It has been my most enjoyable, most played basketball shoe for the past three years. Will this tradition be continued with the 18’s?
The specification sheet is looking stacked as always. Now it’s time to see how that translates on the hardwood.
Let’s deep dive into the Nike LeBron 18 performance review!
WEIGHT: 492 g. / 17.36 oz (size 11.5)
TECH: ZOOM AIR, MAX AIR, KNITPOSITE 2.0
FIT: TRUE TO SIZE
RETAIL PRICE: $200
BD RATING: 8.8/10
An updated version of KnitPosite 2.0 is making the return for the upper. While there’s not much that does look different compared to the first generation apart from a remapped pattern. It does feel different… Not much. But you can tell it straight away if you own or have owned a pair of 17’s.
The main tweak/upgrade comes from thickness & weight perspectives. Nike’s trip back to the drawing board resulted in a thinner knit layer that scored a slight weight cut for the already lighter construction of the 18.
Officially, it’s not a low top, more like a hybrid between low & mid-cut. Nonetheless, guards shouldn’t look at them as a potential option since the 18 is still built for someone with bigger force and fatter buns. Speed is definitely on the weaker side of things still.
Wrapping things up about KnitPosite 2.0 – having a thinner upper not only benefits weight but also improves the form-fitting aspect of the whole setup. Therefore, you’re getting even more natural on foot experience straight from the get-go.
When you would think they can’t impress you anymore, they slap you in your face with something even crazier. First time in basketball footwear history, Zoom Air is used on top of an Air Max unit. Wait… What? Uh-huh, that’s what I’m saying.
While the KD 13 features a proper Zoom Air sandwich, the LeBron 18 is rocking a massive Zoom Air/Air Max big mac. Yeah, I know, that doesn’t sound informative at all. That damn thing is so bananas. I can’t even describe the sensation it gives you with normal sentences. But I’ll try my best…
Once you apply your weight and momentum on the heel, that massive Air Max pillow immediately bottoms out (18’s Air Max unit has a lower PSI so it’s softer than on the 17) absorbing all of your generated impact.
Then it comes Zoom Air’s turn to join a party. After the Max Air unit bottoms out – you don’t hit the ground. Instead, you activate a heel portion of Zoom Air which literally skyrockets your foot back up with force, and shifts your motion on the forefoot. Where a combination of Zoom Air unit cupped in Phylon career continues the work upfront, just in a different ratio. More bounce/responsiveness – less plushness.
That grid or waffle traction pattern isn’t something I would put all my money on. If I don’t see herringbone or circular patterns, I’m suspect.
Luckily, this is not a performer that Nike would blindly slap some random, poorly tested stuff. That being said, the grid pattern gets a solid pass from me. Its multidirectional nature in tandem with quite deep grooves generates a semi-beastly bite with the hardwood.
Due to a softer rubber dust tend to stick on the nubs itself, but it doesn’t accumulate in the grooves. So that way all that nasty stuff can be easily taken off by a quick wipe in order to maintain consistent performance even when dust is present.
Not all of us can consider one of the most expensive basketball sneakers in the game as an outdoor option. But if you do, the LeBron 18 should not be on your list. While those beefy grooves are ready to eat up some rocks, the rubber compound, on the flip side, is too damn pliable for that. We’re talking a few busy months at best. For 200€? That’s a big no no.
Much like the predecessor, the LeBron 18 runs slightly narrow in the forefoot area. Yet the presents of KnitPosite make things way more simple when it comes to sizing. Thanks to the upper’s ability to stretch in certain areas, I would suggest sticking true to size. Simple as that.
Do they fit like a 200€ sneaker? No. None of them do. Just don’t get me wrong, whether it’s BattleKnit or KnitPosite, it’s still one of the nicest materials to sit in. It hits you with outstanding comfort in the right places, while keeping things contained in others with some help coming out of integrated Flywires. Can’t get any better. Well, maybe some fuse on the toe box to extend its longevity. But that’s about it.
But there‘s one element that makes my brain overheat… It’s like putting those plastic wheels from a gas station on your brand new Ferrari. What is this? 2010? And we are talking about the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse? Cmon Nike, this shouldn’t be happening.
I’m talking about that hideous piece of fuse that forces us to call it a tongue. Not only does it go out of this whole premium context, but the practical part doesn’t shine either. It’s so freaking thin, that when you crank on the laces they immediately start digging right into your foot.
On the official Nike site, they do point out that those three air pods are supposed to improve comfort around the tongue section. Well… It’s far away from doing that. Personally, those pods are missed placed in between where I usually tie a knot. So they just sit there for the looks. It reminds me of blisters for some reason.
Fortunately, that issue can be addressed by putting on some heavily cushioned ball socks, like Nike Elite or whatever you prefer. You‘ll still feel some pressure, but that shouldn‘t bother you in mid-game.
This is where things get a bit complicated… Or I should say – frustrating.
The upper portion of the construction, giving its knit, actually does generate quite trustworthy lockdown. You do get some give on lateral moves, but not to the point where it makes you feel insecure.
Same can’t be said about the midsole, unfortunately. Nike did repeat themselves of what was a huge flaw in the LeBron 15. That’s right – the absence of an outrigger.
Having a knitted upper together with a high profile, most cushion boosted midsole requires an outrigger, or at least a wider platform. That’s no debate.
Though, the Lebron 18 features none of that stuff which results in quite scary tippiness once you try to pull off sharp, forceful side movements. I‘m not saying these are the official ankle breakers since it didn‘t happen to me, and it might be not a thing at all. But that peace of mind was always there keeping me from going all-in on those shifty moves.
Other than that, everything else does perform as it should be for a big boy‘s shoe.
It’s so bizarre how big brands sometimes trip on a flat surface for no reason. I just can‘t wrap my head around it. It makes me go crazy…
That’s exactly what happened with the LeBron 18. Nike just needed to slap an aggressive outrigger, and you would be looking at the best performing LeBron signature model which is getting more, and more versatile over the years.
For sure it will turn away quite a few heads those who always go over and above the limits when it comes to the art of crossing over bodies. At the same time, if you‘re not planning on becoming the next Kyrie Irving or James Harden – the LeBron 18 can still be your best one yet.
BALLER FROM EUROPE? WE GOT YOU.