Remember where it all began?

2008 was a much simpler time; when the biggest concerns we had were wondering just how cool was it going to be to have a President who actually represented our changing society and whether or not we had to decide between getting ankle insurance or buying the Nike Zoom Kobe 4. Yeah, maybe we should really invest in time machines right about now…

Anyways, when Nike and Kobe Bryant pushed the concept of low-cut basketball shoes, it was met with both skepticism and wonder. How could a basketball shoe that didn’t offer any tangible protection of your ankles keep you safe on the court? There have been low-cut basketball shoes before the Kobe 4, but nobody pushed for it to not only work, but to be accepted by the mainstream like Mamba did. I mean, he rode a damn horse in that commercial to make you laugh and pay attention to what he’s trying to do. It also helped that while Kobe was pushing this revolution, he was also winning on the court wearing them. Some might argue that it’s all about they hype and marketing and not so much how the signature athlete performs, but if Mamba had not won in those shoes, a scenario where Nike has to tell Mamba to abandon the low-cut dream was probably on the table.

As the championships and accolades rolled in, the Nike Zoom Kobe 5 looked to improve upon the 4, the Nike Zoom Kobe 6 tried to top the 5 and so on. While other signature shoes tried reinvent the wheel with each new model, Kobe was like the iPhone, iterating with each new entry while shocking us on occasion (see: Nike Kobe 9 Elite) until he and Eric Avar “perfected Flyknit” with the Nike Kobe 11.

Personally speaking, the Nike Kobe 11 felt like the realization of what Mamba and Avar were going for with the Kobe 9. Hampered in my opinion by layers of fuse, glue and other extraneous materials, Flyknit Kobes felt more like basketball shoes than say, a Flyknit Racer you could wear on the court without fear.

Maybe because he finally got it right in his mind and didn’t feel there was anything left to do in the space, Mamba also decided that the 11 would be his final game shoe.

L.A. Times

Good, because it seems like most people have moved on from Kobe’s shoes as well.

Think that statement is a little too harsh? Go search right now and see how much most Nike Kobe 11s are going for. It’s not uncommon to see 11s and the few 10s that are still left going for clearance level prices no matter if it’s an EM model or a Flyknit Elite release. The only Kobes that garnered any traction this year had to do with his retirement, with the career-encompassing (and extremely limited) Fade To Black pack and the Mamba Day iD that broke NIKEiD. It’s a far cry from earlier this decade when people couldn’t get enough of Kobe and his kicks as he was winning championships and racking up accolades post-Shaq, especially if you wore the purple and gold in the city that bleeds those colors.

Living in Los Angeles meant that you lived in the Kobe Bryant bubble. Few athletes are as beloved and deified like Mamba is in LA. While he might have the biggest fan base around the world, he’s also the most hated basketball star outside of the City of Angels, and in a strange way that also applied to the sneakers. While Kobes weren’t impossible to cop even during his apex and he never had a shoe that reached “South Beach” levels of insanity, his more limited releases always created a buzz that seemed to resonate longer. Every year we expect a Grinch-themed Kobe for Christmas, one that’s called invisible but is far from it, a pink and volt number that is just so soccer and another that pays homage to a country that treats him like he’s family. Like jerseys for teams outside of the city they play for, it’s sometimes easier to find the Kobe you might be looking for if you step outside of the Los Angeles bubble than it is to find it locally.


Mamba is closing out the year not with a new shoe called the Nike Kobe 12. In an unprecedented move, the shoe that we thought would be the 12 is actually the Nike Kobe AD, closing the book on his playing career. It remains to be seen if this is nothing more than a symbolic move and the new Kobe in 2017 will be called the Nike Kobe 13 or AD 2, but one thing that was clear from the reveal was that this was a different Mamba we were dealing with it. A part of me wants Kobe Bryant to remain that hyper-competitive, sometimes petty, always sardonic jerk that captivated us for 20 years. But that character seems to be dead and lost to the sands (smog?) of Los Angeles. RIP, Black Mamba, even though you ain’t actually dead…


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