The Nike LeBron 12 made a bad first impression. When the shoe first leaked last summer, many people thought they were seeing an unfinished early prototype. It didn’t help matters that the debut colorways were similarly underwhelming, especially compared to previous years. The Megafuse upper felt like a layer that we weren’t supposed to ever see, the decision to go with a translucent outsole even when it didn’t make sense well, didn’t make sense and the Hex Zoom Air units was an odd aesthetic choice because it’s not like people are going to be kicking their feet up in the air just to show them off. Oh wait, nevermind…

As the NBA season chugged along, the releases got bolder but not always better. The Hyperposite wings allowed Nike to get creative with graphics and we saw some “interesting” drops for Christmas and Black History Month. However, it was the player exclusives that LeBron actually wore on the court like the “Grammy Night” and the heat that schools like Arizona were blessed with that revealed something we should realized all along: less is more.

Stripped of the graphics, the Nike LeBron 12 simply looked better with a dominating primary color and a few accents to change it up. Anything beyond that looked like a mess, especially when time came to reveal the “What The?” colorway that’s dropping this weekend (never has the third word in that phrase been needed more). We love multicolor sneakers over here at Kicks On Fire, but sometimes it’s nice to go back to the basics and when the Nike LeBron 12 kept the colors simple, all the talk about the shoe being the “born in the lab” and focusing on being “next-generation” everything really shined through.

LeBron James and Stéphane Ashpool spoiling an entry on this list (Hypebeast)
LeBron James and Stéphane Ashpool spoiling an entry on this list (Hypebeast)

So does this mean the Nike LeBron 12 is a classic in the King James library, joining the likes of the Nike Zoom Generation and the Nike LeBron 8 on the pantheon? It’s too early to tell because it so fresh in our minds that we’ll probably need a few years to really let it sink in. But for now enjoy this countdown of the Top 10 Nike LeBron 12 Colorways. Let us know what you think of our picks in the comments section below.

10Nike LeBron 12 Low “LeBronold Palmer”

Nike

You can almost taste the concoction that this colorway was named after just by looking at it. There’s so many ways Nike could have taken this too far, but keeping the Hyperposite solid and the drink graphics on the insoles was an inspired choice for the better.

9Nike LeBron 12 “Double Helix”

Nike

Practically monochromatic on the lateral side gives it a classy vibe, but when you flip it over to the medial and see the wings turn pink, it creates a stunning contrast that actually makes the “Double Helix” name a little less pretentious.

8Nike LeBron 12 EXT “King’s Cork”

Nike

Speaking of pretentious, Nike going to the well again with cork on not just the LeBron model but on a variety of other kicks this year was great for those of us poor saps who missed out on the “Cork” LeBron 10. Granted, while none of them replicated the success or look of the LeBron 10, we’re better off with them than without. If only the wings were cork too and they ditched the gold swoosh though…

7Nike LeBron 12 Low “USA”

Nike

Dammit, couldn’t Nike have waited until next year to release these? Now we’ll never see ‘Bron rocking these en route to a gold medal in 2016. Ah well, at least J.R. Smith made good use of them during the Finals this past season.

6Nike LeBron 12 “What If?”

Nike

Come on, admit it, you thought the “What…” meant that abomination made the list, but they didn’t and there’s a good chance it won’t even crack our Top 100 LeBrons list whenever we get around to updating it.

(I’m glad I was able to get through this without just utterly trashing LeBron’s favorite football team) (Go, Niners)

5Nike LeBron 12 Low “SVSM”

Nike

Typically, LeBron’s tributes to his alma matter are green, white and gold affairs, but this black mixed with carbon fiber experiment could be the start of a promising trend. They match up nicely with the school’s black football uniforms that James wore a few years back. Could we see actual LeBron-branded footwear on the gridiron soon? It’d be a nice change of pace from everybody just wearing retros with cleats on them.

4Nike LeBron 12 Low “Hot Lava”

Nike

I love kicks that end up with nicknames that highlight the least visible color on them, like when people called the grey-based Nike Air Penny 5 “Tour Yellow” even though the yellow was just slight accents on the upper. Anyways, this “Hot Lava” LeBron 12 Low proved to be the best of the 12 Lows with its super clean look and reflective highlights that were a nice surprise for anybody that walked around in them at night.

3Nike LeBron 12 “Independence Day”

Nike

The graphics on the wings of the LeBron 12 didn’t always connect, but this patriotic pair was a standout for their creative use of the stars and bars. Personally, I prefer the PE that James wore for Veteran’s Day last season, but the retail pair that dropped around July 4th this year was not a bad substitute at all. Again, I’m bummed LeBron won’t be wearing this or the 12 Lows in Rio next year…

2Pigalle x NikeLab LeBron 12 Elite

Nike

“We put a huge emphasis on detail, as you can see on all the bindings, and inside, we have a memory foam. I tried to get as much silver as we could to bring a futuristic feel to it. I was thinking a lot about Paris Fashion Week and I said to myself, “Okay, can people wear this during a fashion show?” I showed the shoes to some top friends in fashion and they were really impressed, they really liked the shoes.” – Pigalle founder Stéphane Ashpool

It not only works for a fashion show, but it also works just about everywhere. Hell, I’d wear it after Labor Day because I don’t care about outdated fashion rules. But I won’t because they’re $300 and I’m hoping they’ll drop in price before they sell out.

1Nike LeBron 12 EXT “Rubber City”

Nike

Inspired by LeBron’s hometown of Akron, this blue-collar colorway represents the city’s rubber industry and the billions of tires that have come out of their factories. The rubber tire tread upper matched with the chrome swoosh turns something (tires) that we normally wouldn’t associate with luxury into a work of art. And like the Pigalle collab, it just needs to drop in price a little bit more for me to jump on the bandwagon…