The world is reeling from the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 at age 41.
During his 20-year NBA career, Bryant made 18 All-Star teams and won five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVPs and one league MVP. The star athlete was a longtime Nike athlete, with a signature shoe line called the Kobe and his own holiday, Mamba Day, celebrated on Aug. 24—representing Bryant’s two numbers, 8 and 24.
Athletes, celebrities and hoops fans alike are paying homage to Bryant with touching social media posts, memorials and even handwritten messages on their sneakers. As we remember the legendary star, we’re considering his legacy, not just on the court but also in the sneaker space.
When Bryant began his NBA career back in the 1996–97 season, he laced up in Adidas kicks, most notably the EQT Elevation, later re-released as the Crazy 97. He then received three signature sneakers with the brand, beginning with the KB8 for the 1997–98 season and then the KB8 2 and the KB8 3.
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But the bulk of Bryant’s influence on the sneaker space happened during his many years with Nike, partnering with the brand from 2003 onward. Along with designer Eric Avar, Bryant helped usher in the trend of low-top hoops footwear, which was, in part, inspired by the NBA icon’s love of soccer.
Below, we take a look back at the rarest kicks Bryant helped create during his many Nike years.
Nike Kobe “Aston Martin” Pack
Another of the Oscar winner’s major shoe moments came in 2008, when he infamously “jumped” over an Aston Martin in an advertisement for the Nike Hyperdunk. Eight years later, that moment inspired the Nike Kobe 5 “Aston Martin” pack. With a total production of only 500 pairs, it was one of Bryant’s rarest shoes.
Nike Kobe 6 “Grinch”
The Nike Zoom Kobe 6 “Grinch” colorway dropped on Christmas Day 2010 in an eye-catching green that recalled both the Dr. Seuss character and the spotted skin of the deadly green mamba snake.
Nike Kobe 10 HTM “Oreo”
Ahead of the 2016 debut of the Kobe 11, NikeLab 21 Mercer released the Nike Kobe 10 Elite Low HTM “Oreo.” The limited-edition pair quickly became a fan favorite, with its black-and-white Flyknit upper and subtle blue accents.
Nike Kobe 10 Low iD “Multicolor”
In 2015, the customization platform known as Nike iD allowed fans to customize their low-top Kobe 10s with a multicolor Flyknit upper.
Nike Zoom Kobe 1 “Prelude”
In 2013, Nike released the “Prelude” colorway as a tribute to one of Bryant’s most memorable games ever: an 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006. The colorway was the first-ever retro hue of a Kobe signature shoe and debuted to great fanfare.
Nike Kobe 8 “All Star”
The Nike Kobe 8 System+ “All Star Extraterrestrial” was released as part of a Nike Basketball collection to celebrate the 2013 All-Star Game in Houston. The swirly orange upper is meant to recall an alien planet, a nod to Houston being home to the Johnson Space Center.
Nike Kobe 7 “FC Barcelona”
The Nike Zoom Kobe 7 System “Barcelona” takes design elements from the soccer club FC Barcelona’s uniforms, including the light blue and bright crimson color palette. The shoe made its debut in 2012.
Nike Kobe 9 Elite “Gumbo League”
For the 2014 All-Star Game in New Orleans, Nike and Bryant created the Kobe 9 Elite “Gumbo League,” which comes in black-and-white with gold accents and New Orleans-inspired motifs at the heel and sockliner. Rounding out the look is a neon green outsole that glows in the dark.
Nike Zoom Kobe 3 “FTB”
To celebrate Bryant’s early days playing at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif., Nike released the Zoom Kobe 3 “FTB” in 2016, during the star’s final NBA season.
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