Kobe Bean Bryant, or Kobe to his millions of adoring fans, is a former NBA player. He played his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is widely regarded as one of the best players of all time and the second best shooting guard of all time, right behind his idol Michael Jordan.
During his illustrious career, he achieved many great feats including an 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. He also takes pride in being a five-time NBA champion. Unsurprisingly, many of his former teammates and coaches marvel at his competitive desire to be the best, which pushed him to keep improving his play year after year. In his prime, he was widely considered the best player in the NBA.
Kobe is one of the few players who got drafted to the NBA straight out of high school. In fact, he is the first guard ever to be drafted this way. He was drafted when he was just 17 years old by the Charlotte Hornets, who chose him as the 13th pick in 1996. On the night of the draft, however, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would quickly blossom into a star.
Many viewers were drawn to the young Kobe because of his sheer athleticism and his unending confidence. He eventually formed a terrifying tandem with fellow superstar Shaquille O'Neal. They both helped the Lakers capture three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002.
Aside from his athleticism, people rave about Kobe's mid-range game and his footwork. Game after game, whenever the Lakers would call an isolation play for Kobe, it would be like watching a maestro toying with his student. No one could stop him one-on-one. The combination of his shooting, handles, footwork, and basketball IQ was daunting for any defender. Even until today, when people talk about the best one-on-one players to ever play the game, Kobe Bryant’s name is on top of the list.
But Kobe wasn't just a one-trick pony. Far from it, actually. He was also an excellent defender. He was a 9-time member of the All-Defensive First Team and a 3-time member of the All-Defensive Second Team. He would dominate the opposing player with his length, agility, and guile. But what separated him from his peers was his unwillingness to lose, especially in an individual matchup.
When Kobe had a bone to pick with the player he was guarding, he would consider it extra motivation. And you really wouldn't want to give Kobe more motivation if he was your primary defender. Look no further than the young Kyrie Irving to get an example. According to reports, the cocky Irving challenged the old and wizened Kobe to a game of one-on-one, and whoever lost would donate a certain amount to charity. Both players denied that the game actually happened. But on the next game between the Lakers and Cavs, their respective teams, Kobe embarrassed Irving a couple of times. People who have followed Kobe through the years weren't surprised. They knew that his competitive nature is second to none. This is what separated him from his peers, and made him the person that he is today: a living NBA legend.
A Guide to Kobe Bryant Basketball Shoes Collection
At 17 and as a newly drafted Los Angeles Lakers rookie, Kobe Bryant immediately signed with the Germany-based Three Stripes. However, shortly after the 2002 Championship win, Kobe Bryant left Adidas even if his contract with them was still in force. It was reported that the player paid $8 million to buy out his contract.
He spent a year as a sneaker free agent. During that time, Bryant wore basketball shoes from different brands such as Reebok, Jordan, and Nike. He eventually settled for a $45 million five-year deal with Nike. In the next 11 years, he and Nike released 11 groundbreaking Kobe Bryant basketball shoes.
The subsections below tackle the iconic shoes from the two sneaker mammoths that Kobe Bryant got associated with.
- Adidas Elevation EQT or Crazy 97. Although not Bryant's first official signature shoe, many associate the Elevation EQT with the newly drafted NBA Player's winning dunk in the '97 Slam Dunk Contest, which is the main reason it is now known as the Adidas Crazy 97. It is one of the pioneers in implementing the "Feet You Wear" technology, which was developed by Adidas employee Frampton Ellis. The shoe's silhouette is iconically bulky. This is with purpose, however, as the shape corresponds with the anatomy of a foot, affording more natural movements. Despite the rounded edges, the shoe is surprisingly still able able to provide stability and support.
- Adidas KB8 or Crazy 8. Characterized by the bold jagged lines on the shoe's extended midsole, the KB8, which is now rebranded as the Crazy 8, was Bryant's first official sneaker that debuted in 1997. Still consistent with the "Feet You Wear" silhouette, the peaks on the shoe help the foot flex naturally when in movement, effectively complimenting the user's stride. The Kobe shoes hold a special place in many basketball players’ hearts as one of the best basketball sneakers that Adidas has produced. To this day, it is one of the company's most retroed shoes, with the Crazy 8 ADV as one of its most recent releases.
- Adidas KB8 II or Crazy II. Coming as the second release in Bryant's Adidas signature line, the Adidas Crazy II looks top-heavy due to the wavy detailing on the upper. In contrary to how it looks, users say that the shoe transitions very smoothly and feels quite low to the ground. Unfortunately, the Kobe basketball shoes did not see much of the court that year because of the seven-month 1998-1999 NBA Lockout. The shoe, however, was retroed in 2014. The shoe is the last to use the effective "Foot You Wear" design because of contractual issues between the Three Stripes and the creator of the technology.
- Adidas KB8 III. Considered as a transitional Kobe shoe that got hidden behind its predecessors and successors, the KB8 III sports a more muted and cleaner look. It retains the podular midsole shape.
- Adidas Kobe 1 or Crazy 1. Deviating from the past silhouettes of the Adidas Kobe line, the Kobe 1, which was later rebranded as the Adidas Crazy 1, fashions a sleek and futuristic form that is inspired by Bryant's German-made automobile, the Audi TT Roadster. Kobe Bryant won two NBA championships while wearing this shoe. His first championship was against the Indiana Pacers with a 4-2 win in the 2000 NBA Finals. And against the Philadelphia 76ers in a 4-1 series in the 2001 NBA Finals.
- Adidas Kobe 2. Infamously known as the shoe that drove Bryant from Adidas to Nike, the Kobe 2 is still inspired by Audi TT automobile and takes the futuristic look to another level by adding a layer of material on the midfoot upper. The added layer emphasizes the shoe's brick-like silhouette. This Kobe shoe was so polarizing. The NBA Star himself wasn't very fond of them. He switched to the previous model during one of the games of the 2002 NBA Finals, which proved to be a good move since the Los Angeles Lakers won for the third consecutive time in a 4-0 win against the New Jersey Nets.
- Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4. In 2004, Kobe Bryant was under the limelight due to a controversial sexual assault case in Colorado. To avoid negative publicity Nike passed on a signature sneaker and instead laced Kobe Bryant up with the Huarache 2K4. The Huarache 2K4 was the first basketball shoe that Eric Avar designed with Kobe Bryant, a co-creative relationship that will bloom later on. The shoe was the Bryant's and many other players’ go-to Nike basketball shoes. Its neoprene bootie upper has synthetic leather overlays. Support is reinforced through an ankle strap.
- Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K5. The Swoosh gave Bryant one more signature shoe-less season to recover from the Colorado incident and rebuild his public image. It was said that the 2K4 was very much well-received that the legendary designer Eric Avar paid close attention to the next shoe’s performance so as not to disappoint the players who watch out for it. Fortunately, the follow-up shoe to the Huarache 2K4 justified the hype that surround it. The Huarache 2K5 was an obvious improvement as it was lighter and more flexible due to the grooves on the midsole. It featured better cushioning and stepped up on its traction quality. It also provided a tighter fit than the 2K4. However, the two shoes are very similar looks-wise that it is a challenge to tease them apart.
- Nike Zoom Kobe I. Finally released as Kobe Bryant’s first official shoe in 2005, the Nike Zoom Kobe I further progressed the 2K5's silhouette. It retains the Huarache’s ankle collar and the Nike Free’s cushioning. Designed initially by Eric Avar and later on by Ken Link, the Kobe 1 did not catch much attention in the market in spite of the fact that the shoe was worn by Bryant when he scored a career-high 81 points in a game against the Toronto Raptors.
- Nike Zoom Kobe II. The second Kobe Bryant basketball shoes have three different versions: the Sheath, Strength, and Finisher. Each version's construction complements a different kind of playing style. These Kobe Bryant shoes are the last ones designed by Ken Link, and they are inspired by two Nike shoes. The first one, the Nike Considered, is a sustainable shoe that aims to "minimize or eliminate all substances known to be harmful to the health of biological or ecological systems." Consequently, the Kobe II gets rid of adhesives and uses only stitches. The Nike Free on the other hand promotes a research-based cushioning system, inspiring the Kobe II to have a minimal midsole setup.
- Nike Zoom Kobe III. Bryant's third signature shoe is seen largely seen as an outlier from the rest of his Nike basketball shoes. Although the sneaker resembles one of his Huarache basketball shoes, Eric Avar adds a waffle-like rubber grid on the upper to provide support and stability. The diamond shape on the rubber overlay is inspired by Bryant's eldest daughter Natalia Diamante Bryant.
- Nike Zoom Kobe IV. High-tops are the go-to basketball shoes in the 1960’s. It was commonly assumed that the high collar is better for hooping because it adds extra protection to the ankle. However, Kobe Bryant and Eric Avar broke ground with the Kobe IV. The low top of the fourth Kobe shoes stems from Bryant's love for soccer, which is a direct influence of his Italian upbringing. Seeing that soccer players who wear low-top cleats make just as much movements as basketball players, the NBA player is convinced that low-tops are also for basketball. Kobe Bryant told footwear designer Eric Avar that he wanted the “lowest, lightest-weight basketball shoe ever.” Kobe Bryant won his fourth NBA Finals trophy in the same year that his revolutionary shoe was released. The Lakers crushed the Orlando Magic in a 4-1 series.
- Nike Zoom Kobe V. "How low can you go?" was the first question that Bryant posed for Avar as they set to create the follow-up to his well-received Kobe IV. The Kobe V is made with a newer bonding method called welding that helps shed more weight and layers. Other than going lighter, the Kobe Bryant basketball shoes’ collars go lower, allowing more range of motion. For many sneakerheads, the Kobe V is a refinement of the fourth shoe. It highlights Bryant's career peak as he won his fifth and final NBA Championship in a 4-3 series against the Boston Celtics.
- Nike Zoom Kobe VI. While it was the Kobe IV that made low-top basketball shoes design popular, the Kobe VI made the silhouette widely acceptable within the industry. The Kobe VI didn't stray far from the past two silhouettes. Its look, however, tells a different story as Kobe Bryant's alter-ego the Black Mamba takes the center stage. In creating the upper, Nike applies a new method that involves using a fine mold where rubber is injected. This allows the compound to settle on specific areas of the mesh, creating a snakeskin effect. The snake aesthetic also adds durability in targeted high-wear areas.
Although the Los Angeles Lakers lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Western Conference Finals, Kobe Bryant had a great season. He was awarded the NBA All-Star MVP and recorded an average score of 27.9 points per game in the regular season.
- Nike Zoom Kobe VII. The seventh Kobe is a low-top that features a customizable midsole that is referred to as the Kobe System Supreme. The system offers the option to either "Attack Strong" or "Attack Fast" by switching up the insertable midsoles. The Attack Strong cushioning is a soft and full-length Cushlon that provides consistent impact protection for foot-heavy players. The Attach Fast midsole features a top-loaded Zoom Air unit at the forefoot and a bottom-loaded unit at the heel. This is for guards who need responsiveness and a good amount of court feel. The upper has Flywire and a molded polyurethane coating that increases its durability with no added weight.
- Nike Zoom Kobe VIII. Patterned after the Kobe V's silhouette but built to be lighter with a lower outsole, the Kobe 8 exceeds it predecessor in all areas: fit, support, traction, and cushioning. As for the shoe's construction and materials, durability is maximized by a fuse layer underneath the engineered mesh upper. The Kobe VIII is the shoe that Bryant wore when he tore his Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter of a game against the Golden State Warriors. Kobe Bryant scored two free throw shots before walking off the court head-high, knowing that he leveled the playing scores. The Lakers defeated the Warriors, 118-116.
- Nike Kobe 9 Elite / Low / EM. Flywire, Flyknit, and Lunarlon–the three horsemen of Nike–come together to form the super high-top that is known as the Nike Kobe 9. The shoe marks the first time that a basketball shoe upper uses Flyknit yarn, which has since been known for its flexibility. The shoe's high collar is meant to support Kobe Bryant after his surgery. The nine lines on it represent the nine stitches on Bryant's Achilles heel.
- Nike Kobe X. The Kobe X is a low-top that features a seamless textile upper with fuse overlays in high-wear areas. The cushioning setup is a mixture of three key techs: a full-length Lunarlon, a Zoom Air unit in the heel, and Nike Free-inspired notches in the forefoot for flexibility. The outsole makes use of small nodules that splay and grip the floor. Instead of nine red lines on the collar of the left shoe, the 10th Kobe basketball shoes retain only four lines to represent the four feet of stitching thread used to repair his heel. The right shoe features the sheath logo. The tenth Kobe Bryant shoes are popular not only for their performance and aesthetics, but also for the fact that the Kobe X was the sneaker that Bryant was wearing when he announced his retirement, which would happen the following year.
- Nike Kobe 11. The Kobe XI is the last signature shoe released before the 17-time All-Star ended his career in a legendary 60-point game against the Utah Jazz in 2016. While the familiar silhouette is retained, a stronger, and more supportive Flyknit is used on the upper. TPU wires are woven into the textile knit, providing better containment and more durability. Although the midsole has a similar setup as the previous model with its full-length Lunarlon and Zoom Air unit in the heel, the shoe implements a drop-in midsole akin to that of the Kobe VII. The sole also features the Nike Free-inspired notches that enforce natural foot movements during motion. Symbolic details are added into the shoe to tell of Bryant’s foot injury with the four red lines on the left shoe’s heel and a warrior emblem meant to represent the Greek hero Achilles.
Nike: Post-retirement Kobe Bryant Basketball Shoes
Just like the great Black Mamba himself, his signature sneakers also push boundaries. Memorable models like the Kobe IV to VI and even the IX are a testament to Bryant’s quest for excellence in both his craft and his products. Many of his Kobe shoes still grace the NBA courts today. In fact, some of them rank higher than Michael Jordan’s.
The Kobe Bryant's quest for excellence does not stop when his career comes to a close. For him, it is just an end of an era that signals the start of another.
- Nike Kobe A.D. Low. Released eight months after Bryant's last on-court game, the Kobe A.D. has the Latin phrase "Anno Domini" in its name to signify the start of a new era for the line of Kobe Bryant basketball shoes. Described as one of the hottest-looking Kobe shoes, its silhouette retains the sharp and sleek appearance that many Kobe shoes are known for. Conceptualized and designed by footwear designer Ross Klein and Kobe Bryant himself, each detail symbolizes the efficiency and precision of the sports cars. The five-time NBA champion adds, "It's important that the design matches with the technologies itself... Aesthetically, the shoe resembles the technology that's in the shoe." Its upper is made of textile mesh with integrated Flywire.
- Nike Kobe A.D. Mid. A mid-top version of the Kobe A.D. is released shortly after the original. It is still co-created by low designer Ross Klein and Kobe Bryant himself. The mid debuted in five monochromatic colorways that represent the five emotions that make up the Mamba Mentality. Blue stands for honesty; sonic yellow for optimism; red for passion; grey for detached; and lastly, purple venom for fearlessness. Unlike the low, the mid’s upper is made of a full-length suede material. The Dynamic Flywire technology on it is made more prominent. In a research done in 2017, the Nike Kobe A.D. was found out to be one of the most popularly worn basketball shoe by most NBA players.
- Nike Kobe A.D. NXT. Kobe Bryant teamed up once again with longtime Kobe line footwear designer Eric Avar to create the Kobe A.D. NXT. Even with their peculiar look, these Kobe Bryant basketball shoes are seen by many testers as a step up in terms of performance. These Kobe shoes implement a no-tie toggle lacing system, which involves the upper shroud wrapping around the foot to ensure a tight lockdown. The upper is made of textile mesh, providing lightweight breathability. The drop-in midsole has Lunarlon at the forefoot and a Zoom Air unit at the heel. The shoe’s clear outsole features a full-length micro-tread pattern.
- Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro. Kobe Bryant is against the idea of re-releasing his old signature models just because of nostalgia. He said in an interview that he wants to “build a business that wasn’t just based on things I have done in the past. It is important that the brand stands for performance and that everything we do is innovative, even if we are releasing shoes from the past they still must be built on performance.” Thus the Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Protro. Protro is short version of “performance retro,” which straightforwardly means that these throwback Kobe shoes still assert performance relevance in the modern times. While the Kobe 1 Protro takes the Nike Zoom Kobe 1’s 2006 silhouette, it also bears key technological enhancements. The shoe’s weight is reduced to a bare minimum. The heel-to-toe transition is improved by adding a rocker to the Zoom Air unit, shrinking the foam, and reducing the size of the carbon shank. This shoe was released on April 13, 2018, exactly two years from when the NBA Legend scored 60 points in his last game.
The Designers Behind the Kobe Bryant Basketball Shoes
To say that Kobe Bryant is pretty involved in the whole shoe designing process is an understatement. Each footwear designer and anyone who has worked with the Black Mamba can attest to his drive for excellence and his obsession with perfecting a product. Practically, the designers behind each Kobe shoes serve as collaborators who assist Bryant in bringing out some of the best game-changing shoes the industry has ever seen.
A graduate of the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts major in Industrial Design, James Carnes is currently serving Adidas as the Vice President of Brand Strategy Global.
He is the designer responsible for Kobe’s first unofficial and official basketball sneakers way back in 1996. These were the Adidas EQT Elevation, Adidas KB8, Adidas KB8 II and Adidas KB8 III. Now called the Adidas Crazy 97, Adidas Crazy 8, Adidas Crazy 2, and Adidas Crazy 3, respectively. The Kobe shoes were popularly known for their peculiar shape and design that featured the “Feet You Wear” technology.
Norwegian in decent, Eirik Nielsen earned his bachelor’s degree from the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. He was the main designer to bring about the Adidas Kobe 1 (Adidas Crazy 1) and Adidas Kobe 2.
After leaving Adidas, Nielsen founded his own independent industrial design consultancy firm called Ghost Works and runs the firm as the Creative Director. The company specializes in sports and active lifestyle shoe designs and has been in the business since 2010.
Starting with Bryant's unofficial shoe the Nike Huarache 2K4 up to his last on-court shoe pre-retirement (Nike Kobe 11) and even his post-retirement Nike Kobe A.D. NXT, Eric Avar has always been the go-to shoe designer for the Black Mamba's weapon of choice on-court.
First taking up Mechanical Engineering at Rochester Institute of technology, Avar later on shifted to Industrial Design upon discovering the program's perfect blend of science and art. As a young designer, he worked under the legendary Tinker Hatfield on the Nike Air Huarache.
Kobe Shoes for Sale: More for Less
Given that the Kobe basketball signature line is on the upper tier price-wise, it doesn’t really hurt to find Kobe shoes for sale. Purchasing the shoe during the release date is an absolute no-no if getting the basketball sneaker at a lower price is your priority. Instead, purchase the shoe right before the newest version gets released.
Discounted deals on Kobe’s classic shoes can also be found in online stores or retailers such as Foot Locker, Zappos, eBay, Finish Line or Eastbay. A sure sale date to watch out for is Black Friday; Kobe Bryant basketball shoes can go upto more than 50% off during that day!
Fun Facts About the Legendary Black Mamba
Where did Kobe get his name?
The two-time Finals MVP was named by his parents after the premium wagyu beef of Kobe, Japan upon seeing this word in a restaurant menu. Kobe’s second name "Bean" is taken from his father Joe Bryant’s nickname "Jellybean."
Who did Kobe take to Senior Prom?
After meeting in an awards show back in 1996, the 17-year-old Kobe Bryant asked the Grammy-awarded singer and actress Brandy Norwood to the Lower Merion High Senior Prom. Fortunately, she obliged and later recalls that it was a sweet experience.
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