Sneaker History | KOBE BRYANT
LA native and employed by Ballislife since Oct. 2017, Randy is a content editor and supervisor for Ballislife’s various media platforms.
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Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant
November 29 2015, the day Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from his incredible twenty year career in the NBA. When I first heard the news of Kobe announcing his decision to retire, I had some mixed emotions. Considering the fact that I had the opportunity to witness his entire career from such a young age up until now. I’ve witnessed Kobe’s highs, and his lows. Everything from winning on & off the court, to potential career ending mishaps off the court. I witnessed. Also just to clarify things, I was never a fan of Kobe’s Hollywood antics. I sure as hell respect the guy for what he’s accomplished in his twenty year career. Most of all, I respect what Kobe has done to influence the entire game of basketball.
His influence on basketball will forever be remembered as long as basketball remains. One thing that Kobe definitely had an impact on was the shoe industry. In 2009 Kobe revamped the way everybody (& I mean everybody) saw low top sneakers. To this day majority of many basketball players wear low top sneakers. So here’s a little reminder of what Kobe’s kicks looked like throughout his 20 year career.
Adidas EQT Elevation
I’m sure most of you know by now that Kobe wasn’t always apart of the Nike family. He started his career as a member of the German powerhouse adidas. Although these weren’t a signature shoe for him, it’s what he laced up for his rookie year. In which he also took home the crown for the 1997 Dunk Contest.
If you’re too young to remember, here’s a friendly reminder of Young Kobe…
adidas KB8 aka Crazy 8
The KB8 better known today as the Crazy 8’s, was Kobe’s first true signature shoe. Back when he was signed to adidas, many had a lot of doubts whether or not he would become a future hall of famer or not. That’s why when Kobe was given his signature line everybody was in shock because he was only in his second year in the league and not even a sure thing. adidas made a good call by giving Kobe a signature series back in the day. Truthfully the Crazy8’s are probably Kobe’s best sneaker with adidas.
Here’s a weird commercial for the adidas KB8… #youngkobe
adidas KB8 II
In Kobe’s third year in the league, he began to make a name for himself. Along with the name came the kicks. Kobe received his second signature sneaker the KB8 II. Which introduced the “Feet you Wear” campaign. Accompanied by adiPRENE heel cushion support system which can be found in the majority of adidas basketball sneakers.
Heres another throwback campaign for the adidas KB8 II
adidas KB8 III
The KB8 series continued with the adiPRENE cushioning and unfortunately was the last of the “Wear Your Feet” adidas campaign. These KB8 III’s were also the shoes Kobe wore when he got into that scuffle with Chris Childs.
adidas The Kobe
Desgined after the Audi TT Roadster, the Kobe was a very unique shoe in its time. The most memorable fact about the shoe was that Kobe averaged 28 a game which lead to his first of five NBA rings. Re released in recent years, adidas renamed the shoe to the Crazy 1.
adidas The Kobe Two
The Kobe Two was so bad, Kobe himself opted to not wear these during the Lakers’ Finals run that year. Which turned out to be a good call since the Lakers took the title home that year for back to back titles. Many people recall this shoe as the space boot which is pretty much was. Hell, even I had a pair of these… in the silver colorway which gave it more of a inter galactic style basketball shoe. Can’t forget when Kobe decided to rock a pair in the USA colorways days after the 9/11 attacks.
The only good thing that came with this shoe was the commercial…
Sneaker Free Agency
In all honesty, when Kobe was a sneaker free agent I lost my mind. I was so used to seeing Kobe lace up some adidas and then all of a sudden he’s wearing whatever he wanted. During this time period Kobe had ended his relationship with adidas after the Kobe Two disaster. So Kobe decided to test the waters. He was rocking Jordan PE’s for the most part but on occasion you’d catch him in Reeboks, Converse, and hell, even And1 had a chance at signing the superstar to a sneaker contract.
Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2k4
I remember when Kobe first laced up the Huarache 2k4 in the black/yellow/white colorway against the Portland Trail Blazers. I literally kept asking myself, “WHAT’RE THOSE!?!?” Days later I found out Kobe was going to sign with Nike and be the face of the newly Huarache 2k4, which to this day is in my top 5 for best basketball shoes. Although Kobe debuted the 2k4’s when the era of Shaq & Kobe came to an end, the Huarache 2k4 also represents the birth of the Kobe Bryant era in Los Angeles.
Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2k5
As Kobe’s contract with Nike became finalized, the relationship between Nike & Kobe would forever change the game. Enter the Huarache 2k5 which was the sequel to the 2k4. Offering a light weight and more flexible counterpart to the 2k4’s. The 2k5’s also played host as the first sneaker to don the Mamba emblem. The Black Mamba was born.
Nike Zoom Kobe 1
The Nike Zoom Kobe 1 was iconic. The sneaker itself holds so much history with Kobe. Other than the fact that it was his first signature sneaker with Nike, Kobe also dominated the league in the 05-06 season by averaging 35 a game along with nearly 5 boards and 5 assists. Not to forget, Kobe wore these when he lit up the Raptors for that historic 81 piece.
Witness history one more time…
Nike Zoom Kobe II
Following up the huge success and history weighted Zoom Kobe 1, the Kobe II’s followed. This would be the first time Kobe became involved in the design process. Having Kobe involved in the design process paved the way Kobe wore basketball sneakers for years to come.
Nike Zoom Kobe III
The Kobe III holds a lot of history as well. Arguably having his best season in these. Kobe finally was able to proudly hold up a season MVP trophy and lead his squad to the Finals to only fall short to Boston.
Nike Hyperdunk 2008
Kobe had a short run with the introduction of the Hyperdunks. He wore these in the beginning of the 2008 season right before the Kobe III’s were introduced. The main highlight of the Hyperdunks was when Kobe casually coasted over that Aston Martin…
Nike Zoom Kobe IV
The IV’s. In a time when high top sneakers were mandatory for basketball players to wear for ankle support, Kobe broke the rules (and won his 4th ring). The Iv’s were very similar to the Hyperdunks in many ways although just a lowcut. Many thought the lowcut was a dangerous shoe to play basketball in. Then the Kobe IV happened and just changed basketball sneakers forever.
The Kobe IV’s also came with ankle insurance…
Nike Zoom Kobe V
Kobe knew that the people of Nike, especially Eric Avar can improve his signature series. So Kobe himself asked for a lighter and lower shoe. The Kobe IV’s weighed in at 12 ounces. The Kobe V weighed in at 10.6 ounces. Well done Mr. Avar. The Kobe V was also inspired by soccer cleats at the time of the design process.
Nike Zoom Kobe VI
The Kobe VI’s stuck with the low cut models. It also took up the look of a snakeskin upper to fully embrace the “Mamba” mentality that Kobe had. At this point the Kobe signature line was the only line to keep an eye on because it was just putting every other sneaker to the side.
Nike Zoom Kobe 2012
The Kobe VII went away from the Zoom Air Technology and opted for an interchangeable insole. Offering players to either “Attack Fast” or “Attack Strong”. The VII’s also accompanied Kobe to London for the Olympics where he captured another gold medal.
Nike Kobe VIII System
Going back to the Kobe V look, the Kobe VIII engineered mesh with lunarlon to provide cushioning for maximum comfortability. Making a huge leap from the Kobe VII’s. The VIII’s became a casual sneaker as well for the modern day sneakerheads to wear off the court. That only meant that the Kobe VIII’s provided ultimate comfort while hooping, exactly what they were designed for.
Nike IX Elite
The Kobe XI came after the gruesome achilles injury that Kobe had suffered the season before. The main feature on the shoe was the newly designed flywire system that took place on the entire upper of the sneaker. The most notably feature was the sock liner, which was treated like a built in ankle brace system. The built in brace made sense since Kobe went through a career changing injury at the end of his career.
Nike Kobe X
The Kobe X’s will more than likely be his last sneaker. Nike offered a few models such as flyknit upper, a seamless textile upper, and a flyknit high top model. Tons of players in the L opt to wear the Kobe X’s & I don’t blame them at all since it seems to be a great shoe. And what better way to pay tribute to one of the greatest to ever play the game?
Rest assured Kobe, your basketball and sneaker legacy are in good hands.