape and bone structure are covered because the knit fills in the gaps. The heel stays locked in using the Flywire lacing. Midfoot and forefoot fit is rightonthefoot, but because of the knit there is no discomfort.
Length, for me, was perfect. In a 10.5, there was about an index finger width between my big toe and the end of the shoe. This fits right along with most other shoes I play in, including the Kyrie 4, Curry 4, and Jordan Zer0.1. This lets my feet have enough room to spread and push off on drives, and at the end of the day my feet just feel better.
It’s no secret LeBron needs support — dude is 6’8″ and around 265 pounds. He puts some serious torque on a shoe. A few years ago, Nike tried to keep up with him by adding Posite to the uppers, giving us the LeBron 11 through the 13, but if you remember, those didn’t stay on his feet very long (he went to the Soldier model more often than not).
What did the Soldier lack that the signature shoes did? Stiff uppers and Foamposite. The designers seemed to listen last year, so the LeBron 14 had a mesh upper and Flywire lacing. The LeBron 15 takes that thinking farther, and while the lateral support isn’t as contained as the LeBron 12, my foot never slid off the footbed.
Just trying on in the store, there was no way in my mind this shoe would be able hold on hard cuts. On court, the Battleknit held me down, but there was still a feeling of being uncontained that never had me feeling confident. The shoe still played great, but in my mind I kept thinking bad thoughts.
Another area that contributed to my evil inner thoughts was the cushioning. The Max Zoom sits extremely high and gives the shoe a tippy feeling. On two or three drives I did feel the edges of the Zoom buckle on lateral plants and even though the shoe didn’t roll, there was a sense of the midsole angling over and slowing me down. Again, I never completely rolled over, but the times I felt the movement it was a little scary.
Transition is serious, especially for a shoe and player of this size. The LeBron 15 looks huge on foot and it feels like a boot. The segmented Zoom and flexible midsole give the shoe a smooth feel in running and change of direction. The upper, again, is such a sock-like fit that there is no stiffness anywhere.
This may be the best playing LeBron shoe ever. Some will argue that the LeBron 10 is, and it was a classic, but the midsole was too stiff for a smooth transition because it was clunky.
The upper of the LeBron 15 and the comfort of Battleknit give it an obvious edge over the Posite series, and the Max Zoom is still the best blend of bounce and impact protection Nike has in its cushioning stable.
If you are looking for the absolute best Nike cushioning in basketball and a shoe that bleeds technology, the LeBron 15 is your ride. If you need a low-riding midsole with biting traction and a strait-jacket fit, you may want to skip this LeBron.