Shoes an homage to Chicago, James

Chicago artist Jeff Zimmermann designed shoes for LeBron James that captured many themes, including loyalty and work ethic. Nick Friedell for ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- Jeff Zimmermann is accustomed to painting larger-than-life images on murals, and the Chicago-based artist now can say he's painted images for a larger-than-life personality in the sports world.

LeBron James kicked off his "world tour" on Tuesday as the Cleveland Cavaliers star will cover 10 cities on three continents over the next two months to introduce his new Nike Air Max LeBron VII. The tour is in conjunction with the upcoming release of the movie "More than a Game," which is a documentary about James' ties with four teammates and a coach going from AAU ball through high school in Akron, Ohio.

As part of the promotional tour, James is emphasizing community-based activities. He will speak about empowering youth, community service and grassroots basketball activities. At each stop on the tour, James will receive a specially designed pair of his new shoes from a local artist. The goal is for the artist to capture the spirit of the city.

Zimmermann has a vast background in community-based art, including thought-provoking murals that inspire debate and dialogue about topics such as religion and homelessness. His work has been featured on "The Today Show" and in the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art.

"The shoes have a very bright, dynamic color to reflect this positive endeavor," Zimmermann said. "Beyond that, there's the Chicago flag and other Chicago motifs.

"It's sort of like a passage of a day. There's a dawn and abstract nighttime to represent the value of every day. Every day is a gift that we should take advantage of."

Zimmermann also featured an item closely associated with Chicago.

"There's a Chicago hot dog, our unique food source," he said. "It's also tongue in cheek about how it's fun to be a hot dog on the court.

"I sewed in some Nike swooshes from my old Nike cleats, along with some eight-year-old laces, falling apart. I wanted to put some used, worn-in Nike collages onto these Nikes to symbolize that practice and hard work get you to where you want to be. I wanted to use something from like used shoes from practice."

Zimmermann painted "fidelitas" across the front of both shoes.

"It's Latin meaning loyalty," he said. "Every city he's going to has a theme, and loyalty is one of them. For LeBron, it shows that he's loyal to where he came from.

"And lastly, it looks like he's been walking through gold, but raised up. It's like there are hidden risers below the shoes so they're floating in the air. That's after I did my homework on LeBron and saw how successful he is, and how despite all of his success, he rises above it and strives to achieve higher goals. That's the most important part.

"I give him props for doing community outreach," Zimmermann added. "I do community-based art. I understand."