TIME-OUT WITH JASON PETRIE
LEBRON'S SENIOR DESIGNER ABOUT THE PROCESS BEHIND THE REVOLUTIONARY LEBRON XX
1 - WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT NIKE BASKETBALL AND WHERE DID YOUR PASSION START?
I'm a senior designer at Nike basketball. I've been in Nike basketball for just a shade over nineteen years my whole time, like he (LeBron) has been in basketball.
You know basketball is always my first love as far as sports go, and once my brain came online as far as culturally, once Junior High School started and you kinda get out of the little country elementary school and start seeing people who had cool Nikes and a cool Starter jacket and all those kind of things.
Once I realized those things were all tied to the game, you know. See Bo Jackson on the cover of sports illustrated in the Nike Air Trainer 3's, and there's a cool kid at at at school wearing them you're just like Oh, my God! My brain exploded, and that's really where the passion for sneakers came from. I started drawing shoes in the seventh grade. After seeing somebody in those Nike Air Trainer 3's.
I always say that's what ignited it and then from there it was just learning. Nike taught me through Bo Jackson, through Michael, through Scottie, through Gerald Wilkins and Charles Barkley in the Flight, the six rings and through Lebron coming in with the new era at that time ass well.
You know all those things just fueled me all along the way, and I was just kind of trying to sketch and learn, and going to school to figure out how to do it for real. So that passion really never left.
It was the summer of '88 that was the epicenter, thinking all things Nike, Michael, hip,-hop, you know. You realize the culture of the game has always been there, and you learn about the legacy. And now, as you get older, you start appreciating those previous generations and learning about them so just to be a part of it. It's just setting off just that for another group of kids that twenty years from now are gonna be doing what we're doing now, it's beautiful to be part of that continuum.
Seeing Bo Jackson in Sport's Illustrated with the Nike Air Trainer 3's and then seeing a kid at school with the same shoes, that just blew my mind and sparked my passion for sneakersJason on where his passion started
2 - WHEN DID YOU ENTER THE LEBRON BASKETBALL SHOE FRANCHISE?
I came in on the LeBron 7 as far as full design responsibilities. I had worked a little bit on some of the redesign of the LeBron 6 and Soldier 3 details, and I was always just a young designer humming around.
I was just bothering the team that was working on Lebron and eventually they were like all right, you don't even have to shut up anymore and I just got pulled into meetings to work on some stuff here and there.After that, I think i first started meeting with LeBron around 2008 on a regular basis and I kind of stuck around.
3 - After all those years, how did you see your work evolve and where do those changes come from?
There has definitely been an evolution... Certainly through experience but also through education.
The cool thing at Nike is you get to see what other designers are doing on for example the KD or the Kyrie and you see them do an amazing job. There constant greatness happening as far as pushing product design goes.
You just want to be a part of that. You try to pick up things and evolve and learn on to the next one right from maybe mistakes you made, or even things you left on the table that you weren't able to get after. How can we kind of take that and build something new out of it, some somewhere else?
And and part of it's just growing up right? I used to like things ten years ago that maybe I I will pull out of the closet less often now but that doesn't mean I don't like them anymore, but it's just not as wearable or as cool as I once thought it was.
And of course, then you bring in somebody like Lebron and his level of acumen and greatness, just how he acts. You know how he lifts himself up on a daily basis. And so you want to be able to live up to that at least and his expectations on footwear.
So all those combinations fuel you to stay current and make sure you perform on the top of your game when designing. Evolve and refresh yourself, be humble and open to learning to new things!
I used to like things ten years ago that maybe I I will pull out of the closet less often now but that doesn't mean I don't like them anymore, but it's just not as wearable or as cool as I once thought it was.Jason on the evolution in his designs
4 - You have an inspiring story yourself, from posting sketches on niketalk to being the designer for the biggest basketball star for the last two decades, for anyone out there who is dreaming of a carreer in footwear design, is there a roadmap to succes?
Well, I can only tell you a couple of mine, and they're pretty basic, but they're they're really powerful. I think one is: Don't discount your your position. If you believe you can do it, you know, and you want to do it, and you're willing to put in the work.
If you look at my early sketches, there's nothing special about that. But after that passion came in it fueled my desire to get better to learn about it and to study the culture, even though you know it wasn't book studying. But I would pick up a shoe in a store in eighth grade, and i'm looking at stuff like that to educate myself. Asking myself, how did they do that?
I'd go home and try to draw that in a new way to 'make it look better' in my mind.
I think also there's been some great people along the way to help me. And i've been blessed to fall on this path that i did. I did an internship of 6 months at converse and that really opent my world up to see how great designers work on a daily basis. I was from the countryside and showed up all of a sudden in a corporate office. I learned more in those six months then in school combined.
I think that's that's a key, and then the other one is is once, you're there, or you know, even along the way to. But I think it's having a key, partner that can be honest with you or that can be your kind of partner in crime in getting things done and helping you. Watch your back. You watch their back.
I learned more at my 6 months internships then I did in all school combined. That internship was key for me to get where I'm at now.Jason on the keys to his career in footwear design
4 - THE LEBRON XX BRINGS A BIG CHANGE TO THE FRANCHISE, Can you tell us how uh how the the shoe itself and the design came to life.
Yeah, it started with Lebron. Honestly, I mean it always does. But he came in even earlier, instead of us coming to him with an insight and a story, and like a general tale of what we were thinking of doing, he he nipped it in the bud and came to us like: "Here's what I want from from the twenty, here's what I need from the twenty".
We always have contact with him. We go see him or he comes out to see us on a normal cadence. He almost redoubled that. And this is kind of like over his summer, during Covid...
Whatever it took to give us the time he was so open with it, and we brought him in at a rougher stage because he wanted to be involved earlier to make sure that we didn't get too far down a path that wasn't really in his mind.
He wanted it to be made in a different way, so that a new generation of people can be open to what we doe because we've had a great twenty years, but these next twenty, we want to grow.
We want to expand, and we want to show you that now, this shoe is for everybody!
He was there every step of the way, he brought in family, he brought in friends,... He came out to campus a bunch of times. We met on zoom a bunch of times, and really looking at black and white scribble drawings all the way up to full three D renders.
Lebron and his extended team felt great about it along the way. He would just really had a point of view from the get go.
Honestly like it almost developed a new way for us to work going forward, because his involvement just fueled us so much, and gave us so much nuggets to you on um that that we felt like. Gosh! If you're willing to give us that much time. Then we can really take it to the moon. So it's It's been an awesome kind of uplift in the in the process.
He wanted it to be made in a different way, so that a new generation of people can be open to what we doe because we've had a great twenty years, but these next twenty, we want to grow.LeBron's view on the new LeBron XX
5 - THERE SEEM TO BE A LOT OF SIMILARITIES WITH THE KOBE FRANCHISE, WHAT'S YOUR OPINION ON THAT?
Along the design process what we certainly did not want to do is recreate a Kobe. But I think there's some similarities. Obviously it's low top, the form is simpler, and I think that's really the key thing. Kobe did a great job of really distilling the design down to a simple, clean icon.
But when you hold it in hand when you wear it. I think the the differences are pretty apparent. LeBron and Kobe were close friends so I think if there's a little bit of his spirit in. But that's totally cool.
It's not something that we ever consciously tried to do, in my opinion, it's just pouring from that simplicity and being a low top.
Certainly when it comes to technology...There's more. There's more cushioning in the shoe than a Kobe, for materials we weren't going for that ultimate lightweight, you know, like super duper pinpoints laser accurate kind of stuff as a Kobe was.
We wanted to have that blend and pull Lebron in. So you see these higher end, thicker material, something that feels a little bit robust. Maybe.
You're obviously going to draw those comparisons in the end. But I think that's That's an okay thing.
6 - PERFORMANCE WISE, IS THIS THE BEST LEBRON EVER MADE?
It depends on how you play basketball, but it's the lightest, which is always appreciated in any sport. Right? So that's that's gonna make it great. The low top gives you that freedom of movement. So I think it's easy to get in and out of and cushioning feels insane. So this one, I think, across the board is going to be. the the most playable LeBron to date for the widest range of people.
In addition to breaking down the technology, if this is a guy or a girl who plays hoops: it's got an incredible multidirectional traction on the bottom. You've got first step response to uploaded Zoom Turbo on the four foot. So when you're ready to be on the ball of your feet, you've got that energy ready to go.
On those long strides. You've got superb cushion. You've also got a pretty deep zoom bag there in the heel that's really going to help with impact forces. And then you kind of can load up that carbon fiber plate, move energy into the four foot, and you're gone.
The rest of the shoe is really just there to to hold you on to that really great tooling unit. It's wrapped in the best materials really, that we could find. And you'll find -depending on the version- hints of really great leather or amazing kind of industrial knit material.
Also some special surprises with a lot of storytelling. So really if you want to play hoops, this got everything you need. There's lots of things you could talk about with the shoe depending on the direction you want to go in.
7 - WHICH COLORWAY ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO?
Oh Gosh... There's going to be some. There's a few I can't really talk about. That will come later. There's a few versions I'm really excited about. But there's also some versions we're working with that are really close to Lebron. Like friends, family members, kind of cohorts, whatever you want to call it, that have been along the journey for a long time, and it was fun to do some stuff with them, so you'll see some versions like that.
My favorite one out of all of them that i'm waiting to come out might just be sometime in December, and there's some special stuff wrapped around it. You'll know it when you see it as soon as it's announced because it's pretty different.
It's just in a new space for Lebron right now with the XX, and something that i'm really excited about to see what happens when that thing hits.
There's just going to be a lot of really fun stuff. We did a lot with that simple design, it allows you to really play things up like color, materials, graphics, packaging and those kind of things. So you'll see some some quite different and also pretty fun versions of the LeBron XX launching this season!
Favorite model and colorway of any Lebron shoe?
LeBron 2 and colorway would be 'Dunkman'
Favorite non-basketball shoe?
Nike Air Trainer 3 'Medicine Ball'
All time athlete you wished you designed for or could design for?
CAN WE EXPECT A BRONNY OR BRYCE SIGNATURE SHOE
Can't really tell but since they are a big part of LeBrons life, I think they'll be more and more involved with the LeBron franchise so who knows what else will follow?
THANK YOU JASON!