Putting Nike's LeBron 13 to the test: Here's what we learned

BY Brett Pollakoff • November 18, 2015

Idan Ravin is one of the premier trainers in all of professional basketball, and has worked with the likes of Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.

He also worked with me, during an individual training session set up by Nike Basketball to wear-test James’ latest signature sneaker, the LeBron 13.

The look of the shoe didn’t get the best reaction from the general public when it was first introduced, mainly because of the unusual “ink blot” shape of the hyperposite panel over the ankle areas on the outer side. But they look extremely sharp on foot and in person, and the performance of this iteration of LeBron’s signature sneaker is the best since the LeBron Xs dropped three years ago.

The LeBron 12 was an above-average sneaker for performance, and was the first to incorporate Nike’s Hex-Zoom cushioning system. But it was still a big-man’s shoe, designed to support and protect players of LeBron’s stature. 

The 13 improved upon the Hex-Zoom cushioning by making the pads bigger and bouncier, and managed to get lighter with a thinner layer of materials that were used on the upper, making it much more manageable for everyday use. The hyperposite panels were actually a genius addition, because they’re strategically-placed to give you the support where you need it, as opposed to outfitting the entire shoe with heavier materials in unnecessary spots.

The performance aspects of the sneaker were evident at various points through the workout experience. An unassuming gym in Manhattan’s Lower East Side was where it all took place, and the event was as low-key as possible. A few staffers were in the gym, along with a ball boy to help with the workout and a photographer to document the experience. But it really was as no-frills as possible, because the focus, of course, was on the work that needed to be done.

The cardio portion of the training almost wiped me out. We began with some foam roller exercises to get loose, then with five consecutive laps around the court for a dynamic warmup that included defensive slides, skips and high-knee jogs at a medium level of intensity.

With only a minute or two to rest in between, I was then put through a circuit training which consisted of alternating sets of push-ups and jump-rope which literally left me breathless. I’m in decent shape, but unless you’re being guided by a personal trainer or are working toward achieving a specific level of fitness, the high-intensity cardio exercise is going to be a foreign experience for the majority of weekend-warrior types.

The reasoning for the intense training before the basketball portion was completely clear. In live game situations where NBA guys are competing at the highest level, their heart rates are always elevated while trying to score or defend against the best players in the game. Shooting drills while you’re in a relatively relaxed state can only prepare you for so much, and while the process was painful, it was eye-opening in that it showed me the level of effort it will truly take if I really want to see any significant results.

It was finally time to get some shots up, though there would be plenty of running around while doing so. The first drill had me in constant motion, running to the hoop and receiving a pass for a layup back and forth from five different spots on the floor, and I went through this three different times with only seconds of rest in between each set. Once that was finished, I had to do a full-court sprint up and back, and then shoot five shots from a designated spot on the floor -- from multiple spots, each requiring one of those sprints in between, and without any rest.

I found the LeBron 13 to be particularly comfortable during the running activities, well above average in terms of the performance in this area that's usually noticeable in a basketball sneaker. During the cutting and jumping activities, the way the Hex-Zoom pads pass you off from one to the next was noticeably helpful, and provided an additional level of support that simply isn't available with other sneaker designs.

It was all seriously exhausting, but well worth it once it was time for Ravin to help me with my shot.

Now, I’m an above-average shooter from three-point distance, but inconsistency with my mechanics means I can be streaky. The way Ravin broke my shot down and fixed it showed exactly why he’s trusted by the game’s greats, and his suggestions for fixes yielded immediate results. When I was able to put all of his advice together, we saw several consecutive shot attempts splash home from a few feet beyond the NBA's three-point arc.

Ravin has a way of motivating you that makes you want to give your all, despite the level of physical exhaustion you may be feeling at the time. He doesn’t raise his voice, and doesn’t use negative or degrading language. He puts it on you to make the decision to improve, and on my final sprint of the day where he said he’d trust me to go as hard as I possibly could, I did -- and once the session was complete, I felt like something had really been accomplished.

The best thing about the LeBron 13 is that the cushioning and overall level of support is noticeable without being intrusive. The designers did a fantastic job with these, and the end result is one of the top-performing basketball sneakers on the market today.



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