An Illustrated Guide to Kobe Bryant's Nike Sneaker History

Ishaan Mishra@source24designsContributor IAugust 24, 2017

An Illustrated Guide to Kobe Bryant's Nike Sneaker History

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    Illustration via Melvin John Rodas.

    Today is Mamba Day, a time to celebrate the career of one of the greatest basketball players ever to grace planet earth—Kobe Bean Bryant. To commemorate the occasion, B/R Kicks is giving you an illustrated look at every Nike sneaker in the Mamba's collection. From the sneakers he wore while dropping 81 to the post-career ADs, take a scroll through Bryant's impressive Nike catalogue.

The Nike Kobe 1

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2005-06
    Designer: Ken Link
    Famous moment: 81-point game

    The start of the eagerly awaited Nike Kobe Bryant signature line, the Kobe 1 took design cues from the very popular Huarache series, as designer Ken Link introduced the world to Mamba Mentality. Released on Christmas Day, Kobe wore this sneaker in some of his most iconic scoring moments, including the devastating 62 points he dropped on the Mavs and the legendary 81-point game against Toronto.

The Nike Kobe 2

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2006-07
    Designer: Ken Link
    Famous moment: Duel and game-winner for Team USA Blue vs. White scrimmage against LeBron before 2007 FIBA Americas tournament

    After introducing it on Christmas against the Miami Heat, Kobe would wear the II shoe in the FIBA Americas tournament, the birth of Team USA’s “Redeem Team.” Back-to-back disappointing bronze medal finishes in 2004 and 2006 emboldened Team USA director Jerry Colangelo to bring Kobe onto the roster. He would go on to transform the culture of Team USA from the ground up en route to gold medals in 2007 and 2008.

The Nike Kobe 3

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2007-08
    Designer: Eric Avar
    Famous moment: Double-clutch reverse dunk against CP3 and the Hornets to seal the 2008 MVP award

    From the misery of losing an NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics to the achievement of winning his first league MVP, this sneaker spans some of the most emotional moments in Kobe’s career. He turned a lot of heads when he named the III one of his favorite sneakers of all time, but it was precisely the pain and misery associated with the shoe that made it so special in his eyes.

The Nike Kobe 4

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2008-09
    Designer: Eric Avar
    Famous moment: Hitting a shot with all five Magic defenders around him over Dwight Howard on his way to his fourth championship ring

    Kobe’s first ring without Shaq saw him introduce his first low-top sneaker, inspired by the cleats worn by soccer players on the pitch. He dropped commercials for ankle insurance, subverting critics who said low-top sneakers didn’t have a place on basketball courts.

The Nike Kobe 5

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2009-10
    Designer: Eric Avar
    Famous moment: Celebrating his fifth ring after defeating the Celtics in Game 7

    There are few moments more iconic in Kobe’s career than his standing in front of thousands of Lakers fans in purple and gold and the white Kobe 5s as confetti rained down from the rafters following a Game 7 NBA Finals victory over Boston. The 5 was even lighter and lower than its predecessor, pushing the boundaries of shoe technology as Kobe pushed the boundaries of the game.

The Nike Kobe 6

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2010-11
    Designer: Eric Avar
    Famous moment: Jawing with LeBron as the Lakers faced the Heat’s Big 3 for the first time

    Perhaps one of Kobe’s most iconic sneakers ever to grace a basketball court, the Grinch Kobe 6—with the snakeskin-inspired upper and bold coloring—was hard to miss as he introduced the shoe to the world in a vaunted Christmas Day matchup with the Miami Heat’s newly formed Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Nike Kobe 7

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2011-12
    Designer: Eric Avar
    Famous moment: Winning second gold medal in 2012 London Olympics

    Another paradigm shift in the Kobe line was brought forth by the Kobe 7 system, a series of modular enhancements to the sock liner and midsole that allowed for customization of the sneaker fit to the player. Plus it gave us some classic commercials featuring everyone from Aziz Ansari to Kanye West.

The Nike Kobe 8

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2012-13
    Designer: Eric Avar
    Famous moment: Debuting the shoe against the Warriors—and hitting a shot after falling down in the middle of the play

    The Kobe 8 marked a turning point in Kobe’s career. He was wearing the shoe the night he tore his Achilles in the season’s 80th game. The Mamba would walk to the free-throw line and calmly hit two clutch free throws on one leg—the end of an impressive campaign in which he was dragging the Lakers into the playoffs.

The Nike Kobe 9

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2013-14
    Designer: Eric Avar
    Famous moment: Passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list

    Flipping the game on its head yet again, the Kobe 9 introduced a high-top design and flexible Flyknit upper that catered to Kobe’s needs post-Achilles tear. The aim was to make the shoe an extension of the player’s body that flowed naturally onto the court. It’s appropriate that the Mamba would pass MJ on the scoring list in these shoes, because the Kobe 9 was just as much a remix of what came in the past as it was something entirely new.

The Nike Kobe 10

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2014-15
    Designer: Eric Avar
    Famous moment: Hitting a clutch three-pointer over Paul George

    Going down with a shoulder injury just 10 days prior to the Kobe 10’s slated January 31st launch date was indicative of the struggles Bryant dealt with during the tail end of his career. The 10 would continue to push forward with its engineered mesh upper and reimagined midsole with full length Lunarlon and Zoom Air in the heel, but it was also the sneaker Kobe would wear as he announced his retirement to the world.

The Nike Kobe 11

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2015-16
    Designer: Eric Avar
    Famous moment: Dropping 60 points in his final game in the NBA

    Kobe wore the 11 in the final game of his career, closing it out with one of the most legendary swan songs in the history of the league. Sixty points, the game-winning shot, a crowd of millions enthralled every time he touched the ball and, then, as quickly as it had started, his storied career ended with a simple statement—"Mamba Out."

The Nike Kobe A.D.

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2016-17
    Designer: Ross Klein
    Famous moment: Isaiah Thomas dropping 53 points in Game 2 against the Wizards after his sister passes away

    The first Kobe sneaker to come out post-retirement, the A.D. is a continuation of the spirit and legacy of the Black Mamba. In one of the most emotional moments of the season, Thomas showed his resolve and Mamba Mentality as he donned a pair that paid tribute to his younger sister.

The Nike Kobe A.D. 2

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    Illustration by Melvin John Rodas

    Year: 2017-18
    Designer: Ross Klein

    New commercial

    The latest in the Kobe signature line, the revamped Kobe A.D. features a revamped mid-top design based on Bryant’s interest in color psychology and the external factors that inform the science and technology within his sneakers. Each shoe is a reflection of Kobe’s journey to continually get better and his unyielding quest for greatness.