Shoe 'nuff

What the world doesn't need now is a $300 sneaker

Posted: August 24, 2012

LEBRON JAMES recently discovered that in this country, nothing smooths a rough image like winning.

In the past few months, James delivered a basketball gold medal for his country and a championship for his adopted NBA city of Miami, won an MVP award, tried to mend fences with his native Ohio and gave interviews about his newfound maturity.

A state of grace that lasted all of one week.

On Tuesday, Nike said it would use the new-and-improved Lebron to hype a new shoe and, with James as the face of the product, break the $300 sneaker "barrier."

The $300 Sneaker Barrier?

The very phrase is perverse. It suggests that a $300 sneaker barrier looms as some sort of obstacle to human achievement, like the 4-minute mile, the speed of sound, the AIDS vaccine or cold fusion.

A $300 basketball shoe benefits only one person, and only if you believe that corporations are people. That would be Nike, the company that perfected the strategy of attaching a shoe to a star, making it in limited amounts, charging an exclusive price, releasing it on advertised dates, and instigating shopping-mall riots that lead the nightly news and provide ample free publicity.

The high-end LeBron X comes with "Nike Plus Electronics" that tell you how high you are jumping. Unless they can tell you that you are earning as much as LeBron James, they are not worth $300.

Nike has already backed off the number. The actual price, say insiders, is closer to $275. And the mass-market price for shoes without the electronics is half that. Still, for Nike, it's a win-win. By leaking the $300 number, then retracting it, they can pretend that a $275 shoe is sane, even reasonable.

But it is neither. We hope LeBron will draw upon his newfound maturity, place a phone call to Phil Knight and say he won't be a party to a $275 shoe.

But don't hold your breath.

Instead, hold your ears, moms and dads, to ignore your kids' demand for a pair. In a year, you can pick up a pair at Ross for $30.

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