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words // Nick DePaula:

At just 17 years-old, LeBron James was already deemed the future of basketball — the Air Apparent.

Featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated just as his junior season was coming to an end, the legacy magazine’s declaration was unmistakable:


In a new spot released to coincide with James’ 9th NBA Finals beginning this week, Nike hearkens back to the summer of 2002, after that fateful SI cover, when a young LeBron walked into a Las Vegas tattoo parlor during a summer basketball trip.

He proudly took to the tagline, even wearing “Chosen One” leg bands to close out his Saint Vincent-Saint Mary’s High School career, where he finished as not just the consensus #1 player in the country, but the clear-cut #1 pick of the NBA’s 2003 Draft.

The tattoo itself has long become just another element of hype that James has lived up to — and exceeded.

Soon after entering the league, he also inked the brand’s “WITNESS” slogan along his right leg, creating a picturesque framing of the word during each of his signature tomahawk dunks. Years later, both tats became the subject of an opportunistic businessman’s quest to actually license the artwork from the original tattoo artists, for his own commercial uses.

Check out Nike’s newest LeBron spot below, fittingly dubbed “Always Believe,” and let us know what you think on Twitter. Where does this rank amongst the brand’s endless assortment of James commercials over the past fifteen years?

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