6 Of Kobe Bryant’s Most Iconic Collaborations

In basketball and sneaker culture, there are few figures as large as the late, legendary Kobe Bryant. 

Rising to prominence in the mid-late 1990s, Bryant not only left his mark on the game, but he also helped to revolutionise the sneaker industry thanks to his partnership with the likes of Nike and Adidas, and the trend-setting collaborations they would produce.

Some even consider him the German brand's answer to Michael Jordan before he defected to the other side, as his influence reshaped the landscape of basketball footwear and cemented his legacy as a true icon of the game. 

Here, we’ll delve into some of the footwear that helped propel the all-time great to superstardom, with six iconic trainers that have earned their place in sneaker and basketball lore.

adidas KB8 

In 1997, Adidas launched the KB8, which proved to be a groundbreaking sneaker that marked the beginning of Kobe Bryant's signature line. 

Following a remarkable rookie season where the up-and-coming great was wearing Adidas Basketball's Feet You Wear models, including the Top Ten 2000, Top Ten 2010, and EQT Elevation, Kobe received his very own signature shoe at the start of his sophomore year. 

The KB8's distinctive curved design immediately caught attention. As part of the Feet You Wear lineup, the KB8 featured detailed edges that were aimed at keeping the wearer close to the ground for enhanced responsiveness and agility on the court. 

Packed with innovative features such as mesh lining, inner bootie construction, EVA midsole and Torsion system plate, the KB8 quickly became one of the most technologically advanced basketball shoes ever created, and in 2007 it was re-released, renamed the Crazy 8.

adidas KB8 III

While it might seem predictable to include the last of the Feet You Wear models from Kobe Bryant's Adidas era, it's undeniable that this was a true standout and had a colossal impact on sneaker culture. 

As the final sneaker in the FYW line and the last to feature the 'KB8' label, this automatically made the shoe legendary and highly sought after. Many would argue that it was also the most visually appealing of the collection, but that comes down to personal preference as there were some other stellar releases. 

With its sleek leather construction and subdued detailing, the KB8 III retained the contoured essence of earlier releases while opting for a more refined look.

Adidas never intended to cease production of the Feet You Wear tech, but a licensing dispute with its inventor led to the brand halting production of the models. 

adidas Kobe 1

The Adidas Kobe 1, released in 2000, marked a pivotal moment in Kobe Bryant's partnership with the Three Stripes as it proved to be the beginning of the end.

Before the divisive Kobe 2 hit the scene, the original Kobe 1 made a bold statement on the courts, sporting a daring, boxy design which marked a departure from the bulbous builds of FYW. This was replaced by a futuristic aesthetic inspired by the Audi TT Roadster, with Adidas intending to release something truly revolutionary.

Featuring a double foam collar, half-shell toe, injection-moulded EVA midsole and Torsion system, the Kobe 1 was both innovative and visually striking, although it wasn’t to everyone’s taste as it received mixed reviews. 

Despite polarising opinions within the sneaker community, Kobe himself was a fan, wearing them throughout the 2000 season, culminating in his first NBA championship victory. 

So the Kobe 1 proved to be somewhat of a lucky charm, and his continued endorsement all the way to the 2001 Finals and his second championship helped to win over more fans and cement its status as an iconic sneaker in basketball history.

Nike Zoom Kobe 6 “Grinch”

Every year, the NBA's Christmas Day showcase brings together the league's top teams for an eagerly anticipated event in the regular season. 

Alongside the on-court action, the day also serves as a platform for players to showcase their most coveted holiday season sneakers. Among these moments, there’s one that truly stands out – in 2010, during a high-profile matchup against the Miami Heat's Big 3 era, Kobe Bryant stole the spotlight by turning up in the Nike Kobe 6 "Grinch." 

However, Bryant's impact extended beyond the court that day, as he gifted VIP attendees courtside with their own pairs, labelled "The Gift" by Kobe Bryant. This only added to the anticipation surrounding the upcoming "Grinch" colourway, which quickly became one of the most revered basketball sneakers ever created.

Later, Nike chose to release a Protro version of the shoe to commemorate its anniversary, although this failed to generate as much fanfare as the original, getting mixed reactions from fans with some angered by the dilution of the iconic design's rarity.

However, despite their increased availability, "Grinches" are still some of the most recognisable and memorable Nike Kobe sneakers to date, and those who own a pair are sitting on some valuable trainers.

Nike Kobe 1 “81 Points”

Kobe Bryant's on-court legacy was multifaceted, but his scoring prowess remains one of his defining attributes. Throughout his illustrious career that spanned two decades, Bryant maintained an impressive scoring average of 25 points per game, securing back-to-back scoring titles in 2006 and 2007. 

His crowning achievement came in 2014 when he surpassed Michael Jordan to claim the third-highest scoring position in NBA history (he’s now fourth). However, it was Bryant's unforgettable 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006, that immortalised him in basketball lore forever.

Remarkably, the sneakers he wore during that historic game were initially exclusive to players and never released to the public. But after years of anticipation, they were finally made available in Protro form on the 13th anniversary of the game in 2019. 

While the Nike Kobe line is packed full of captivating colourways, when it comes to shoes that are tied to his significance on the court, none can hold a candle to the Kobe 1s.

Nike Zoom Kobe 5 “Bruce Lee”

Throughout his career, Kobe’s signature Nikes were often released in colourways that were in some way tied to iconic figures who inspired him to become the star he was. 

Among the many icons Kobe Bryant revered, martial arts legend Bruce Lee held a special place in his heart. Bryant's admiration for Lee ran deep, immersing himself in every piece of media Lee had ever produced. 

Going beyond mere being a superfan, Bryant even trained in Jeet Kune Do, the hybrid martial arts style founded by Lee, to work on his discipline and sharpness. 

The parallels between the two are notable. Both were fiercely competitive in their respective domains and dedicated to achieving greatness, regardless of what it took.

In 2010, Bryant paid homage to his inspiration with a special Kobe 5 colourway. Inspired by Lee's iconic films, the bold yellow and black palette mirrors his attire in the iconic Game of Death, while the forefoot claw marks symbolise his battle scars less sustained in Enter the Dragon

So those are six iconic trainers and the role they played in shaping this great player’s unforgettable career. While Kobe Bryant may be gone following his horrific helicopter crash in 2020, his memory will live long in the inspiring moments he created on the court.

Each of those mentioned on this list have become extremely rare, limited edition trainers.

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