With Kobe Bryant becoming the fifth and fastest player in NBA history to score 30,000 points, Dime is looking at all angles of the five-time champion’s career today. (Hey, we already called him the greatest player since 2000.) It’s equal parts celebration and examination of one of the NBA’s most polarizing and talented players in history.
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During 16 seasons Kobe Bryant‘s game has, quite naturally, evolved. He has transformed from a high-flying rookie prodigy to one-half of a championship duo, to a prima donna, to a cold-blooded Mamba predator.
For as many personas as Bryant has adopted throughout his career, he’s had a sneaker to match. Thirteen Kobe signature sneakers have been produced in total — five by adidas and eight now by Nike — along with several other branded kicks that he’s endorsed. Each shoe has pushed industry performance and design boundaries in its own way.
With the 30,000-point landmark behind him, now seems to be as good a time as any to sort through Kobe’s growing collection of kicks, and rank the Top 10 Kobe Bryant sneakers of his career. Before we begin, it should be noted that for the purposes of this countdown, we have excluded the season in which Bean was a “sneaker free agent” (2002-03). While this period yielded several remarkable shoes that might otherwise have been included herein (the Air Jordan VII Lakers PE and Air Jordan III Lakers PE are two that immediately come to mind) they were not officially endorsed by Bryant, and therefore, not considered.
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10. adidas KOBETWO (2001)
The adidas KOBETWO is probably the most divisive of any of Kobe Bryant’s signature shoes. For that reason alone it probably deserves to be on this list. At the time of its release, the sneaker was largely panned by critics and collectors alike, who thought it to be overweight (19.5 ounces in men’s size 11), unresponsive (stiffness was a common complain), and/or just plain ugly (some called them “moonboots” or “space clogs”). Even Bryant seemed to despise them, as evidenced by his conspicuous reversion back to the adidas The KOBE during the 2002 NBA playoffs, and eventual split with the adidas. Looking back, Bryant’s final sneaker with the Three Stripes wasn’t all bad, though. The design was sleek, simple, and adhered to a unique, singular vision. It also produced at least two memorable colorways: the white/sunshine pair worn by Bryant at the ’02 All-Star game, and the ultra-limited USA “Flag” edition.
9. adidas Equipment Elevation (1997)
Sneakers, in basketball especially, are intrinsically tied to moments in a player’s career. Back when Bryant was a gangly 18-year old rookie he made his first meaningful splash in the NBA at the 1997 Dunk Contest. On his feet? The adidas EQT Elevation. This shoe featured adidas’ Feet You Wear technology from the mid-to-late 90s, which, as the name suggests, molded the sneakers to the feet of the player you wore (As the print ads state, “Kobe’s Feet Work. We Copied Them”). While hardly earth-shattering tech by today’s standards, Feet You Wear was rather innovative at the time. The EQT Elevations also included a wild wrap-around outsole that rode halfway up the ankle on the lateral side, and was designed ostensibly to improve traction and soften the impact of court cuts. However, what really made the shoe iconic was seeing young “Bean” Bryant crush a between-the-legs slam, and swagger through the Gund Arena as the league’s Dunk Contest champion. It was as if he knew what was coming.