Remembering Kobe: His Sneaker Legacy
Today is a sad day, as we mourn the loss of one of the greatest basketball players to ever hit a NBA court. Kobe Bryant, 18x time All Star, 15x All-NBA, 12x All-Defensive, 2x Scoring Champ, 2007 MVP, 5x NBA Champ and a 2x Finals MVP, has died at 41.
Now, we take a look at the history of Kobe’s sneaker game and what he did in these sneakers that made them so special. From his rookie days in Adidas kicks, to his move to Nike where his ‘Mamba Mentality’ was born, to his last game where everything ‘Fades To Black.’
We will miss you Kobe, thank you for everything.
The Beginning: Adidas
Adidas Elevation EQT
In the 1996 NBA Draft, Kobe Bryant was selected with the 13th overall pick then immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac and thus his legacy was born. Kobe signed with Adidas and at 18 was given his first signature colorway on the Adidas Elevation EQT. In this sneaker, Kobe was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team and won the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
The Adidas KB8 was Kobe’s first official signature sneaker, now named the crazy 8. In now his second season, Kobe recieved more minutes and became the youngest player to named an All-Star game starter at the age of 19.
Adidas KB II
Year 3 for Kobe brought out signature number 2. The KB II was the last shoe that featured the ‘Feet You Wear’ technology which was the new design principle based on the concept of natural motion for a shoe that acted as an extension of the wearer’s foot. Kobe was now a full time starter for the Lakers but sadly only played 50 games due to the shortened NBA lockout season.
Adidas KB III
A model Kobe wore briefly was the KB III. Most noteable thing about this shoe is how Kanye West was insipred by the design of the sneaker and used the same design in the midsole of his Yeezy 500.
Adidas: The Kobe
Now named the Crazy 1, The Kobe was modeled to look like the Audi TT Roadster. Kobe averaged a career high 28.5 points and led the Lakers to the finals. The most noteable moment in these shoes was when Jalen Rose, who has now admitted it was intentional, placed his foot under Kobe as he went up for a jumpshot. Kobe then landed on his foot and tweaked his ankle thus leading him to miss a game. But, that wasn’t enough as he came back and won his first NBA Championship.
Adidas: The Kobe 2
Widely regarded as the ugliest Kobe ever was the Adidas Kobe 2. Kobe wore the shoe for a majority of the season but he disliked the comfort of the shoe and opted to rock the original The Kobe for the finals. Where he of course earned championship number 2.
Sneaker Free Agency
After the summer of 2002, Kobe paid a reported $8 Million dollars to get out of his adidas contract but the stipulations of the buyout stated that Kobe couldn’t sign with another brand until 2003. This gave fans and sneakerheads the chance to see Kobe play in any shoe he wanted to… and he didn’t disappoint.
Nike Air Force 1 Mid
AND1 Desire Mid
Air Jordan 6 Low ‘Black/Silver’
Converse Weapon ‘Lakers’
Air Jordan 17
Air Jordan 12 ‘Flint Grey’
Air Jordan 12 ‘French Blue’
Reebok Question ‘Purple Toe’
Air Jordan 3 ‘True Blue’
Air Jordan 11 ‘Concord’
Air Jordan 7 ‘Away PE’
Air Jordan 8 ‘Home PE’
Air Jordan 3 ‘Home PE’
Nike Air Flight Huarache PE ‘Home’
Mamba Mentality: Nike
Nike Zoom Air Huarache 2K4 and 2K5
Not much to be said about Kobe’s first 2 years with Nike as his legal troubles forced Nike to hold off on giving him a signature sneaker. For the time being, he rocked the Huarache 2K4 and 2K5.
Nike Zoom Kobe I
This was where Kobe really showed the league who he was. He scored 62 points in 3 quarters against the Dallas Mavericks. He then put on an iconic performance where he posted 81 points in a comeback victory against the Toronto Raptors. He had 4 consecutive 45+ point games, averaging a ridiculous 43.4 points per game. He set Laker season records for most 40-point games (27) and most points scored (2,832), and this is a franchise who had Wilt Chamberlain. He won the league scoring title by averaging 35.4 points per game, the fifth time in NBA history a player has averaged at least 35.
Nike Zoom Kobe II
This was the first shoe Kobe was involved in the design process. It was a shoe Kobe felt could provide the strength, flexibility, support and traction he needed. Kobe was no longer #8, he had switched to #24. In this shoe, Kobe scored a season high 65 points against the Portland Trail Blazers. The following game he dropped 50 on the Minnesota Timberwolves. The game after that he dropped another 60 points on the Memphis Grizziles. Lastly, the fourth consecutive game, Kobe put up 50 points on the New Orleans Hornets, making him the second player in NBA history to have 4 consecutive 50+ point games. He recorded 10, 50+ point games and won his second scoring title.
Nike Zoom Kobe III
For the Kobe III, Nike decided to take insipration from a model Kobe wore prior, the Air Huarache. The upper and outsole were made in a diamond pattern insipired by Kobe’s daughter, Natalia Diamante. The Kobe III brought us Kobe becoming the youngest player to score 20,000 points. It also bought Kobe his one and only MVP. He then led the Lakers to his first NBA Finals without Shaq, but sadly lost in 6 games to their rival Boston Celtics. This was the loss than made Kobe even more hungry for another championship.
Nike Hyperdunk 2008
Kobe was named to the US Men’s Olympic Basketball team who was nicknamed the ‘Redeem Team’ due to their star power and lack of sucess in previous Olympics. Kobe helped to US capture their first gold medal since 2000. He did so in the Nike Hyperdunk, which he also wore while jumping over a Aston Martin.
Nike Zoom Kobe IV
For his Fourth signature shoe, Kobe had a love for soccer and wanted to coporate the cleats they wore into his shoe. He wanted the lowest, lightweight shoe possible. He took these kicks and put on a show at Madison Square Garden, putting up 61 points, a record at the stadium. He took the 65-17 West leading Lakers to the NBA Finals once again, but this time he won his fourth championship, his first without Shaq. He was also named Finals MVP for the first time in his career averaging averages of 32.4 points, 7.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks.
Nike Zoom Kobe V
This year Kobe wanted Nike to make this shoe even lighter than the last. The new Kobe V weighed 10.6 ounces, 1.4 ounces lighter than the Kobe IV. This was Kobe’s “clutch” year where he made six game winning shots. He then became the youngest player to reach 25,000 points. He also became the Lakers All Time Leading Scorer. Again, he took the Lakers back to the Finals but this was once again against the rival Boston Celtics. Trailing by a 13 point deficit in the third quarter, Kobe scored 10 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter to defeat the Celtics in game 7. He earned his fifth and final championship and his second Finals MVP. Kobe names this one his favorite championship he has won.
Nike Zoom Kobe VI
The Kobe VI told the story of Kobe’s alter ego, The Black Mamba. This was another low cut model but this time with a snakeskin texture on the upper. Many believe the best Kobe ever made was the Kobe VI ‘Grinch’ which he wore on his Christmas Day matchup against the Miami Heat “Big 3.” He was named to his 13th straight All Star Game and was named All Star MVP for the Fourth Time while setting the record for most career points in an All Star Game. Kobe again had a 4 game stretch of 40+ point games, this being the sixth time in his career he’s done so, with 48, 40, 42 and 42.
Nike Zoom Kobe VII
The Nike Kobe 7 System gave players to option to change the insole. There was the “Attack Fast” and the “Attack Strong.” Kobe became the Lakers All Time leader in steals and became the youngest player to score 30,000 points. He also secure his second career Olympic Gold Medal. It also gave us one of the best commercials ever with Kanye West.
Nike Zoom Kobe VIII
Midway through the 2012-2013 NBA season, Kobe debuted the Kobe VIII a sneaker consumers felt could be worn on and off the court. Due to the Lakers poor season, they were fighting for the last playoff spot. This forced Kobe to play almost all 48 minutes in each game, playing 47, 47, 42, 47, 41, and 48 in the home stretch of the season. The Lakers went 5-1 in those games. Then on game 80 of the season, Kobe tore his Achilles late in the 4th quarter. But, instead of leaving the game, he limped to the free throw line and hit 2 clutch free throws on one leg to tie the game. He was done for the season.
Nike Kobe IX
The Nike Kobe IX was an interesting deisgn but it was exactly what Kobe needed post Achilles tear. The shoe was made as an extension of the body to support his leg. Kobe missed the first 18 games of the season, played 6 games then suffered a lateral tibial plateau fracture and had to miss another six weeks. He was voted to start into his 16th All Star due to fan voting but did not play due to injury. It was later announced Kobe was done for the season. The Lakers missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005. He would return the following year and passed Michael Jordan for third on the All Time Leading Scorers List.
Nike Kobe X
The Kobe X came in a seamless textile upper, Elite Flyknit low, and an Elite Flyknit high model. 10 days before the Kobe X was to release, Kobe suffered a torn rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder. Of course being who he was, he stayed in the game while shooting, dribbling and passing with his left hand. He then underwent season ending surgery.
Nike Kobe XI
The last model Kobe Bryant ever played in was the Kobe XI. On December 1st, 2015 Kobe announced his retirement. He asked that opposing teams didn’t hold any ceremonies for him because he prefered to hear the boos instead of cheers. But, of course he was honored with standing ovations and pre game video tributes. He was a named to his 18th and last All Star Game. Then in his final game of the season he did the unthinkable. Trailing the Utah Jazz for most of the Kobe outscored the entire Jazz team in the fourth quarter 23-21 to give the Lakers the victory. Upon doing so he scored a NBA season high 60 points, the oldest to ever score 60 at 37 years old.