As we approach Kobe’s Final game, it’s a great time to marvel at the Mamba’s greatness. We already did a breakdown of Kobe’s career and how he changed his image. This time we’ll look at his shoe history and how he may have the best collection other than “His Airness”.
Kobe first sneaker deal was with Adidas, which offered a couple solid shoes. For me, I was only a fan of the KB8s aka Crazy 8s, Kobe’s very first shoe. Adidas didn’t miss with the three crazy stripes and sleek style. It was a sign of great things to come.
Then Adidas continued to drop the ball shoe after shoe. The next four Adidas shoes would not match the Crazy 8s in - having more of a box-like futuristic look that didn’t attract the urban sneaker culture - which forced Kobe to pay $8 million to buyout his contract in 2002, making him a sneaker free-agent. The buyout had a stipulation that didn’t allow Kobe to sign with another company for at least one season. So in the 2002-03 season, Kobe wore some of the best shoes the sneaker community seen, from the Jordan 3 PE, Jordan 8 PE, Reebok Question Purple Toes, and the recently released Jordan 12 “French Blue”. Take a look at the rest of Kobe’s 2002-03 sneaker year here.
Kobe would eventually sign a 4-year $40 million deal with the Nike - the same year Nike signed a High School phenom LeBron James to a $90 million dollar deal. Some thought that signing Kobe was a risk because of his shoe history with Adidas but that bad appeal could blamed on Adidas bad shoe design. Like MJ, Kobe has the talent to create his own story through his shoes, and who else could do that better than NIke.
Before he started his story, Kobe had to start from the very bottom due to the bad press surrounding his name from the rape accusations and adultery. For the first two season Kobe’s name was connected to the Nike Zoom Huarache line, 2k4s and 2k5s, essentially making the shoe into his own. Kobe sported the all-black Hurrache 2k4s when he created one of the best dunk posters in NBA history, cramming on rookie #1 pick Dwight Howard. The 2k5s didn’t have as much praise as the 2k4s but they were the first shoe to include the Black Mamba logo that is the logo for Kobe’s signature line.
Once Nike seen that Kobe could carry a shoe, they finally invested into his own sneaker line. The Kobe 1s were released during the 2005-06 season. Kobe used his first signature shoe to write the story for his most memorable season. Kobe won his first MVP, averaging 35 points a game, and dropped 81 points on the Raptors. The Kobe 1s have become one of the most popular shoes in Kobe’s line to date.
The Kobe 2s were not a popular as the first Kobe’s but they were the first shoe in the “24” era. Prior to the 2006-07 season, Kobe changed his number to 24, which people thought was an attempt to have one up on MJ, but was to honor his father who wore the same number. Kobe averaged 30+ for the second time in his career while wearing these, the only Kobe’s to include a strap.
Kobe 3s were very underrated in my opinion. They included a mesh like design that resembled a basketball with a swoosh on the back heel, something that hasn’t been seen before. Nike's campaign for the shoe was “to inject your game with venomous performance” officially using the Black Mamba moniker in their campaign. Kobe didn’t win his 4th title in these bad boys, losing to the Celtics in the Finals, also the last time we would see Kobe in a high-top shoe.
Kobe 4s were released after the Nike HyperDunks, which Nike used Kobe as the posterboy for. The Kobe 4s took a new approach in the signature line. With Carpe Diem on the tongue, clear midsole, and Kobe’ signature on the heel. The IVs started a new wave a low-top light basketball shoes that other brands would follow. Kobe won his 4th title, sweeping Dwight Howard and the Magic, taking home his first NBA Finals MVP.
Kobe 5s we the lightest shoe ever made by Nike when they were released in 2009. The low-top design was a game-changer thanks to Kobe’s fascination with Soccer - the inspiration behind the lighweight low top design. Kobe hit the 25,000 point milestone and won his 5th title, defeating the Celtics in a classic 7 game series.
Kobe 6s may have had the best design out of the Kobe’s signature line. The Mamba texture on the shoe gave Kobe and Nike another notch on the innovation belt. The shoe of course became lighter and continued the trend of low top basketball shoes. With little change in the technology of the shoe, it was all about the design. So many different colorways made this shoe one of the most innovative and stylish to come out of the Nike lab.
Kobe 7s were famous for the interchangeable inserts that created a different feel for the shoe. The other insert was for those who wanted a little bit more comfort and security around the ankle area. The design included patterns inspired three different predators; Great White Shark, Cheetah, and of course the Black Mamba.
The Kobe 8 featured the Kobe System, which included bits from every Kobe shoe. They included the Mamba print, the lowest top, the lightest, and Black Mamba logo on the tongue. Along with the VIs, the VIII are one of the most popular shoes in Kobe’s line, and most comfortable. The low top design created the perfect casual summer shoe and top of the line basketball shoe. Unfortunately, these were also the shoes Kobe wore when he tore his achilles, which made everyone skeptical of the low-top design as a basketball shoe.
Nike and Kobe decided to go back to the high-top design for the Kobe 9. For me personally, these were the least appealing shoes in Kobe’s line. Though you will see many people rocking the extremely high top kicks, they didn’t have the same impact as Kobe’s previous high-top shoes.
After testing the water with the Kobe IX, Nike decided to go back to the low top for the Kobe X, this time making them a little bit higher and much sturdier than the Kobe VIII, most importantly, they did not lose on the design aspect. Similar to the VI and VIII, the X used many colorways to prove that these were not only basketball shoes, but everyday walks of life shoes. These are definitely one of my favorite shoes in recent memory.
Last but not least, the Kobe XI. Kobe’s final playing shoe. On the April 13th, NikeID will release the “Mamba Day” in honor of Kobe’s last game. The shoe includes important dates from Kobe’s career scribed all over the shoe with a black and gold colorway. A nice touch to close out the final chapter of a stellar career. One will have to wait and see if Nike will release a post retirement shoe in the Kobe line.