Real Athlete Reviews: Nike LeBron 9

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Nike LeBron 9

This performance review is brought to you by Ryan and Kyle, a two-man team who take a particular interest in basketball shoes, especially their performance on court. We currently play basketball at the high school and AAU level, which will give our reviews a unique perspective, since we play games almost daily and at a high pace.

To review a shoe, we first go through a rigorous testing period, wearing the shoe in several practices and games. During these wearings, we assess many aspects of the shoe, those that cause us problems and those that work really well. Our reviews then break these down into categories: traction, cushioning, comfort, breathability, support and lockdown. At the end, we offer our evaluation, including whom we think the shoe would suit best.

If you have any questions not answered in the review, feel free to send us an email at, and we will do our best to give you an answer.

Nike LeBron 9 Shoe Review

Like most signature athlete shoes, the LeBron 9 has a storytelling traction pattern. This means the design of the bottom of the shoe conveys special meaning or significance, as opposed to a normal herringbone pattern.

In this particular shoe, the pattern is supposed to be a kind of chain link of the number 6—LeBron's Miami Heat number. The pattern is used throughout the center of the shoe, but the outrigger uses a different pattern—an almost smooth section of rubber with indented dots. The outrigger pattern actually gave us some problems while playing. As guards, we make a lot of hard cuts using either our big toe area or the outside of our feet. Both of these areas lack traction due to the nearly smooth surface, which caused some slipping. But we did like the softness and grippiness of the rubber itself, as it assisted with traction. Other than that slight problem, the traction of the LeBron 9 is generally pretty good.

Nike LeBron 9 Sole

The LeBron 9 cushion features a 180 Air Max bag in the heel and a forefoot Nike Zoom unit that stretches the width of the shoe. The cushion is by far our favorite part of the shoe. The Air Max bag is great for absorbing impact, and the Zoom unit provides some responsiveness. This, combined with a Cushlon mid-sole, creates an amazingly soft and comfortable underfoot.

The shoe took most of the impact when we landed from jumps, and we felt little stress on our feet. The underfoot felt great while we were running up and down the court in a fast-paced game. The movement from heel to toe felt very smooth and fluid. Even though the shoe combines Air Max and Zoom units, the shoe's spongy feeling still felt pretty consistent all around.

For us, the shoe's comfort level—not including the cushion—did a have a few problems. First, the shoe has a Nike Pro Combat padding system to provide ankle support. This system is made up of many rigid bumps that can rub and cause irritation. However, we found that this problem can be fixed by tying the shoes tighter.

Another problem was the stiffness of the shoe itself. It does not flex well, and this led to a bit of slippage on court. Also, the toe box has a lot of dead space, which caused our feet to move up, hitting the hard toe cap on the inner side of the shoe. We definitely felt some pain in our toes. We also experienced a major hot spot, or point of irritation, on the corner of the tongue, which rubbed against our feet and caused pain. However, from the mid-foot on back, the shoe fit very tight and snug, which we liked.

The LeBron 9 doesn't have many spots for ventilation. The shoe has a thin Flywire and Hyperfuse mixed base, mainly on the inner side, with a small section on the outer. This, along with a mesh tongue, were the only possible areas for air flow. But they did not result in a breathable shoe. The Hyperfuse and Flywire combination is something new and somewhat of an experiment. We feel it was used to provide extra strength and durability while saving weight. We acknowledge that breathability does not truly affect how the shoe performs during play, but is more for personal feel and comfort. If breathability is something you expect in a shoe, the LeBron 9 may not be your top choice.

Support in the LeBron 9 works out very well. Because they were made for LeBron James, the shoes have to be able to support a player of his height and weight. They contain a carbon fiber shank plate for arch support. The LeBron 9 also has something new to basketball shoes—Nike Pro Combat padding, which runs vertically covering the ankle area. This system gives great ankle support and helps prevent a roll or sprain.

Lockdown on the LeBron 9 is generally pretty good, especially in the heel and mid-foot. We didn't experience much unwanted movement, thanks to Nike's use of Flywire throughout the upper of the shoe. This light but strong material helps keep the foot in place without adding too much weight. The Flywire Wings by the laces at the front of the ankle do a fantastic job of keeping the foot in place. But, as previously mentioned, there is a problem with toe jamming in the toe box. With that exception, the lockdown on the LeBron 9 is superb.

Our Take
Because the LeBron 9 is made for big guys, we think it delivers more benefits to centers, power forwards, and possibly bigger small forwards. The shoe has impact absorbing cushion and great support, which is ideal for a big man. Guards and most small forwards want a less restrictive and more responsive shoe. Since most post players play with their backs to the basket, and don't make as many quick cuts and rapid changes of direction, this shoe is better suited to those position players.

LeBron 9 Breakdown
Traction: 8/10
Cushion: 10/10
Comfort: 8/10
Breathability: 6/10
Support: 9/10
Lockdown: 8/10
Overall: 49 out of 60

Final Review Grade: 82% = B-


The writers and founders of ROKSBasketball are Ryan Onders and Kyle Scadlock, two friends who grew up in the Greater Cleveland area and were brought together by a mutual love of basketball and basketball shoes. The idea of writing basketball shoe reviews sprouted during their freshman year of high school, when they both joined the basketball team. Kyle plays guard and wing, while Ryan is predominantly a point guard. Any further questions or comments about their reviews can be sent to

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