Few people in basketball were as influential as Kobe Bryant. For close to 20 years, Bryant dominated the NBA, making a name for himself as one of the greatest to ever do it. After bursting onto the scene in 1996, Bryant quickly asserted himself as a key figure in the Los Angeles Lakers. Though the world was left utterly devastated at the sudden passing of Kobe, his daughter Gianna and seven others earlier this year, his legacy has continued to thrive.
Although he may have started out as a member of Team adidas, he eventually joined Nike. However, during that one season where he was a sneaker free agent, he rocked a number of PEs, exclusives and multiple brands. As you can imagine, a career spanning two decades on the court ensured that Kobe Bryant had some amazing sneaker moments. For this post, we’re going to be taking a look at some of Kobe Bryant’s best sneakers on the court.
We’ll be delving way back into the archives, showing you a number of rare pairs and great sneakers. Some of Kobe Bryant’s best sneakers were worn on the court, making him one to watch out for. Without further delay, let’s take a closer look at some of Kobe Bryant’s best sneakers!
Disclaimer: this list is not in order!
adidas The Kobe Lakers PE
As previously mentioned, at the very beginning of Kobe’s career, he had signed a deal with adidas. Being one of the most sought after players in the 1996 draft also helped get him attention from big brands. Whilst Kobe Bryant adidas sneaker may not have been his best, they are an important part in his sneaker legacy. For this first moment, we’re throwing it back to 1998 with an adidas The Kobe in this Los Angeles Laker’s colourway.
Although adidas Kobe’s may have been short-lived, they gave us a closer look at what to expect. The chunky adidas basketball silhouette features a white plastic cage base, with Lakers gold and purple appearing on the sole. A gold ankle and purple and adidas logo also reflect the Lakers too, a great adidas Kobe PE. It may be the ugliest sneaker on this list, but it is without a doubt one of Kobe’s best on-court sneaker moments.
Nike Zoom Kobe VI “Grinch”
Basketball players are no stranger to themed sneakers. From Halloween to space and almost everything in between, NBA players no all about special shoes. During the holiday season, Nike usually releases a collection which is Christmas themed. Signature athletes get the chance to release a one-off sneaker surrounding the holidays. One of the most memorable to grace the court was worn by Kobe Bryant back in 2010.
Taking the idea of the infamous “Grinch,” this Nike Zoom Kobe VI features an entirely green upper. Whilst it may not be covered in fur like the Christmas character, it does use a scaled upper. A black Swoosh cuts through the green, with red logos and matching laces adding a devilish touch to this Christmas sneaker. When Kobe pulled these out against the Miami Heat, they were an instant classic. Arguably one of Kobe Bryant’s best sneakers, it didn’t take them long to sell out but the good news is, a retro is rumoured for 2021.
Reebok Question Mid “Kobe PE”
When Kobe Bryant left adidas in 2001, it was a big blow for the brand with the three stripes. Having reportedly paid $6 million to get out of his contract early, Kobe was on the hunt for a new sponsor. However, adidas ensured that it wouldn’t happen right away. It kick-started some of Kobe Bryant’s best sneakers on the court. adidas had legally required Kobe to be a sneaker free agent for the 2002-2003 season, allowing him to get a number of PEs from different brands. One of those brands was Reebok.
During the ’02/’03 season, Kobe was spotted wearing a number of PE versions of the popular Reebok Question Mid. Although there were around three that were made in total, this is without a doubt our favourite version. A premium white tumbled leather base features a purple suede toe as well as purple on the Reebok Vector logo and lace loops. In didn’t take long for sneakerheads to want a pair, though these samples never made it to production.
A retro was planned for later this year, but given the untimely passing of Bryant, Reebok decided against it. Given the circumstances, this was definitely a wise decision.
Air Jordan III “Kobe Bryant Lakers PE”
As you’ve probably just read adidas ensured that Kobe was unable to join a competitor straight away. What they probably didn’t realise was that it had just kickstarted the greatest sneaker free agency in history. Having spent a number of months shopping around with big brands, Kobe met the team at Jordan Brand. Jordan Brand had hooked Kobe up with PE versions of the Air Jordan 3, sending the sneaker world into a frenzy.
Continuing with Kobe’s sneaker free agency, we have this absolute gem of an on-court moment. Featuring the traditional white tumbled leather base, the iconic silhouette is contrasted with Lakers purple and gold on the midsole, tongue and heel. This one-off Kobe Bryant Air Jordan 3 PE was one of his most memorable moments, so much so that Jordan Brand made a limited run upon the Black Mamba’s retirement. That Jordan pack now sells upward for €30,000, so you better get saving!
Nike Zoom Kobe I “81 Points”
Ok, ok, so technically this colourway isn’t called the “81 Points,” but there’s some method in the madness. In 2005, Kobe Bryant travelled to Toronto to face the Raptors. He probably didn’t know it at the time, but he was about to have the greatest scoring game of his life. Dropping a career-high 81 points, Kobe absolutely destroyed the Raptors on the court, making history by setting the second-highest scoring game in NBA history. On his feet was the first Nike Kobe signature shoe.
Quite simply put, this is one of Kobe Bryant’s best sneakers for its legacy. Comprised of simple white leather, the Nike Zoom Kobe I features a black Swoosh and purple accents. A purple neoprene sock liner features a hole at back, a design feature based on Kobe’s agility and the speed he moved his feet. Carbon fibre can be seen on the midsole too, making this lightweight signature sneaker an instant classic. In 2015, Nike released a retro version of the sneaker to commemorate the occasion which quickly sold out.
Air Jordan VIII “Kobe Bryant Lakers PE”
That’s right, we’re heading back to Kobe’s sneaker free agency in 2002/2003. Hitting the hardwood in that season, Kobe was treated to a number of PEs from different brands. Though there were some standouts with the likes of Nike and Converse, it was definitely his Jordans that caught the attention of sneakerheads. From the Air Jordan 3 to the Air Jordan 7, Kobe had a number of memorable pairs. However, this Air Jordan 8 Kobe Bryant Lakers PE is one of our favourites.
Pictured above helping Michael Jordan up, Kobe can be seen in an exclusive version of the Air Jordan 8. Featuring white leather as well as purple and gold accents, this Kobe Bryant AJ8 is a serious pair of heat. In 2016, Nike released a special pack which consisted of this Air Jordan 8 and the accompanying Air Jordan 3. With very limited quantities of the sneakers made, they have an eye-watering price tag of €30,000 together.
Nike Zoom Kobe VII “Olympic”
As you can probably imagine, for a man who had won everything in his league, international greatness was the next challenge. The USA Olympic basketball team is made up of arguably the best player’s on the planet, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with pressure. Having already won gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the pressure was on Team USA to bring home the gold again. Of course, they didn’t fail.
Pictured above with close friend and teammate Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant can be seen in a special “Olympic” version of the Nike Zoom Kobe VII. Featuring the red, white and blue of America, the Olympic Kobe 7 was one of the standout moments for Kobe’s career. Having worn them all the way to the 2012 Olympic Finals, its safe to say that the sneaker is a glory moment in Kobe’s career. Although they may not be the hottest, these are some of Kobe Bryant’s best sneakers in history. It would also be the last Olympics he would play in, bringing his international career to a close with the greatest reward.
Nike Air Force 1 High “Kobe Bryant Lakers PE”
You just can’t beat a good pair of Nike Air Force 1s, something that Kobe Bryant knew only too well. Throughout his career with the Swoosh, Kobe had a number of PEs and limited edition AF1s made just for him. Whether it was the Black Mamba AF1 or just limited runs, Kobe had it all. However, before he signed with Nike, he was still experimenting with PEs on the court. One of those was a high top version made for, you guessed it, his sneaker free agency.
Taking to the court in a Nike Air Force 1 High, this pair is far different from any other you’d see in a store. A white tumbled leather upper features a Laker’s gold Swoosh, complete with a matching outsole. Subtle details like a purple “AIR” on the midsole is another nice detail, with the purple and yellow tongue tag bringing it all together. Made exclusively for Kobe, these AF1s never hit the shelves. All we can say is, what damn shame.
Air Jordan XI “Concord”
Kobe Bryant wearing Jordans shouldn’t come as a surprise by now. As you have already seen, Kobe’s sneakers are pretty diverse, covering a number of high profile pairs. Yet again during his sneaker free agency, Kobe Bryant was rocking Jordans. Whether it was PEs or just straight-up classic colourways, the sneaker community paid attention when Kobe stepped out. Back in that beautiful year, Kobe pulled out the Air Jordan XI “Concord.”
This sneaker hardly needs an introduction, but we’ll give you the history lesson anyway. Designed by Tinker Hatfield in 1995, the Air Jordan 11 “Concord” was, and still is one of the greatest Jordans of all time. Featuring a white mesh and black patent leather upper, the sneaker was eye-catching. More importantly, however, it was one of the most memorable sneakers in MJs career. It has remained a popular silhouette for nearly 25 years, showing just how timeless this shoe is.
Nike Zoom Kobe XI “Fade to Black”
This is arguably one of the most important sneakers in Kobe’s career for one reason: it was the final pair he played in. After a monumental career that spanned two decades, the time had finally come for Kobe Bryant to retire. He had achieved more in his career than almost any other player in history, staying with the Los Angeles Laker’s for 20 years. Having arrived as a boy, Kobe had left as a man, cementing his legacy in the city forever.
For us, this sneaker represents everything that was great about Kobe Bryant. Though some of his sneakers had been eye-catching throughout his career, this “Fade to Black” represents who Kobe was. A simple black base features gold Swooshes on the midsection, with an embossed Black Mamba logo on the tongue. More importantly, this sneaker saw Kobe finish his career in true Kobe fashion: Bryant would drop 60 points in his final game as a basketball player, showing everyone that even at 37, he still had it.
This post was an important reflection on both the life of Kobe Bryant and his legacy in the world of basketball. For many, Kobe’s passing still does not feel real. Whilst 2020 has been without a doubt one of the strangest years on record, Kobe’s death has been one of the standout moments. As a dedicated basketball player, father and friend, the world was and still is, mourning the death of Kobe. Though the world may move forward, it will always be just that little bit darker. Mamba forever.