10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kobe Bryant’s Sneakers

  • Nike Zoom Kobe 4

    Nike

    1. Soccer influence

    When Kobe went with the low-cut look on the Kobe IV, he caused a shift in the sneaker landscape. Once an anomaly, low-cut kicks are now the norm in the League. Bryant has a long history with the beautiful game and the lightweight, low-cut design of his signature look is directly influenced by soccer cleats.

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  • Kobe Bryant Air Jordan 8
    2. Sneaker free agency

    Following his departure from adidas, Kobe had a run where what sneakers he was wearing on-court was almost as big a deal as the stats he was putting up. During the 2002-03 season, which happened to be arguably Bryant’s best statistical season to date, the Philly native suited up in everything from Converse Weapons to Reebok Questions and exclusive PE Jordans. Rocking whatever felt and looked best to him, Kobe showed just how deep his collection and sense of on-court style was.

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  • Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K5 Kobe Bryant All-Star
    3. No initial sig look with Nike

    Bryant signed a reported five-year, $45 million deal with Nike in the summer of ‘03, and all intentions were to lace the game’s best player with a sick signature. It just didn’t happen right away. In fact, after seeing his final adidas signature release during the 2001-02 season, we’d have to wait a full four years (!) before getting another Mamba sig. In the following seasons with Nike (2003-05), Kobe rocked the Huarache 2K4 and 2K5 and it wasn’t until the 2005-06 season–his third with Nike–did Kobe get his first sig with the Swoosh. (At the time, the 2K series was generally accepted as his default signature sneaker line.)

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  • Nike Zoom Kobe 5
    4. 33

    It’s no coincidence that the Kobe IV through VIII all have a similar look; when Kobe found a sneaker that fit him the way he wanted, he stuck with it. Choosing substance over style, Kobe’s sig look is defined more by its plethora of colorways rather than its changing looks. Consistency is key in the sneaker world and you don’t have to look much further than the Kobe line to find the most consistent looks. Bryant, Nike, and the fans loved the Zoom Kobe V enough that the shoe released in an unprecedented 33 different colorways.

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  • adidas Kobe 3
    5. The adidas Kobe 3 was made but never released

    The adidas Kobe 3 is one of the most rare sneakers ever made because only sample pairs were made. Before Kobe and adidas ended their relationship, the Kobe III was set to go to production but never made it to the assembly line. Sample pairs have popped up here and there but the Kobe III is one of the most rare sneakers on the market.

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  • Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4 Kobe Bryant NBA All-Star
    6. The Huarache 2K4 is most special to him

    Of all the sneakers Kobe has worn in his career, he cites his first with Nike as the most special to him.

    “I think the first shoe that we designed together was the most special one,” said Kobe in an interview with Complex. “It was when I first signed with Nike and we did the 2K4. That one, coming off the inspiration of a great white shark and me using that as a muse. On that project, we had Eric Avar, Tinker Hatfield, and Mark Parker. All these minds in one room just jamming on ideas and concepts and the 2K4 was just a revolutionary shoe.”

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  • Nike Zoom Kobe 3 Misery

    Nike

    7. He finds inspiration in strange places

    Kobe is a cultured man after a childhood split between Europe and the United States and uses his muses–as he calls them–when sitting down with longtime Kobe designer Eric Avar. Kobe has referred to artists like Michelangelo and classical musicians like Beethoven as inspirations for sneakers, but it was one in particular that had the biggest impact on his footwear.

    “I think the one that really turned the most heads in the room was when I told them about the ‘Misery’ shoe. My 2008 shoe,” he told Complex. “I said I wanted the shoe to look like, just misery. I don’t want it to be happy, I want it to be absolutely sad like a vintage sad Picasso painting because it was symbolic of the moment when we lost to the Celtics. I think that story is the one that turned the most heads.”

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  • 8. Played against Jordan in Jordans

    More than anything, Kobe is a true student of the game. He cites international hoops legend Oscar Schmidt as one of his favorite players and sought out underground legend God Shammgod when he needed help with his ball-handling. When Kobe got the chance to play against Mike during his Wizards years, the Laker laced up a sick pair of Jordan VIIIs and proceeded to drop 55 on the GOAT.

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  • Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    9. Youngest player to sign a sneaker contract

    Not only was Kobe, for a brief period, the youngest player to touch the NBA court, he was also the youngest to receive a massive sneaker deal. The folks at adidas took a huge chance on the fresh-faced 18-year-old and to say Bryant lived up to the hype as a basketball player would be an understatement.

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  • Nike Zoom Kobe 5 Bruce Lee
    10. Paying homage

    Kobe is very proud of his roots and the way he grew up and expresses so in his sneakers. As noted earlier, the Kobe V had an unprecedented 33 colorways, the V (which may be his best sig) told his story through colorways that represented being drafted by the Hornets, playing high school ball at Lower Merion, winning five NBA championships, his love of China, and many more. Kobe may not be the best at expressing himself through words so his sneaker game often does the talking.

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  • Nike Zoom Kobe 4
  • Kobe Bryant Air Jordan 8
  • Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K5 Kobe Bryant All-Star
  • Nike Zoom Kobe 5
  • adidas Kobe 3
  • Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4 Kobe Bryant NBA All-Star
  • Nike Zoom Kobe 3 Misery
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Nike Zoom Kobe 5 Bruce Lee

Kobe Bryant has only played in 41 games since the 2012-13 season after being marred by devastating injuries over the past two years. Despite the setbacks, Kobe is gearing up for his 20th season as a Laker in an attempt to chase that elusive sixth ring as his career winds down. Since tearing his Achilles in the final game of the 2012-13 season, whispers of his demise have turned into deafening screams as most of the sports world is already counting out Kobe and the Lakers. Everyone except Kobe.

Despite Father Time calling his name, Bryant remains one of the premier faces in the NBA–both domestically and globally. While out in China over the summer, Kobe got the rock star treatment and was swarmed by adoring fans everywhere he went. As a sneaker endorser, the 5-time NBA champion remains one of Nike’s biggest athletes and continues to push his signature sneakers, most recently the Kobe X. Today, the latest hyped colorway of this sneaker is dropping at Champs Sports. For the first time since the Mamba’s eighth sig, the “Mambacurial” is set to return. Sporting pink accents on a Flyknit upper of black and grey, this low-top silhouette is set to turn heads while playing off of Bryant’s longstanding love for soccer.

Kobe’s sneaker history is as distinguished as nearly any player in NBA history. Bursting onto the scene as an 18-year-old rookie, Kobe won the ‘97 dunk contest in a clean pair of the adidas EQT Elevation. From then on, Bean was blessed with his own signature sneaker with adidas until the ‘02-03 season when he bolted from the Three-Stripes and had one of the most epic free agency sneaker seasons ever. Kobe linked up with Nike before the ‘03-04 season and the rest is history.

While his sneaker history has been well-documented, here are 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Kobe Bryant’s Sneakers.

Follow Peter on Twitter at @Peter_M_Walsh

image via Nike