Performance Review: Nike LeBron 9

Nike LeBron 9 "Mango"
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It is very possible for you to go to your local gym and see more colorways of LeBron James’ ninth signature shoe instead of any other signature sneaker on the market. In the same manner, this shoe is worn casually just as much. The LeBron 9, Nike’s first shoe to feature both Flywire and Fuse, is obviously a very versatile shoe in terms of wear, but just how good is it on the hardwood? How specifically does the mix of Flywire and Fuse help the wearer on court? Check out our in-depth performance review on the Nike LeBron 9 below.

RELATED: Performance Review: Nike Zoom KD IV

Nike LeBron 9 Performance Review

Initial sketches of the Nike LeBron 9

Nike LeBron 9

Lockdown: The Nike LeBron 9′s lockdown factor is simply amazing and by far its best attribute. When placing your foot in the LeBron 9 and lacing it up, you initially notice a very compact and compressed grip. Even when the shoe is not entirely laced up, you still fill as if your foot is tightly fastened in the LeBron 9. Why does this shoe feature such a clamped down feel on the foot? Nike incorporated bilateral support wings to help shield and stabilize the foot. When lacing these shoes up, the wings, located in the midfoot area, basically fasten your foot inside the shoe and sort of snugly move the ankle back and lock the heel in. It’s almost as if the LeBron 9 features an internal seatbelt for the foot. Also, the midfoot is laced with extremely strong Flywire cables that act as harnesses by squeezing the foot. The locked down factor totally helps with reaction time. No one wants a shoe that drags, causes your foot to slide and/or makes you lose seconds.

Nike LeBron 9

Traction: The traction level is not the LeBron 9′s best attribute, but it’s not atrocious either. One section of the outsole I did find helpful was the exposed outrigger. Unlike other sneakers that feature this trait, the Nike LeBron 9′s outrigger, placed on the lateral side, really helps in terms of holding your ground when it comes to stop-and-start moves and/or moving laterally on defense.

Nike LeBron 9

Cushioning: LeBron’s ninth signature model ranks high in the cushioning column. The focal point of the cushioning in the Nike LeBron 9 seems to be directed towards absorbing impact and providing the wearer with extreme protection; therefore, this shoe does not feature the soft foot strike and smooth ride that the Nike LeBron 8 and the Nike LeBron 8 V2 possessed. The combination of 180-degree Max Air in the heel and Zoom in the forefoot does not feel as smooth and consistent as the aforementioned full-length Max Air signature sneakers, but as mentioned earlier, this duo of cushioning technologies sponges up impact more than anything else. You can definitely feel the encased infrastructure of the cushioning on returns to the floor whether it’s coming back down from a rebound or contesting a shot. Now, don’t think the LeBron 9 is some hard-shelled basketball shoe that doesn’t have a player-friendly soft side to it. In addition to the combination of 180-degree Max Air in the heel and Zoom in the forefoot, Nike also incorporated a Cushlon midsole, which is a very soft and flexible foam material. It simply adds plushness to this shoe’s cushioning and helps keep the foot comfortable for explosive takeoffs and soft landings.

Nike LeBron 9 Performance Review

One of Jason Petrie's early Nike LeBron 9 sketches

Nike LeBron 9

Responsiveness: In regards to bounce and springiness, I wouldn’t deem the Nike LeBron 9 a super-responsive shoe. As mentioned in the cushioning section, it is more of a impact protected shoe rather than a resilient wear, especially in the heel. Yet, I will say that Zoom in the forefoot of this shoe has a bit of a spring to it, which helps with taking off and/or launching from your first step.

Nike LeBron 9

Support: Jason Petrie and the Nike design team did a good job with this shoe in regards to support. One word to described the Nike LeBron 9 is stabilized. The LeBron 9 is by no means a flexible sneaker. It’s actually very stiff throughout its construction, and the composite shank plate adds an extra stiffness and supportive element to this shoe. Depending on the wearer, this may be a positive attribute because it assuredly keeps the shoe stable, but if you’re a player that likes flexibility in a shoe, this may not be for you. As for the ankle support, Nike incorporated Pro Combat sections on the inner sides of the collar, which mold to your foot and help keep the ankle secure and locked in. You can really feel the Pro Combat sections at work when you tie this shoe up tightly and play a few games in them. Your ankle is pretty much immovable.

Nike LeBron 9

Breathability: Fuse is usually an extremely breathable material seeing that we have tested a number of Fuse-laced silhouettes that have scored high in this department (Jordan Fly Wade 2, Nike Zoom Hyperfuse, Nike Zoom KD IV), but the Nike LeBron 9 is not as breathable as the previously mentioned sneakers. This has a lot to do with the unmatched clamped down feeling this shoe possesses. Plus, Nike did not incorporate a lot of ventilated areas on this construction. The wearer’s only source for ventilation is the tongue. It wasn’t awful to the point where my foot was sweating profusely after plays in this shoe, but at times my feet felt too clenched at times, and I’m sure some sort of perforations would have helped.

Nike LeBron 9

Durability: As mentioned in the Nike Zoom KD IV review, Fuse seems to be the toughest and sturdiest material on Nike’s basketball silhouettes these days. On the Nike LeBron 9, however, the materials seem thicker, which, as stated earlier helps with support but also durability. Fuse has already proven to be as durable as it gets, but the LeBron 9 takes it to another level. It preserved its shape throughout my wears, and I definitely think the LeBron 9 is a great choice for outdoor basketball considering its heavy-duty construction. Nike’s latest Flywire technology, named the 3.0, helps with the durability of this shoe. In the midfoot area, the cables really hug the foot. This shoe can be looked at as more of a performance weapon than a basic basketball shoe. It is that good durability-wise, and is one of, if not the most durable shoe I have tested in a while.

Nike LeBron 9 Performance Review

Nike LeBron 9 Performance Review Scorecard

Overall: LeBron James’ ninth signature shoe is a distinct combination of durability, support and lockdown. Creating a shoe for a one-of-a-kind athlete like LeBron James seems tough, considering his blend of speed, power and agility, but the LeBron 9 encompasses attributes that benefit the previously mentioned characteristics. It is easily one of the most locked down shoes I have ever worn. Breathability could have been better with added perforations or some way for air to seep through, but overall this shoe is perfect for the player that relies on athleticism and covets a long-lasting, supportive shoe.

The Nike LeBron 9 is now available at select retailers in various colorways for $170.

Click the next page to see detailed photos of the “Mango” Nike LeBron 9.

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Associate Editor. Houston, Texas native. Fan of basketball and basketball shoes.

71 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks g3 for not rating these better than the aj 2012! Spending $223 for great shoes is nothing to me but I’ll never spend $200 on a b+ rated shoe.

  2. ?This is a very good review on King James show looks like a very comfortable show to hoop in maybe my next shoe to hoop i rate the shoe ?an A not because of the name of the shoe but the support that the shoe has a very nice write up by the way!!

  3. i love these shoes. And i think the breathability is pretty good. I wore my China’s and Christmas’ in the passed couple days, and i kept feeling air hitting my foot. only other shoe i felt this in was my Air Max+ 2011

    • yea but you probably weren’t hooping in them like they were in this review. if you wear them with the laces loose then of course they’ll breath more than if they were laced up tight for hooping in.?

      • i dont really leave them too loose . A little snug, but you’re right, i wasn’t hooping. But still, they felt very breathable, and this was indoors. they’re one of my favorite shoes of my collection to wear. comforatable and very durable.

        • I feel you bro but you still wear them looser than you would when hopping. If you wanna get an idea of what they experienced you should lace yours up tight and wear them around for a while. As long as you don’t mind getting laughed up for having your kicks laced up tight lol.

          I have the China joints and I love em to death.

  4. The LBJ 9′s are great for hooping. The padding on the top isn’t comfortable for the first 2 times you play in them, but after that they are nice. My favorite pair of shoes to ball in.

  5. The breathablity is not that bad imo. They aren’t the most breathable shoes out there, but it doesn’t really get uncomfortablely hot. Plus between the 3 Nike signature shoes I liked these the best, cause the Kobe’s felt slightly clunky and the KD’s hurt the pinky toe sometimes.

  6. these shoes are dope, i got a pair of the mangos. nice to hoop in and nice looking off the court, break alotta necks?

  7. I got 3 different CW in the Lebron 9 because theyre the best basketball shoe I have ever owned hands down. Style and comfort I don’t buy sneakers to wear in the street but these I might have to buy more just for that too.

  8. I have multiple pairs of this sneaker and i have to say they are not comfortable. maybe i need to get a half or full size up then i would agree.. i wear a 10 and this is my size in every shoe. i wonder if lebron wears these true to size or a half size up

    • Hell yeh !! I wore my dunksmans last nite to movies (hunger games) which is over 2 hours long and by the time i got home my feet were killing me !! I think the all the 3 competitors kicks run a lil small or tight. In order Lebron 9 i have to go a full size up, Kobe and KD a half size up, then they are wearable.

  9. I’ve played in the Lebron 9′s, the Kobe 7′s both systems, and busted both of them.? The Lebron 9′s lasted 2 months, the Kobe 7′s one.? To be perfectly frank the Lebron 9′s lockdown is fine unless you lace up the top, then the crappy construction of the tongue give’s you nice little blisters supramedially to your ankle.? And before anyone says anything, yes I have game, yes I play 4 times a week, and yes I’ve bought a pair of Lebrons every year.? The 9′s were a big dissapointment, which led me to buy the Kobe 7′s.? Both are inferior products for over a hundred dollars.? I’m sorry, if I buy a 180 dollar sneaker it shouldn’t bust after a month or two of basketball.? Because I have a hookup now I will be buying elites of both the Lebron 9 and Kobe 7, the Lebron’s because I have liked all the previous shoes for various reasons and I want to give the line a second chance, and the Kobe’s because I am hoping they cleaned it up a bit from people actually testing and wearing them. ? ?

    • Maybe your getting knockoffs or something because I play 3 days a week sometimes more and mine are fine.? Plus I run on a tred mill with mine instead of my frees because I like em more and they haven’t busted yet.

  10. I severly rolled my left ankle landing on someones foot while doing a Jumpshot while hooping in the Lebron 9′s. No matter what tech they put in like the padded combat pro in the ankle or the lockdown stability wings..nothing can stop a rolled ankle. Now I feel more comfortable playing in the Kobe 7 play fast version..Its a bit clunky compared to the Lebrons but mentally i’m more comfortable in them.

    • Its hard to not roll your ankle when landing on someone’s foot. I’ve done it twice with braces and tape on. The shoe is supposed to help keep your ankle stabilized when landing on the ground normally and stuff like that. I rolled mine for about the 5th time and went and got these just so I could hoop without braces on.

  11. The shoe feels very comfortable. When trying to run the shoe lace through the holes located on the top near the ankle area it was extremely hard to get the lace through the hole. when i finally got it through a wad of glue was pushed out on the other side. i also noticed glue smears all around the bubble and the sole. there was also a glue smudge on the top of the front of the shoe on the purple where it was so clearly to see. Made me wonder how this bad cosmetic quality got pass nike. Still. The shoe is VERY comfortable and feels like it launches your step when walking in it. Id give it an 8.5 out of 10.

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