Nike 'redefining' LeBron 11 shoes

Updated: December 6, 2013, 10:25 AM ET
By Darren Rovell and Michael Wallace | ESPN.com

Nike's most important active basketball player is hardly wearing the latest version of shoes that bear his name.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Miami Heat star LeBron James has only worn his new shoes, the LeBron 11, for two complete games this season. Sources confirmed to ESPN.com that James has had an issue with the fit of the shoe and as a result has been mostly wearing last year's model.

[+] EnlargeLeBron James
Christopher Trotman/Getty ImagesMiami Heat star LeBron James said "it's been a frustrating process" dealing with the fit of his Nike shoes this season.

On Thursday night, before the team's game against the Chicago Bulls, James addressed the situation.

"I just want to be able to wear them," James told ESPN.com. "It has been a frustrating process. But obviously, I know that Nike wants to do what's best. They're not going to put me out there in harm's way. So we're redefining the shoe to fit what's best for my foot."

Sneakerhead message boards have tracked when James has attempted to wear his new shoes and when he switches back to last year's model, which has happened as soon as the first timeout or in between quarters.

"I could wear them, but they don't feel as great as I want them to feel," James said. "So we're redefining them, and I feel like this next round is going to be perfect."

The shoe is the lowest cut James has worn, with Nike saying at its release that the idea was for James to "feel the court."

"The LeBron 11 is one of the most innovative Nike basketball shoes to date, and we look forward to LeBron stepping back on the court in his latest signature shoe soon," Nike spokesman Brian Strong said in a statement.

Despite the shoe's absence from LeBron's feet, sales of them are up 18 percent compared to sales of James' Nike shoe at this point last season, the Journal reported. The first colorway of the shoes hit stores in October and retail for $200.

The last time Nike had an issue with one of its basketball endorsers not wearing the shoe specifically made for them was in 2009 when James' teammate Dwyane Wade wasn't wearing his Converse signature shoes because he had trouble getting used to the fit. Wade eventually switched brands with the Nike umbrella from Converse to Jordan before leaving the company last year for Chinese brand Li-Ning.

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter

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