Nike pays homage to a high school LeBron James in their latest commercial, which depicts a young King James getting one of his first tattoos. On the commercial, James goes to the artist with a piece of paper that says “Chosen 1” which he wants tattooed on his back. What does this tattoo mean? According to NikeLeBron.net, the name came from a Sports Illustrated cover when James was in high school that had “Chosen One” underneath his photo.
Here’s a closer look at the “Chosen 1” tattoo.
James’ first tattoo came on his arm, and was originally some sort of animal. It would later be made into James’ signature lion head tattoo. James attended the Catholic high school, St. Vincent–St. Mary, which required James to cover up the tattoos when he played basketball.
According to Athletize, James has 42 tattoos including sleeves on both arms, tattoos on his torso, legs and his back. James has several tattoos that point to his Ohio roots. On his right shoulder he has “Akron,” and his left shoulder has his birth year “Est. 1984.” James also has Akron’s “330” area code on his right forearm. Here’s a close-up of the Akron tattoo.
This video from last summer shows the tattoos on James chest, stomach and arms.
Family is another theme for James’ body art. He has his mother’s name, Gloria, on his right arm. James has the words “Family” and “Loyalty” written vertically from his ribs down to his stomach.
There was a bit of controversy in 2017 after James Hayden, one of James tattoo artists, sued the makers of NBA2K17 for using his art without permission. TMZ detailed Hayden’s lawsuit claims.
The man behind the suit is James Hayden — a famous Cleveland-based tat artist who’s been inking up LeBron for years … and owns the copyrights on several designs he put on the NBA star. Ditto for Tristan, Danny and Kyrie Irving.
In his suit, obtained by TMZ Sports, Hayden claims he owns the copyright to Bron’s famous “Gloria” tattoo as well as his “Lion Design” and LJ’s shoulder stars.
According to The Holiday Reporter, the case is still in the early stages, and a judge refused to grant 2K publisher Take-Two’s motion to dismiss the case. Hayden explained his side of the story to Complex.
“I’ve worked with LeBron and a lot of different athletes throughout my years as a tattoo artist,” Hayden explained to Complex. “I’ve been doing about this 20 years now. Those are my dudes. There’s levels to it, how these games are using images…they’re kinda overstepping a lot of boundaries. It’s our work. They’re almost like stealing in a way, taking your art and just saying, ‘Hey, this is ours now, we are going to do what we want to do with it,’ regardless of who you are and what you’re doing.”
As for the ad, Nike has been with James from the start, but former sneaker rep Sonny Vaccaro believes James was close to signing with Adidas coming out of high school. Vaccaro had offered James $100 million deal, but when Adidas made the formal presentation they changed the number to $70 million. Vaccaro explained to The Ringer how the low-ball offer pushed James to sign with Nike.
We were going to bet our whole future on this kid, LeBron. There was no question that he wasn’t going to be courted by other people because obviously he was going to be, but no one believed in him, not $100 million worth. That I do know.
That number, I talked to [Adidas’s owners], looked them in the eye … and said, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ I never would have [offered $100 million] to LeBron James [if they hadn’t said yes]. I mean, what advantage was that, to lie? They OK’ed it. So they knew, $100 million. I didn’t spring it on them that day. They knew for nine months.
So now we come down to the presentation. We bring him and his whole team on. Private airplane. We’re going to get them [to] a Lakers playoff game. Imagine in Malibu, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and we lay out the plan. And the number [was] supposed to be $100 million. I sat down that day [with] Gloria James, [LeBron’s] lawyer, and … LeBron, and all these people. I saw the contract. It wasn’t $100 million. It was like $70 million, and they had incentives on it.
It wasn’t so much the number, $70 million or $100 million, because $70 million was a hell of a lot of money, right? But you have to understand what it was to me. The reason I was, and I still am respected, I believe, in that world, is [that] if I said something to you, you [would] believe me. If we had a deal, we had a deal. [Adidas] changed the number on me. I’ll never forget that as long as I live.
Had Adidas stuck with their original offer, we could be watching James Adidas commercials during the NBA finals.