Would you pay $315 to find out how high you soared on the court?
The best answer may be that Nike didn’t become a sporting goods dynasty by making a lot of sneakers that don’t sell.
The LeBron X Nike Plus will likely be no exception. Even with a pricetag expected to push through the $300 barrier for the first time in sneaker history. Even with a flood of indignation and outrage on the Internet and social media before the first pair hits the display rack.
That was ignited Tuesday by a Wall Street Journal story about the rising cost of sneakers that said the premium version of the latest LeBron James basketball shoe is expected to retail for $315.
Nike, in a statement, said it has not set a price, though it has showcased the shoe on its website with a teaser about the high-tech features built into the sole.
The Nike+ Basketball technology uses motion sensors that will track and measure performance, such as how fast the wearer moves, distance traveled and height of jumps, which can be accessed by an app on a smartphone.
Already the National Urban League has weighed in with a protest, calling for parents to resist spending on such an “empty status symbol.”
Marc Morial, president of the civil rights organization, said in a statement: “To release such an outrageously overpriced product while the nation is struggling to overcome an unemployment crisis is insensitive at best.”
Meanwhile, the pricy shoe provides fodder for LeBron haters who have otherwise been silenced by his MVP performance in the Heat’s championship run and the gold-medal effort with Team USA in London.
James debuted the LeBron X Nike in the Olympic final victory over Spain. It should be noted that the standard model he wore, sans technology, will be the initial release of the shoe this fall, retailing for $180, Nike said.
That is $10 more than his LeBron 9 signature shoe that came out last year. The premium version, the LeBron 9 PS Elite, goes for $250, including gold swoosh.
Nike also offers the LeBron Zoom Soldier basketball shoe for $120 and the Nike Zoom Hyperfuse for $110.
Nike is raising prices on all of its apparel 5 to 10 percent, citing the rising cost of materials and labor costs in China. Other manufacturers, including Adidas, are doing likewise.
Despite the spike in prices over the past year, sales of basketball shoes costing more than $100 were up 50 percent, according to SportsOneSource.
But will a $300 sneaker fly in a troubled economy?
The LeBron X Nike Plus will be a limited edition of about 50,000 pairs. There is a niche market out there unfazed by the price, as indicated by a comment on the forum of SoleCollector.com:
“A shoe like that is not meant for everybody. It IS a luxury to have. For myself, I'd rather enjoy the luxuries of having a dope, basketball shoe over owning any type of Gucci, LV or even Yeezy shoe 100% of the time.”
A different view from the marketplace was among the comments at LebronJames.com:
“How about u call nike and tell the to lower the ridiculous and crazy price on your new shoes coming out...We ain't rich like u.”
Ultimately, the market will provide the answer as to what features are vital in a sneaker. The old-school method for finding out how high one jumped was a mark on the wall and a tape measure.
As for concern about parents being pressured into shelling out for a supposed must-have luxury item, there was an old-school answer to that as well. Simply stated: “No.”
Photo: The LeBron X Nike Plus has motion sensors that will report performance data to an app. (LebronJames.com)