All of Kobe Bryant’s Greatest Sneaker Moments

  • 1997 NBA Dunk Contest

    The intrigue and buzz around Kobe Bryant during his rookie season reached a fever pitch when Kobe became the youngest player in NBA history to win the Slam Dunk Contest. Inked to a reported six-year, $48 million deal to become the face of adidas’ ‘Feet You Wear’ campaign, in the spotlight on one of the NBA’s biggest stages, with his high school prom date and R&B star Brandy cheering Kobe on from the crowd, Kobe quickly became a household name while rocking the adidas EQT Elevation. His march to superstardom began.

    adidas EQT Elevation

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  • 2001 Western Conference Semifinals

    Kobe Bryant’s 2000-01 season legitimized him as one of the top players in the NBA. Averaging a then career-high 28.5 points, a 22-year-old Kobe led the Lakers to an amazing 15-1 record in the playoffs and an NBA championship over Allen Iverson and the Sixers. Declared by teammate Shaquille O’Neal as the “best player in the league, by far” during the Lakers championship run, Bryant had his best game of the season in the Western Conference Semifinals against the rival Sacramento Kings. Rocking his signature adidas sneaker, The KOBE, Bryant went off for 48 points and 16 boards to help the Lakers sweep the Kings. (He added 45 points against the Spurs in the very next game of the next round.)

    adidas The KOBE

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  • 55 points on Michael Jordan

    The season after his adidas contract expired, Kobe became the most sought after sneaker free agent in the NBA. Instead of signing right away with a top brand, Kobe decided to have a little bit of fun and went through one of the greatest high profile sneaker seasons in history. Throughout the year, Bryant wore personalized Reebok Questions, numerous retro and custom colorway Jordans, Air Force 1s, Converse Weapons, and custom Reebok Answer IVs.

    In a late season game against Michael Jordan and the Washington Wizards, Kobe went off for 55 points and five rebounds while wearing a custom purple and gold pair of Jordan VIIIs. He was so hot that he hit his eighth triple barely midway through the second quarter. This dude had 40 points with still four minutes to go in the first half!

    Kobe eventually signed with Nike in the following offseason and in true Kobe fashion, left sneakerheads in awe of his deep collection.

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  • 81 points

    Arguably the greatest individual performance of the last 10 years, Kobe went into the Staples Center and left a Toronto Raptors team completely razed after 48 minutes. Scoring in every way imaginable, Kobe earned his 81 points in his first signature sneaker with Nike. After signing with Nike following the 2002-03 season, Kobe’s line didn’t get off the ground for two full years due to off-court issues. Eight years and nine signature looks later, the Zoom Kobe 1 is the one that started it all and will forever be tied to that fateful night in Los Angeles.

    Nike Zoom Kobe 1

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  • MSG 61-point record

    It was only right that when Kobe hit New York City, he put on a show. In 2009, he had everyone in the Garden ready to switch allegiance, rocking the “Del Sol” colorway of the Zoom Kobe IV. Just one game after learning Andrew Bynum had again torn up his knee, Kobe showed off how to be the ultimate leader, suppressing Los Angeles concerns in this one. Rocking Flywire tech, this shoe was released in 21 different colorways.

    Kobe enjoyed arguably the best season of his career in the sneakers as the Lakers finished with the best record in the West and won a title. Kobe’s record stood until Carmelo Anthony broke it last season.

    Nike Zoom Kobe IV

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  • 2010 Finals MVP

    It’s annoying to hear people talk about the 2010 Finals and say things like “Pau Gasol should’ve won MVP” or “Kobe got carried by his teammates.” Pure revisionist history. Anyone who actually watched those Finals knows that while Kobe shot poorly in Game 7, he was by far the best player on the floor for the majority of the series. (Whereas Gasol disappeared for two entire games in Boston, Bryant nearly carried the Lakers to multiple wins on the road.) Also — and this is something that never gets brought up — Bryant’s 6-for-24 in Game 7 doesn’t count for as much considering everyone in that game shot poorly. Ray Allen was 3-for-14. Paul Pierce shot 33 percent. Gasol, Lamar Odom, and Metta World Peace all failed to shoot 40 percent. Andrew Bynum made one shot. It was a defensive slugfest that resulted in lots and lots of poor offense. It wasn’t like Bryant shot terribly in an up-and-down track meet.

    Anyway, rant over. Bryant’s kicks were at least top-notch. Released in 33 different colorways, the Kobe V covered everything in his life from his time in Philly as a high school star to his respect for the Duke University basketball program. It was a special shoe for a special season. As Kobe said, winning this title was the “most satisfying of all of his five championships.”

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  • His last great game

    Could this have been the last great Kobe Bryant game? With the Lakers desperately trying to sneak into the playoffs, Kobe, as he’s done so many times throughout his career, debuted his Kobe 8 Elites and gave it everything he had down the stretch of the season. In a late-season matchup in Portland, Kobe added another achievement to his resume. Dominating in every facet, Kobe put together a 47-point, 8-rebound, 5-assist, 4-block, 3-steal performance — the first time in NBA history such a stat line had been amassed. The Lakers eventually made the playoffs thanks to gladiator Kobe. But they were without their best player, who tore his Achilles against the Warriors just two days after this game.

    Nike Kobe 8 Elite
    Nike Basketball
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  • Seated calf raises #therapy #challenge

    A photo posted by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

    Social media

    The lone positive of Kobe’s devastating Achilles injury was the Mamba discovering the joys of social media. Posting everything from graphic images of doctors performing surgery on his Achilles to pictures of donuts, Bryant became one of the NBA’s top follows in no time. Along with giving fans an inside look at his life, Kobe also had a handful of notable sneaker-related posts on his Instagram and Twitter. After passing the late, great Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list, Kobe tweeted out the game ball and the pair of Kobe 8s he wore. Bryant also tweeted out his favorite pair of Jordans and poked fun at himself with the “Kobe System” walking boot.

    Nike Kobe 8

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  • Other players wearing Kobe sigs against Kobe

    For years, Nike’s Kobe line has been one of the best performing sneakers on the market so it’s no surprise that other players in the NBA favor the sneaker on-court each year. What is surprising is how many players will wear Kobe’s sneaker when going up against the man himself. In fact, Raja Bell, one of Kobe’s biggest adversaries, frequently wore Kobe’s sig when playing against the Lakers.

    Nike Zoom Kobe VI

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  • Kobe Returns Wearing Kobe 9

    Though the Lakers are struggling this year, Kobe’s return to the hardwood from injury has been one of the top storylines of the early NBA season. During his first preseason game, he rocked a dope white and purple Kobe 9 PE. Then on opening night against the Rockets, a 36-year-old Kobe dropped 19 points in a pair of Kobe 9s. While it wasn’t a vintage Kobe performance, the Black Mamba has been looking more and more like himself as the season has rolled along. Hitting circus shots, dunking on cats, and dropping classic Kobe one-liners, Bryant is now averaging 27.4 points per game and amazingly looks like he’s back in peak physical shape; an incredible accomplishment considering his recent injury history. Love him or hate him, Kobe’s career is winding down so enjoy this while you still can.

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  • adidas EQT Elevation
  • adidas The KOBE
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Nike Zoom Kobe 1
  • Nike Zoom Kobe IV
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Nike Kobe 8 Elite
  • Nike Kobe 8
  • Nike Zoom Kobe VI
  • Nike Kobe 9

For half of his life, Kobe Bryant has been at the center of the basketball world. Whether injured or healthy, playing well or going through a rut, Kobe’s name is constantly brought up amongst front office execs, talking heads, and fans alike. While dominating on the hardwood, Kobe has also had a sneaker history so distinguished that Nike keeps adding shoes to his signature line despite Kobe being in the twilight of his career.

After heading adidas’ “Feet You Wear” campaign early in his career, Kobe left the Three Stripes for Nike where he teamed up with Eric Avar to design and wear some of the most innovative and forward-thinking sneakers (remember back when people didn’t think it was possible to ball in low-tops?) ever produced. Popular on every level, the Kobe line established itself as the premier performance basketball shoe on the market. In the process, Kobe became a marketing machine and an icon across the globe.

On Friday at Champs Sports, Nike will add another sneaker to the Kobe legacy with a new colorway of the Kobe 9 EM, done up in a gym blue upper with varsity gold accenting on the Swoosh, the inner lining, and the outsole. As Kobe’s career somewhat winds down — dude is still leading the NBA in scoring this season — there’s only so many new Kobe sneakers that will release before Nike begins the retro phase — they experimented with that with the Prelude Pack…and that was beyond amazing — so be sure to get your hands on these while you can.

These are All of Kobe Bryant’s Greatest Sneaker Moments.

Follow Peter on Twitter at @Peter_M_Walsh

image via Nike Basketball