More than 20 years ago, Adidas signed a quartet of young phenoms in an attempt to jump-start its fledgling basketball line. Kobe Bryant, with his fresh-faced and undeniable potential star power, had himself become the face of the movement, as he was synonymous with the term “signature sneaker” when he signed with Los Angeles Lakers, his new home in Hollywood.
Throughout, he had a sense of belonging, as he joined Nike prior to securing a sneaker endorsement agreement for the entire 2002-03 season. However, in 2002, he ultimately left the deal and did not have a last partnership with Adidas, unlike Bryant.
24. Adidas The Kobe Two
He switched out his Adidas sneakers for a new pair this season. In the previous season, Kobe Bryant switched out his old shoes and looked for a new one. The shoe he wore during the 2002 season, which was nicknamed “The Toaster” among the kids, performed poorly and earned a dubious reputation due to its inherent clunkiness. It wasn’t just the brand of the shoe that was blamed universally, but also the fact that Bryant was forced to leave it behind.
8. Nike Zoom Kobe VI
Motif Mamba, one of the most loved models of Kobe, is an entirely snake-scale inspired sneaker. The design of the shoe’s upper, created by Nike designer Eric Avar, was a subject of internal shouting matches between Kobe and Avar. Eventually, Kobe’s alter ego, the lethal snake, became the storytelling motif that transformed the footwear into its natural and unapologetic way of paying homage to Kobe’s favorite models throughout the years.
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“I’m surrounded by a group of individuals who share the same characteristics as me. I am not perceived as unique or distinct due to my intense drive for competition. I am consistently in the company of individuals who possess a strong competitive nature and are equally as passionate about the sport as I am,” he informed me during our conversation in 2009. “It felt akin to Harry Potter’s arrival at Hogwarts. [Laughs] He finally found his sense of belonging.”
Unlike Air Jordans, Kobe’s signature series will probably never see innovation in style and culture that affected the industry in the same ways that Michael Jordan’s line did. It was worn by all players in every position on the team, and soon became popular across the league, just like his fellow Bulls teammates during his active playing days.
Bryant remarked, immediately after observing the widespread acceptance of his Zoom Kobe IV among players in the league, “This signifies that professional athletes rely on their feet for their livelihood, hence they seek to ensure that they wear comfortable, performance-enhancing, and secure footwear.” This implies that our approach was correct, as professional athletes do not simply wear shoes for the sake of wearing them.
We are evaluating his most remarkable Adidas and Nike signature shoes, ranging from the disliked to the adored. However, Kobe’s collection of sneakers consisted of over 50 models throughout his twenty-year career.
20. Adidas KB8 II
Collectors nowadays have a strong admiration for the re-launched Adidas KB8 II model, which was originally released in three colors – purple, daring white, and black. This shoe, which was a design shift into the post-millennium era, set a sweeping motion in the NBA’s truncated 1998-99 lockout season and was only sparingly worn.
14. Adidas Top Ten 2010
Adidas unveiled the original Top Ten sneaker in the late 1970s, with 10 players from various teams showcasing it. Rick Barry, Adrian Dantley, and Bob Lanier, among other athletes who donned the shoe, contributed their insights to honor the excellence of that period. Consequently, the sneaker was successfully released.
In the NBA, Bryant began his first season by sporting a black, silver, and white pair on away games, and a white, silver, and black pair for home games. Showcasing the finest talents of the upcoming generation, Bryant was one of the selected young players in 1996 to wear the brand’s newest Top Ten sneaker. It was the perfect choice.
6. Nike Kobe 9 Elite (high)
Kobe, in the midst of recovering from his disastrous Achilles tear injury in 2013, was set to launch one of Nike’s most disruptive sneakers – a complete shift from his signature low-top five models to a sky-high, mid-cut version that the 9 just wasn’t.
During Bryant’s Achilles surgery, each stitch was carefully threaded to represent the nine lines along the heel. It is best remembered as the shoe that introduced Nike’s Flyknit material to the basketball world. While he sat out, Bryant relentlessly attacked his recovery period with the shoe, which was utilized by players around the league when making their debut.
17. Nike Zoom Kobe II
The II Kobe is one of the best-performing sneakers in the entire line, with lower and lighter shoes being released before.
Bryant exclaimed, “Kenzo [Ken Link] is incredibly gifted, the designer behind it.” “We brainstormed and crafted a design that greatly appealed to me, all while sitting around the table.”
The shoe showcased a laser-cut diamond pattern graphic, subtly acknowledging his daughter Natalia Diamante. It offered strong support through a lockdown strap and plastic heel structure. Additionally, it provided ample cushioning thanks to the implementation of Zoom Air.
13. Nike Zoom Kobe 1
Bryant stated, “In regards to the Zoom 1, my intention was to incorporate additional padding. During that particular season, I was recovering from various knee injuries and similar issues. Therefore, we made the deliberate choice to prioritize cushioning over reducing the weight of the shoe.”
In January 2006, during his iconic 81-point barrage against Toronto, Kobe Bryant had his greatest season in terms of scoring, averaging 35.4 points per game. He channeled his favorite action movie, “Bill,” and drew inspiration from its iconic sword-holster design to proudly feature the tongue logo of his shoe, the “Sheath.”
7. Adidas The Kobe
Adorned with a sleek and sophisticated appearance, the spoiler on the heel and brake lights had an artificial quality. The brand introduced a reimagined signature sneaker inspired by the silhouette of an Audi TT, giving it a distinct, grill-inspired design. This debut took place at Adidas’ headquarters in the southern region of Germany, where they partnered with Audi, located just an hour away.
The silhouette portrait of his afro hairstyle, which incorporated the side profile, debuted as the signature logo “Frobe” on Bryant’s shoe. The marketing campaign for Bryant’s shoes featured him alongside modern motorcycles, furniture, monochromatic tracksuits, and shoes.
11. Nike Kobe 11
Collectors who appreciate long-lasting memories will remember Bryant’s final game, where players from the league also paid tribute by wearing commemorative kicks. On “Mamba Day,” he sported a fully knitted model that combined bold and muted colors, showcasing a simple yet impactful campaign. As the culmination of his illustrious 20-season career, Bryant’s last sneaker design was not just an evolution but a revolution in itself.
18. Nike Kobe AD
Yes, the signature sneakers “Death After Kobe” is undoubtedly the first definite retirement post in which Thomas Isaiah Cleveland’s and DeRozan DeMar Toronto’s like, around scorers volume top the of some to AD the pairs custom provided Nike NBA the throughout adopted and court the on well-liked shoe the it before sneakers Kobe low-top the of each defined that lockdown and cushioning and speed of principles same the with Designed sneakers.
16. Adidas EQT Elevation
During his first trip to the NBA playoffs, Bryant wore a simple white and black outfit, which fittingly is more known for his aerial assaults in the 1997 slam dunk contest. However, it was in the annual All-Star Weekend event where Bryant truly defined his early years in the league, showcasing his quirky design and elevated flair with a bit of flashing arrogance. He took home the trophy in that lone contest, while donning an all-purple pair for his top warm-up.
9. Nike Kobe X (low)
Giannis Antetokounmpo, the star player for the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA, has not been able to wear the Kobe sneakers, which are the most worn sneakers in the league, during the off seasons. Nike has released a few limited editions of the Kobe sneakers, with the main version featuring a basic design and mesh-based material. These sneakers were created with an attacking mindset in mind, consistent with Kobe Bryant’s insistence on sleek and consistent releasing. The 10th model of the Kobe sneakers also includes a two-pronged wedge support and a fully clear bottom.
22. Nike Zoom Huarache 2K5
The ballers who loved them put to use on the court were always fond of the design of the Nike Free Running series shoe, but the protective collar strap was never casually crossed over. Taking inspiration from Nike’s Huarache Zoom series, the Kobe Zoom 1 was the headliner of the brand for two seasons before Bryant started working on it.
5. Nike Hyperdunk
Beijing, which symbolized a tremendous worldwide chance for Nike as it unveiled two of its latest advancements: Flywire and Lunar Foam, was selected to introduce the Hyperdunk months ahead of the 2008 Olympics in Bryant.
Bryant expressed that the technology was the factor that convinced him to be interested in it. There are not many individuals who would challenge that limit or embrace a shoe that is so innovative, and I am truly someone who is enthusiastic about technology.
Nike’s most successful basketball sneakers, the Hyperdunk, helped make the brand a household name. In a viral video, Kobe Bryant was featured leaping over an Aston Martin parked on top of a garage, showcasing the first-ever Nike Hyperdunk. This innovative shoe went on to define the next decade of basketball footwear with its synthetic construction and sleek, geometric design.
23. Adidas KB8 III (aka EQT Responsive)
He switched to the classic Forum more for the playoffs season in 2000, and he wore a handful of Lakers-themed and simple colors. The final model of the “Feet You Wear” technology podular feature by the brand Adidas was the one that Bryant had soured on, as it reminded him of the dated feeling of the 2000s. The KB8 III sneaker is often remembered by hardcore fans of Bryant as his last design for Adidas.
4. Adidas KB8
In his second season in the league, Kobe had already renamed “Wear Your Feet” to “The Kobe Signature Shoe,” as the bold white and black color debut quickly became one of Adidas’ most coveted basketball designs, with his jersey number and initials now scrunched together on the shoe.
The photos of Bryant wearing the KB8 while competing against Michael Jordan, during his last season with the Bulls, in both the Forum in Los Angeles and at the 1998 All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden, have become iconic. Adidas continues to release the shoe, now known as the “Crazy 8,” in its original design as well as a contemporary knitted version.
2. Nike Zoom Kobe V
The Nike Kobe Zoom IV received a minor but significant upgrade and adjustment, building off the massive success of its predecessor. The most noticeable difference came from the fully synthetic “Skinwire” upper, which featured a lower collar height.
Bryant stated, “We’re not sacrificing any comfort or functionality in the shoe, and we could reduce the weight by lowering it, even by an ounce. We would feel that we accomplished something if we could cut it out. It makes sense to have a shoe that’s low to the ground for some reason, but it’s not just about having it, it’s really about the functionality.”
As Kobe did with his fourth ring, he once again took to the NBA Finals with back-to-back championships, getting his fifth ring.
19. Nike Kobe VII (System)
Nike moved away from the idea of the “System” in the next season and the result was a more expensive shoe that didn’t necessarily advance the line. The seventh sneaker introduced was the Kobe “System”, a modular concept that gave wearers the option of switching between two insoles within the shoe, with a floppy Velcro-based sleeve as the result. Just as his series cemented Nike as one of the industry’s pinnacle performance products.
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10. Nike Kobe 8
Later, despite the passing of several seasons, DeMar DeRozan still remains a favorite player on the court among everyone, but the shoe he ranks highly is not as innovative as the 4-6 Kobes that came before it. The design of the Kobe VIII sneaker did not have the same groundbreaking impact, with a one-piece thin tongue and an engineered upper mesh for reduced weight and increased flexibility. Every aspect of the sneaker was simplified, departing from the approach of the “System” VII.
3. Nike Zoom Huarache 2K4
Bryant’s discussions shifted to sources of motivation for him as the group became acquainted, subsequent to his endorsement with Nike in 2003, he embarked on an expedition with present CEO Mark Parker and longstanding Nike engineers Tinker Hatfield and Eric Avar.
Bryant said, “As soon as I wanted to incorporate that shoe into the design, I started talking about the sleekness of it and the great white shark.” He added, “The meeting with the 2K4 was my first one.”
After the early 2000s, Nike took the opportunity to redesign the 2K4 Huarache Avar, as gimmicks and visible cushioning systems had become outdated.
During his initial season with the brand, particularly at the 2004 All-Star Game, Bryant sported the 2K4 in Los Angeles and the 2004 NBA Finals. Bryant quickly became the prominent figure to showcase Nike’s latest advancement.
12. Nike Kobe X Elite (high)
The shoe worn by players in the past two seasons is still the same. However, Kobe 9 was more conforming and flexible compared to the previous shoe. The upper of the shoe was fully made of Flyknit, which drew comparisons to boxing shoes. This ultra-high sneaker was often favored by players across the league and was worn nightly. Kobe ditched the low-top silhouette and wore this shoe for the second straight season.
21. Nike Zoom Kobe III
“When people first saw the shoe, they were like, ‘Oh – I don’t know. I don’t know,'” Bryant said with a laugh.
Among collectors, one of the best things to remember about Shaq’s return to the NBA Finals and his MVP award is what Bryant accomplished in his lone post. While having one of his greatest individual seasons, Bryant soon looked even more refined and brighter, donning a mix of all-black in the first launch of his shoe. The high-cut shoe drew comparisons to Belgian waffles and attracted love from some.
15. Nike Kobe 9 (low)
The Kobe 9 Low, which he primarily wore on the court, was his beloved model that he passed as his idol, Michael Jordan, for scoring third place among all-time leaders in the NBA. This shoe, made with carbon fiber sides and sculpted sharply with Flyknit material, was cherished by collectors. Although he wore the Kobe 9 Elite High-Cut a few times on the court, it is often forgotten due to his injuries during the 2014-15 and 2013-14 seasons.
1. Nike Zoom Kobe IV
Bryant and Nike found their rhythm together with his fourth signature model, collaborating with designers, shaping the design, and providing feedback along the way.
Bryant said, “I wanted to have better flexibility and range within the ankle, and be able to move and cut and not feel restricted.”
Soon, Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza, like fellow wings, were seen wearing it. This was shortly after Kobe had debuted the shoe, which had a league-wide influence and impact like no other before. Players like Gilbert Arenas and Steve Nash had previously worn low-tops.
Bryant stated, “Regarding the IV’s influence throughout the league, I won’t simply wear something on my feet for the sake of it. They are aware of how thorough I am when it comes to my game and how precise I am.”
Avar was tasked with delivering a sneaker that is universally considered one of the greatest basketball shoes ever made, starting from the low-top demand.
“We kind of developed a theme for my shoes,” Bryant said. “We always want to push the boundaries of lightness and speed.”.
On top of his skin, eventually blending together, the character grasped Venom’s extraterrestrial symbiote outfit in a specific moment that remained memorable for Kobe. The 2007 film “Spider-Man 3” showcased the iconic character Venom, which influenced the design of the shoe’s sole. Bryant’s approach also included various discreet references to the shoe’s timeless design elements in pushing the limits.
The IV, representing Bryant’s essence, is his iconic shoe that embodies his vision for the ultimate form of self-expression. With its Venom-like graphic and sleek low-top design, it fits snugly like a second skin. It is a shoe that designers and fashion enthusiasts alike sought after, truly capturing Kobe’s unique style.