Who the F*&K?!
"MAMBA FOREVER" - A Sneaker Perspective!
The world sadly lost an icon on January 26th 2020, Kobe 'Bean' Bryant was no ordinary athlete. Not only will he go down as one of the greatest ballers to ever grace the game, (only second to Jordan in my opinion), but he will also be remembered for so much more than basketball. Athlete, Teacher, Analyst, Writer, Producer, Investor, Husband and Father. Kobe really knew how to make the most of every opportunity and live life to its fullest, and this is proven with his list of achievements on and off the court.
Kobe in All time Season & Allstar Stats
With the 2020 NBA Allstar weekend now over, and this year the annual spectacle was dedicated in memory to 'Black Mamba' and his daughter Gianna. So it was only right to go through his remarkable signature sneaker catalogue which has arguably become the most popular basketball shoes worn after Jordan's amongst players and fans alike.
Whether it's on the hardwood or the street courts, Kobe's sneakers have become a statement piece in performance wear and fashion. Let's take a look below as we go through every sneaker model worn by the greatest Laker that's ever lived!
Adidas EQT Evolution
Drop Year: 1997 - 1998
Drafted straight from high school into the NBA, the LA Lakers had their eyes set on signing up the Philly born but Italian raised star. Yessirrr, Kobe spent a good part of his childhood in Europe, and after some back and forth negotiations with the Charlotte Hornets, who initially picked Kobe, he ultimately ended up in the City of Angels. He also signed an endorsement deal with Adidas for $48 million dollars before he had even played a professional game for the purple and gold. Talk about securing the bag!
In his rookie season, he won the 1997 Slam Dunk competition. This man was born to dominate Allstar weekend from the very beginning, and in true Allstar fashion, he competed in the purple Adidas EQT Elevation against the now legendary 3pt master Ray Allen as the youngest player in the NBA.
Adidas KB 8 - "Crazy 8"
Adidas KB 8 " Crazy 8"
Drop Year: 1998 - 1999
The Adidas KB 8 or better known as the "Crazy 8" in the modern day, was the shoe worn in Kobe's first Allstar game against the GOAT himself Michael Jeffery Jordan. Kobe showed his hunger and determination to show his hero that there's a new baller in town and ended up being the highest scorer for the West with 18 points, however MJ had to school the kid as the East came out victorious in this one and he ended with 23 points.
MJ and Kobe had a brother like relationship ever since, formed on respect for each others game and shared personality traits....they were straight up assassins on the court! MJ has been has been famously quoted that the only man he thinks that would beat him one on one is Kobe as "he stole all my moves". Big Big words right there!
GOATs MJ and Kobe one on one
Adidas KB 8 II - "Crazy 8 II"
Adidas K8 II Lakers Away
Drop Year: 1999 - 2000
The K8 II was the 2nd sneaker in the "The Feet you Wear" campaign and Kobe wore this for the entire regular season in 1999 - 2000. However, the K8 III came out during the playoffs of that same season, and Kobe ultimately switched to those.
Kobe in Adidas Crazy 8 II against Kevin Garnett
Adidas KB 8 III - "Crazy 8 III"
Adidas KB 8 III Black/Purple/Gold
Drop Year: 1999 - 2000
These shoes would be the last to feature in the "The Feet You Wear" campaign, and were released in only 3 colourways.
Fun Fact - The Yeezy 500 silhouette, actually drew inspiration from the KB3 and a lot of its features are very similar. I guess greatness inspires greatness, Kobe and Kanye are easily one of the best to ever do it in their respective lines of work.
Kobe in KB 8 III White vs Utah Jazz at The Staples Center
Adidas "The Kobe"
Adidas "The Kobe" Lakers Home
Drop Year: 2000-2001
At the start of the millenium Bryant donned "The Kobe", which was actually a collaboration with car manufacturer Audi. The intention was to get as close to the Audi design concept of their vehicles in particular the very popular Audi TT Roadster. On the court, Kobe won his first NBA championship in these shoes, so they go down as some pretty historic kicks marking a significant moment in his decorated career. That dynamic duo of Shaq and Kobe was something we may never see again! Dominance and Finesse at it's best!
Kobe Bryant in Adidas "The Kobe'
Adidas "The Kobe" II
Drop Year: 2001-2002
The Kobe 2, were truly a revolutionary shoe, however they were most likely ahead of it's time. Fans quickly dubbed these sneakers the "Space Boots' due to its resemblance to a NASA spacecraft. Honestly, the shoes look like they should have been designed by Elon Musk. Is it just me or do these actually look like the new Tesla Cybertruck, Elon got some explaining to do!
Either way, these may have gone down as the worst designed shoes at the time, and it was a major reason why Kobe ended up giving Adidas the "boot" as his sponsor, he even tried to buy out his own contract to get rid of them, ouch that's gotta hurt deep!
Personally, I think they have a cool feel and look to them, and in an era where chunky ugly sneakers are now a thing, I have no doubt these sneakers would have caught on with fans today.
These were the last signature shoes Kobe had with Adidas before he eventually jumped ship and joined Team Nike! Checks over Stripes!
Kobe Bryant in Adidas "The Kobe" II
The Undecided Years
Kobe Bryant during the undecided years
Kobe went through a brief stint with no sponsored deal and tried almost every shoe under the sun during this period.
He wore Converse "Weapons", Air Jordan PE, Air Jordan 3, Air Jordan Concord, Reebok Question, And1 "Game Time" sneakers and in his final game against his role-model MJ he wore the Air Jordan 8s. He went through them all until he decided on Nike!
Nike Zoom Kobe 1
Nike Kobe 1 Protro "81 Points"
Drop Year: 2005-2006
The first signature shoe when Kobe converted to Nike, and what a start they made in 2005 with the Nike Zoom Kobe 1. Kobe had a phenomenal individual year, and broke a few scoring records with a 35.4 ppg average. Kobe famously dropped 81 points (2nd only to Wilt Chamberlain for most points scored in an NBA game), on the Toronto Raptors. I remember watching that game thinking the last person I'd wanna be in that moment was Jalen Rose, I hope he still doesn't have nightmares about that game, I mean it has been 15 years but I would not blame him in the slightest! Kobe was ruthless, and if you take a look at the pics from this particular game...Jalen's face in every shot is priceless!
Jalen Rose looks on as Kobe dominates the Raptors (left, top right), Kobe recreates iconic Wilt Chamberlain picture (right)
Nike Zoom Kobe 2
Nike Zoom Kobe 2 "Carpe Diem"
Drop Year: 2006 - 2007
This shoe was symbolic for the USA's transition during International competitions. The USA had undergone poor performances in the run up to the FIBA, notbaly losing to Puerto Rico 92 - 73, the team originally named "The Dream Team IV" was now called "The Nightmare Team". Just to note, this team had Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan...an Allstar cast that never lived up to the hype.
So Kobe got the call up and wore these during the FIBA Americas tournament in 2006-07 where USA finished 3rd, however he was vital to changing the culture of the players. It was really the first time, his US teammates and rivals within the NBA got a chance to see Kobe work up close and really see what really is "Mamba Mentality".
Bron, Melo and DWade all formed close relationships with Kobe during their Team USA years and have all been very open on how shocked they were with his drive and dedication to being the hardest worker in the room, giving his all to win. Team USA under Kobes leadership went on to win the 2008 Olympics!.
Kobe Bryant in Team USA practice in Nike Zoom Kobe 2 "Olympic"
Nike Zoom Kobe 3
Nike Zoom Kobe 3 SL " La Lakers MVP"
Drop Year: 2007 - 2008
The Kobe 3 was known to be one of Kobe's favorites out of all his sneakers, due to the fact that he won the league MVP the season these were released. Another year of great individual success, however overall the Lakers felt short of the championship with a hard defeat to historic rivals the Boston Celtics. Kobe explained these kicks had a strong sentimental value as it was a year of many lessons and hard felt emotions.
End of the day, Kobe wanted to win more than anything and although individual accolades were great, nothing beats a 'ship!
Kobe Bryant in Kobe 3 SL "LA Lakers"
Nike Hyperdunk "Kobe x Aston Martin"
Drop Year: 2008
Although Kobe didn't have this model as a signature shoe, he wore these often especially in his first Olympic games which the US took home the gold! The Hyperdunks are an iconic statement not just in Kobe's career but in Nike's in general. One of the most popular sneakers in the company's history. A lot of money was spent on marketing for this sneaker, with collabs with Aston Martin and The Jackass Show, usually with Kobe jumping over things!
Kobe Bryant in Nike Hyperdunk "Olympic PE"
Nike Zoom Kobe 4
Nike Zoom Kobe Protro Undefeated Los Angeles Lakers
Drop Year: 2008 - 2009
The 4 will always remain close to so many. Worn the first time Kobe ever won a championship without Shaq (both were tied on 4 at this point), proving his doubters wrong that he needed the 'Most Dominant Man in Sports' to win. Secondly, it was his first low top sneaker. Kobe revolutionised in what is regarded as his best sneaker of all time with a low top shoe based on football/soccer boots, a sport he absolutely loved.
Fun Fact - Kobe was a die hard AC Milan fan.
Kobe in Kobe 4 vs Denver
Nike Zoom Kobe 5
Nike Zoom Kobe 5 "Big Stage"
Drop Year: 2009 - 2010
The Kobe 5 tied in perfectly with Mamba winning back to back titles, celebrating ring numero Cinco! That's 2 without Shaq for all the haters! This shoe brought that heat and Nike celebrated the success with some fire colourways, I mean just look at that white and gold combination!
Kobe will be remembered for wearing the Kobe 5 "Big Stage" in Game 7 of the Finals against the Boston Celtics, where LA won the series 4-3.
What a way to win your 5th!
Kobe winning the 2010 NBA Finals in Kobe 5 "Big Stage"
Nike Zoom Kobe 6
Nike Zoom Kobe 7 "Grinch"
Drop Year: 2010 - 2011
Another Kobe fan favourite, this sneaker was released on Christmas day 2010, and worn against the Miami and the iconic "Big 3" (Lebron, DWade and Bosh). The shoe had a snakeskin like upper surface to mimic Kobe's Mamba nickname. The Grinch colourway was also dubbed the "Green Mamba".
Kobe Bryant one on one with Dwayne Wade in Nike Zoom Kobe 6 "Grinch"
Nike Zoom Kobe 7
Nike Zoom Kobe 7 "Prelude"
Drop Year: 2011 - 2012
The 7 was famous for Kobe's 2nd and final Olympic Gold medal in 2012. This sneaker boasted some ridiculous combination of styles and patterns and also the shoe had some cool commercials, one in particular with rap superstar Kanye West who was still a Nike ambassador at this point in time.
"But are you a different animal, and the same beast" - Kobe Bryant
Nike Kobe 8 Commercial - Adaptation
Nike Zoom Kobe 8
Nike Zoom Kobe 8 Elite "Black Mamba"
Drop Year: 2012 - 2013
The 8's will go down as an historic sneaker, this was the year that Kobe suffered one of his most agonising injuries in his career. In a close game against Golden State Warriors, Kobe after scoring 34 pts went down hard, late in 4th quarter in what was the 80th game of the season, (an NBA season has 82 games). It turned out Kobe actually tore his achilles tendon which would eventually sideline him for months leading to a playoff loss against the Spurs, but before he was taken off the court, he got up knocked down 2 free throws and walked off the hardwood himself. Anyone who's had that injury knows the pain is excruciating and to stand, let alone walk yourself is unheard of. Mamba was truly a warrior!
Watch Kobe's highlights vs GSW 2013 where he scored 34 points and tore his achilles!
Nike Zoom Kobe 9 Elite
Nike Zoom Kobe 9 Elite "Knit Stocking"
Drop Year: 2013 - 2014
The 9 was completely different to anything seen in the Kobe range before. This may have been spurred on by the injury Kobe faced in the previous season wearing the lows. This super high cut design with Flyknit material, was created to feel as if the shoe was apart of the athlete's foot. Kobe became the 3rd all time scorer in NBA history, wearing these bad boys, surpassing his idol MJ. A momentous feat in his career!
Kobe 9 Elite Campaign Shoot
Nike Zoom Kobe X Elite
Nike Zoom Kobe X Elite "What the Kobe"
Drop Year: 2014 - 2015
These shoes were famous for being the 10th model in the Kobe range, an achievement not many in the game can say and also were the last shoe Kobe wore when he announced his retirement from basketball.
Kobe in Kobe X Elite with Carmelo Anthony
Nike Zoom Kobe 11
Nike Zoom Kobe 11 "Phillipines"
Drop Year: 2015 - 2016
The 11's were used in Kobe's final season and worn in his final game ever, where he hit 60 points against the Utah Jazz, putting on a shooting clinic for the ages.
The end of an era for the LA faithful, but what a way to go out! Everytime he touched the ball, the crowd was hyped, and players and personalities in the game all gave their tributes. Kobe is famously quoted "Mamba Out" in his final speech after the game! The 11's will always have great memories attached to them.
Kobe Bryant in his final game in the NBA in Kobe 11
Nike Kobe A.D.
Nike Kobe A.D "Cool Grey"
Drop Year: 2016 - 2017
The first sneaker to drop after Kobe's retirement, A.D is symbolic to the next phase of Kobe's life. A.D stands for "Anno Domini" meaning "The Second Coming!" This shoe was designed with a dual purpose, for the basketball court and as a lifestyle shoe.
As Kobe wasn't a player anymore, a number of brand ambassadors were chosen to continue Mambas legacy, that included Demar Derozan, Devin Booker and Isaiah Thomas. Isaiah in fact wore the Kobe A.D's during emotional and touching performance for his sister's passing.
Stars and Kobe ambassadors Demar Derozan, Isaiah Thomas & Devin Booker in Kobe A.D.
Nike Kobe A.D. NXT
Kobe A.D. NXT FF Off Noir/Clear
Drop Year: 2017 - 2018
Step into the future and see a Kobe shoe unlike any before, the Nike A.D. NXT was based off of the Jordan 33 model and is the first Kobe to have a one pull lacing tech, so now there's no need for tying up your laces in the middle of a game. The shoe was a great design and evolved into the NXT 360 and then into the Kobe A.D NXT FastFit.
Anthony Davis in Kobe A.D. NXT FastFit "Vast Grey"
We Remember, and We will always remember - Mamba Forever!
"Dear Kobe, Thank You" tribute video by NBA Players
Words by Ali Walji
Instagram - aliwalji17