It is not secret that some of the biggest athletes in the world are using their power and influence to address many of our society’s shortcomings, and one of these athletes is NBA megastar LeBron James. This week, LeBron continued to put his money where his mouth is to uplift another marginalized demographic: Black women.
On Tuesday night, NBA superstar LeBron James was honored with the Icon 360 Award at a private event by Harlem Fashion Row (HFR) during New York Fashion Week. He used the opportunity to unveil his HFR x LeBron 16 collaboration. Also in attendance for the gala were New York Liberty guards Epiphany Prince and Bria Hartley. Almost simultaneously, Essence magazine unveiled their latest campaign that showcase some of the most influential women, according to LeBron.
Here are some of our biggest takeaways from both collaborations that make this moment so crucial:
The HFR x LeBron 16 shoe was designed for women, by Black women
To re-create a women’s version of his 16th signature Nike shoe, LeBron enlisted the help of Brandice Daniels, founder of Harlem Fashion Row. According to a Nike.com, Daniels created the NYC-based fashion collective in 2007”to showcase the work of multicultural designers, particularly from women, who are impacting the community.” Along with designers Kimberly Goldson, Felisha Noel and Undra Celeste Duncan (who were selected by Daniels), Nike global basketball footwear designer Meline Khatachourian, and LeBron’s longtime footwear designer Jason Petrie, the group created a stylish, regal, and unique design fit for a queen. The ivory-colored shoe is adorned with hints of gold in the soles, laces, and includes a removable leather and gold ankle cuff that can be worn as a choker or bracelet. Underneath the sole are the words strength, loyalty, dignity, and courage, which he often uses to describe his mother, Gloria James.
Check out this behind-the-scenes clip of the design process, which also features the ladies discussing the meaning behind the various details of this iconic shoe:
He teamed up with Essence Magazine to celebrate “The Strongest”
In addition to his revamped shoe, LeBron teamed up with the iconic Essence Magazine to deliver a stunning social campaign to celebrate 16 of the most influential women in sports, fashion, and entertainment. Founded in 1970, Essence Magazine is a main staple in the Black community, highlighting various topics from fashion to entertainment to politics and everything else in between.
Some of the ladies highlighted in the campaign include tennis icon Serena Williams, choreographer Chloe Arnold, screenwriter and director Lena Waithe, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, and corporate executives Bozoma St. John (CMO of Endeavor) and Thasunda Duckett (CEO of Chase Consumer Banking). To partner with a storied, relevant, and important publication like Essence shows that LeBron both listens and understands its importance to Black culture.
Included in “The Strongest” campaign are WNBA’s Maya Moore and A’ja Wilson
LeBron has never shied away from being vocal about his support for women in the WNBA, and he made sure include two of the WNBA’s brightest, Lynx forward and 4X WNBA champ Maya Moore, and newly crowned Rookie of the Year A’ja Wilson.
This isn’t the first time that LeBron has included WNBA players in his off-court endeavors. WNBA Champions Nneka Oqwumike and Candace Parker, both from the LA Sparks, have been featured in content platform, Uninterrupted. Nneka was featured on one of the earlier episode of his series, “Kneading Dough”, and Candace was featured in his latest show “The Shop” on HBO.
“The Strongest” campaign is also personal as it features Savannah, Zhuri, and Gloria James
What makes this campaign special is the inclusion of the three most influential women in his life: his mother, Gloria James, wife Savannah, and their beautiful daughter, Zhuri. While accepting his award, LeBron spoke of his admiration of Black women and the influence that Black women have had on his life:
“I believe that African-American women are some of the strongest people on earth,” he says, according to Brooke Bobb at Vogue. “I grew up around incredibly strong women and continue to be inspired by the female strength I see around me, mainly in my mom, wife, and daughter. I thought it was important to recognize that strength through this shoe.”
For more reasons this one, this move by LeBron speaks volumes. On a daily basis, women, especially women of color, endure unsurmountable obstacles and criticism on a daily basis for everything and anything under the sun. Black female athletes have been ridiculed for their athletic bodies, the way we wear our hair, and the sheer audacity to play a sport versus “staying in the kitchen”. Throughout this WNBA season, many of the league’s stars, especially those of color, are on the receiving end of hateful comments and backlash for simply demanding equal access to revenue, facilities, and travel resources as their brother league. However, more players from the NBA have become more vocal on their support of the women ad are utilizing their platforms and resources to support the ladies in their quest for equality. We salute not only LeBron, but each and evert person who uplifts all women and girls.
The HFR x LeBron 16 will be available in limited quantities on Sept. 7th as an exclusive on the Nike SNKRS app and on Nike.com.
(Photo Credits: Lelanie Foster/Essence.com; Nike)