Kobe Bryant’s iconic Nike sneakers don’t seem to carry the same cultural weight as Air Jordans outside of your average sneakerhead. If you gift one of your friends a random pair of Air Jordans for Christmas, there’s a chance they’ll recognize them as a pair of Jordans, but give an unsuspecting friend a Kobe Protro IV, and they’ll probably think you’ve got a new pair of running shoes for them.
Make no mistake, a Kobe-branded sneaker will always sell instantly (or sell, because Nike’s contract with the Kobe Bryant estate has expired), there just isn’t an endless line of celebrities or brands. streetwear clamoring to rethink a Kobe VI the way there’s a regular rotation of new colorways for the Jordan I, III, IV, V and beyond week after week.
That’s because Kobe’s iconic silhouettes resonate with an entirely different audience: people who, like Kobe himself, live, love and breathe for the game. People who strive to live with that Mamba mentality.
I’m not just talking about the people who play at the park every weekend, I’m talking about the professional baseball players. Year after year, Kobe’s sneakers are regularly the most worn NBA sneakers. It has less to do with how they look and more with how they’re built.
Unlike the Air Jordans, which were only really worn by Jordan himself and a handful of players, Kobe’s sneakers took things such as stability, movement, weight, cushioning and feedback into account. energy as key aspects of every design. Every Kobe signature sneaker with Nike has attempted to be an improvement over the last in terms of function, and for all of his efforts, Kobe’s signature Nike can go down in history as some of the best basketball sneakers. of all time, which is fitting, as they are attached to one of the greatest to ever walk on hardwood.
Let’s go over some of the most essential Nike Kobe colourways and designs.
Nike Zoom Kobe 1 ’81 Points, 2007
In a 2006 game against the Toronto Raptors, Kobe rocked his first Nike-branded sneaker, the Zoom Kobe 1, and scored 81 points in a single game. This feat would be forever immortalized in sneaker history when, the following year, Nike released a player-exclusive white, black and purple colourway that matched the design Kobe wore that night.
A full retail outing wouldn’t happen until 2019, but luckily players and fans can finally own a pair that commemorates one of Kobe’s defining career moments.
With its thick leather construction, the Kobe 1 is a bit of an anomaly in the Kobe signature line, as each subsequent pair would lose layers for a lighter, more responsive fit.
Nike Hyperdunk Marty McFly, 2008
Technically, the Nike Hyperdunk wasn’t a signature Kobe sneaker, but if you’ve followed its game, you undoubtedly recognize this one. No other player embodies the Hyperdunk like Kobe, who rocked the sneaker in multiple games and representing the US team at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
In a famous ad for the sneaker, Kobe hopped over a speeding Aston Martin, then exclaiming “don’t try this at home”. Word. When it was time for a retail outing, Kobe showed up at retailer LA UNDEFEATED in a Delorean with a special blue and white colourway inspired by Marty McFly’s futuristic Nike MAG. Back to the future II.
It is still the best color of the sneaker.
Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Chaos Joker, 2009
As legendary basketball player Kobe, his interests stretched far beyond hardwood. For proof, look no further than the number of its sneaker colors paying homage to television and film characters.
The Chaos Joker colorway from 2009 is one example. Named in homage to Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning tour as Joker in Christopher Nolan The black Knight, this sneaker pairs metallic silver undertones with Nike’s Abyss and Nightshade colors on a Flywire base and Lunar Foam midsole.
He manages to look nothing like the Joker, which is frankly a good thing.
Nike Zoom Kobe 5 Bruce Lee, 2010
One of Kobe’s biggest influences was another master of their respective domain, Bruce Lee. In 2010, Kobe and Nike paid homage to the martial arts master with this colourway inspired by Lee’s jumpsuit in Enter the Dragon.
Featuring a lightweight construction designed with Nike’s new Flywire technology, the Kobe 5 Bruce Lee featured a foam midsole, Zoom Air cushioning, and a silver-lined Swoosh on a vibrant yellow and black colourway.
Nike Zoom Kobe 6 – Grinch, 2010
Quite possibly the most iconic signature sneaker in the entire Kobe line, the 2010 Grinch is still highly coveted among sneakerheads, and for the first time, the ten-year-old colourway has been re-released in 2020, predictably selling in a few minutes. It wasn’t an easy pair to manage, but the folks who managed to score a new pair of Grinches last year made one of their wildest sneakerhead dreams come true, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Featuring a bright Volt Green colourway with a translucent outsole, crimson red accents and a synthetic upper, the Grinch was not the official name given to the shoe by Nike. They named this colorway Green Mamba, in reference to the polyurethane scales that mimicked snakeskin on the base of the shoe and Bryant’s Mamba character.
But given the sneaker’s holiday release date and its resemblance to the iconic Dr. Seuss character, fans have seen fit to rename it, and the shoe is more recognizable to it.
Nike Kobe 8 System – What The Kobe, 2013
What is the Kobe indeed. Sure, this design is a little silly, but what would Kyrie Irving’s kicks be like without Kobe paving the way for athletes to get too creative in what they put on a signature sneaker? This sneaker was intended as a special 2013 holiday release and its wild electric toned upper is actually a combination of over 30 previous versions of Kobe 8, so it’s a celebration of the Kobe system’s silhouette. 8. The psychedelic upper featured an Electric Orange base used on the right sneaker and a Deep Night base on the left, with Volt and Electric Orange Swooshes.
The sneaker continued the trend of applying a textured snakeskin upper to the silhouette and was at the time of its release the lightest sneaker in Kobe’s iconic line.
Nike Kobe 9 Elite Low, Moonwalker, 2014
Kobe loved to pay homage to other personalities operating at the top of their game: Bruce Lee, the Joker (I guess), and in 2014, Michael Jackson. Truthfully, there’s no rhyme or reason for these celebrity-tribute colorways, I’m telling you, Kobe was just wired differently.
This iteration of the Kobe 9 low featured a Flyknit upper in a Hyper Grape colourway with a metallic silver Swoosh, translucent outsole, and moon graphics on the sockliner in reference to Jackson’s career-defining moonwalk.
Nike Kobe 10 Elite Premium HTM Race Car
Designed by a legendary collective of Nike shoe designers including Hiroshi Fujiwara, Tinker Hatfield and Mark Parker – a trio dubbed simply “HTM” – the Kobe 10 Elite Premium HTM race car features reflective accents on a translucent Swoosh that sits on a stand flexible and supportive. Flyknit upper dipped in an asymmetrical black, green and red colourway.
The design is completed with a translucent icy outsole. This is without a doubt one of the best colourways of the underrated figure of late Kobe designer Eric Avar’s late period.
Nike Zoom Kobe 4 Protro – Del Sol, 2019
A late classic in the Kobe lineup, the Zoom Kobe Protro Del Sol colourway was chosen to mimic the exact same pair Kobe rocked as the Lakers paraded the streets of Los Angeles to celebrate their 2009 championship win.
Even if Kobe didn’t mark his fourth championship ring by wearing this pair of sneakers, it would likely remain one of the best colorways the Kobe 4 would ever see thanks to its mix of white, black, and gold.
Nike Zoom Kobe 5 Protro Alternative Bruce Lee, 2020
Dropped as a holiday release last year, the Kobe 5 Protro Alternate Bruce Lee came out with a new iteration of the original Bruce Lee 5. The Alternate features the same build and design as the OG, but with a black and white color scheme.
It’s a controversial take, but I prefer the Alternative to the original. It might not have the cultural weight of the legendary colourway it was inspired by, but overall it’s a better design.