With Jordans continuing to reign supreme among all signature basketball lines, we look at how the LeBron and Kobe lines match up to Js at this point in time. As you’re probably aware, Kobe didn’t start out his career as a Nike athlete so with this feature we just look at the matchups up until Bryant’s latest ninth signature. Even with that being said, there has been plenty of firepower from both the LeBron and Kobe lines producing all-time favs for many heads, as well as instant classics. But the real question is, can they really hold a candle to classic Jordans I through IX?! Please feel free to let us know the matchup winners in your eye for each entry in the comments section below.
Air Jordan I Black/Red vs. Nike Air Zoom Generation “First Game” vs. Nike Zoom Kobe I 'Concord'
Winner: Air Jordan I Black/Red
Release Years: Jordan (1985), LeBron (2003), Kobe (2005)
When the careers of LeBron and Kobe are both finished, the historical significance of each athlete’s first Nike signature may look different than it does today. But, we feel confident in saying that neither of them will have the impact of the Air Jordan I. From the infamous “Banned” Black/Red OGs, and the coveted and beautiful Black/Royals, all the way to the new retro hotness, the Air Jordan I is arguably the greatest first signature sneaker of all time.
Air Jordan II White/Red vs. Nike Zoom LeBron II "All Star" vs. Nike Zoom Kobe II “Carpe Diem”
Winner: Air Jordan II White/Red
Release Years: Jordan (1986), LeBron (2004), Kobe (2006)
This one was a little trickier to pick than you might think at first glance. On the one hand, the Air Jordan II is one of the lesser-loved silos in the Air Jordan canon (just look at those recent retros still sitting on shelves). But, on the other hand, they just don’t make ’em like they used to. While the “All-Star” LeBron and “Carpe Diem” Kobe IIs are certainly fantastic shoes in their own right, they just can’t hold a candle to the beauty and construction of the OG Air Jordan II. The original IIs were made in Italy and came draped in smooth, high-quality Italian leather. A perfect mix of performance and style; the OG Air Jordan II is just beautiful.
Air Jordan III Black/Cement vs. Nike Zoom LeBron III White/Gold vs. Nike Zoom Kobe III "Lower Merion Aces"
Winner: Air Jordan III Black/Cement
Release Years: Jordan (1988), LeBron (2005), Kobe (2007)
Okay, let’s get this out of the way now: the White/Gold LeBron III and “Lower Merion Aces” Kobe IIIs are both fire. Fantastic shoes. But we all have to be real, and as we’ve previously stated on this site, the Black/Cement Air Jordan III is simply one of the best sneaker designs of ALL TIME. Okay, played out Kanye meme aside, you just really can’t compete with a classic as iconic as the Air Jordan III. If it isn’t already, this thing should be in a museum.
Air Jordan IV White/Cement vs. Nike Zoom LeBron IV "Birthday" vs. Nike Zoom Kobe IV White/Black-Gold
Winner: Air Jordan IV White/Cement
Release Years: Jordan (1989), LeBron (2006), Kobe (2008)
Honestly, this one was closer than we’d care to admit. Obviously, the legendary White/Cement Air Jordan IV is worthy of every bit of hyperbole thrown it’s way. But we LOVE the LeBron IV…one of our absolute favorites from the LBJ line. That said, even with the ridiculous amount of love we have for the LeBron IV, particularly the Knicks-themed “Birthday” colorway, it just can’t overcome the amazing White/Cement Air Jordan IV.
Air Jordan V Black/Metallic vs. Nike Zoom LeBron V "Dunkman" vs. Nike Zoom Kobe V "Chaos"
Winner: Air Jordan V Black/Metallic
Release Years: Jordan (1990), LeBron (2007), Kobe (2009)
Another strong showing from both the Kobe and LeBron lines. But another silhouette entry that pales in comparison to the equivalent Air Jordan silo. We actually think the “Chaos” Kobe Vs are one of the best colorways to emerge from the Kobe line, and we find it strange we don’t see more of it. That said, the Air Jordan V, particularly the mean and clean Black/Metallic colorway just beats out every other silo by a country mile.
Air Jordan VI Black/Infrared vs. Nike Zoom LeBron VI White/Black-Varsity Red vs. Nike Zoom Kobe VI "Grinch"
Winner: Air Jordan VI Black/Infrared
Release Years: Jordan (1991), LeBron (2008), Kobe (2010)
Okay, so you’re starting to see a theme now right? But truth be told, the sixth entry was the toughest draw of all. First off, we really do like the clean white/black/red LeBrons. But simply put, the LeBron VI is one of our least favorites from the LBJ line. The real challenge was when we started to see the Kobe line gaining ground on MJ’s turf. First off the Kobe VI had some amazing colorways, and narrowing that down to one was a task in and of itself. But ultimately, the exclusivity associated with the “FC Barcelona” Kobe VI made us choose the “Grinch” colorway. And, in our mind, the Kobe VI “Grinch” actually does give the Infrared Air Jordan VIs a run for their money, but when all was said and done, nostalgia took over. We simply cannot unseat one of our favorite Js of all time.
Air Jordan VII "Bordeaux" vs. Nike LeBron VII "Red Carpet" vs. Nike Zoom Kobe VII "Invisibility Cloak"
Winner: Nike Zoom LeBron VII “Red Carpet”
Release Years: Jordan (1992), LeBron (2009), Kobe (2011)
Now we’re talking! Where we saw some ground gained with the sixth entry in these respective signature lines, the seventh is really where they both hit their stride. All three of these colorways are original and fantastic. The “Invisibility Cloak” Kobes were an awesome colorway we’d never seen before, and the VII in general is where we saw Nike really get creative with the colorways. The Air Jordan VII “Bordeaux” is just brilliant as well. When you describe the colorway to people, you’d never assume all those colors go together, but the Bordeauxs are amazing (not to mention the other dope VIIs like the Hare, Raptors, or Olympics). But the winner here is obvious, the LeBron VII, our favorite LeBron. Just a gorgeous sneaker, and one of the (many) reasons we’d like to see Nike get moving on those LeBron retros. While there were numerous colorways in contention for the top slot here (All-Star, Dunkman, China, etc), ultimately we settled on the amazing “Red Carpet” VII. Bravo, Nike.
Air Jordan VIII "Aqua" vs. Nike LeBron VIII "South Beach" vs. Nike Kobe 8 "Mambacurial"
Winner: Nike LeBron VIII “South Beach”
Release Years: Jordan (1993), LeBron (2010), Kobe (2013)
The No. 8 signature matchup is another entry that could’ve gone either way, but the historical significance of one entry, tipped the scales in it’s favor. All three are awesome sneakers. The Kobe VIII had beautiful colorways, our favorite of which was the soccer-inspired “Mambacurial.” But, low top hoops sneakers aren’t for everyone…we get it. The Air Jordan VIII “Aqua”, and it’s crazy-90s stylings, will always have a special place in our hearts. But again, we wouldn’t blame you if the design wasn’t for you. But the LeBron 8 “South Beach” gets the nod here. Not only was the colorway original…it was (and still is) an absolute banger. And, despite how you may feel about it, with LBJ’s subsequent decision to take his talents to South Beach, it gives the sneaker organic, historical significance. Though we’re not huge fans of the ridiculous hype, and thus the ridiculous resale prices for them, there is no denying the beauty of the South Beach 8s.
Air Jordan IX "Charcoal" vs. Nike LeBron IX Elite "South Beach" vs. Nike Kobe 9 Elite Low "Beethoven"
Winner: Nike Kobe 9 Elite Low “Beethoven”
Release Years: Jordan (1994), LeBron (2011), Kobe (2014)
While we’d love to tip the cap yet again to the “South Beach” LeBron 9s, the competition from this year’s Kobe line is just too strong. First, picking one colorway of the LeBron 9 is no small feat, but again (like most of you), we’re partial to that South Beach color-scheme. And, though the Jordan IX has some excellent colorways (Charcoal, Dark Powder, Olive, etc), the latest entry in the Kobe series is serious. We were huge fans of the Kobe IX as a high-top hoops sneaker (honestly, we still think it looks kind of funky off-court). And, as more and more dope colorways came out, we just kept telling ourselves “wait for the lows. wait for the lows.” Boy, were we right. The Kobe IX Low, whether EM or Flyknit, has been Dylan, Dylan, Dylan…HOT FIRE. While we’d have loved to nominate the HTMs, their exclusivity puts them on a pedestal that most of us will never attain. So, we’ve selected the upcoming “Beethoven” Kobe IX Low, as the best of the 9th Nike sneaker silos. Hey Nike, how’s about putting those gum soles up on ID, huh?