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In 2006 Nike unveiled Kobe's first signature basketball shoe - the Zoom Kobe I. Nike Basketball Designer Ken Link was assigned to create the first Kobe shoe. During the off-season, Kobe bulked up from two-a-day workouts and weighed in at 225 pounds; Link's goal was to create a basketball shoe that met the demands of a high-performing athlete like Kobe.
The first Kobe shoe weighed slightly more than Kobe's other signature kicks and still provided the support and protection Bryant needed. Kobe's game is based on a lot of cutting, slashing and getting to the hoop, so stability in his kicks was important. The Zoom Kobe I featured a huge outrigger on the lateral side for that reason. The molded TPU wrap locked in the heel and provided solid framework that helped Kobe change directions. The outsole boasted a multidirectional pattern to provide traction for Kobe's burst to the hoop. The support and ride of the shoe met Kobe's needs. Nothing showed this more than his game on January 22, 2006 vs. the Toronto Raptors as Kobe dropped 81 points! Multiple signature colors of the Kobe I were released including a "Kill Bill"-inspired theme as well as an old-school Minneapolis Lakers colorway that Kobe wore on Retro Night.
During the 2005-2006 season Kobe averaged a career-high 35.4 points per game, along with 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists.
Coming off a career season in 2005-2006, a slimmer, more toned and quicker Kobe would team up with Nike again to deliver his second signature shoe, the Nike Zoom Kobe II. Nike Designer Ken Link was once again tapped to craft the Kobe II. Working closely with Kobe, Link designed a single-layer construction system that made the shoe lighter and more flexible, while offering targeted support through a series of panels.
The team at Nike Basketball incorporated the Nike Free and Nike Considered concepts to maximize flexibility and to meet Bryant's request for a low-to-the-ground shoe. The Kobe II was the first Nike hoops shoe to be completely stitched together instead of built with chemical bonding, which reduced waste and eliminated the use of toxic chemicals from the process. The midsole of the Kobe II was larger to provide lateral support and protection. Zoom Air™ units were embedded in the insole on the heel and forefoot.
Kobe wore these during the 2006-2007 season in which he averaged 31.6 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
Kobe's signature shoe line shifted gears when legendary Nike designer Eric Avar took over on the Kobe III. The Kobe III offered a very unique look and is unlike any of the other kicks in the Zoom Kobe line. A black mamba snake was the foundational inspiration; Bryant brought up the "sleek and deadly" concept when he consulted with Avar on this version of the Zoom Kobe.
Avar constructed the Kobe III with a focus on performance. The Kobe III featured a simple waffle-esque, one-piece mesh upper with an injected molded pattern that was very lightweight and stable. The diamond pattern of the upper and outsole was inspired by the name of Kobe's daughter Diamante. The protruding outrigger provided excellent stability and support. The Kobe III was built to be a comfortable, sleek, conforming, breathable and responsive tool to help Kobe navigate the hardwood. Zoom Air™ was once again present in the heel and forefoot, making for a comfortable, cushioned ride.
While wearing the III, Kobe won his first League MVP award and led the Lakers to the NBA Finals during the 2007-2008 season.
Kobe Bryant, who had just completed an MVP season in 2007-2008, wanted to continue providing input for the next iteration of his signature shoe. He met with lead designer Eric Avar multiple times to determine the path of the Kobe IV. Bryant wanted the lightest, lowest basketball shoe possible without sacrificing support.
After Nike's athletic research institute showed that a low-top basketball shoe poses no greater risk to injury, the height of the Zoom Kobe line was lowered significantly. The Kobe IV incorporated attributes that helped Bryant's game, including the pronounced outrigger for stability and support and a carbon fiber midfoot shank to increase spring. The Lunar Foam midsole and Zoom Air™ technology made for a responsive, cushioned ride. The upper of the Kobe IV featured Nike Flywire technology, which provides a lightweight, supportive minimalistic upper, while the inner collar foam made these kicks extremely comfortable. The external heel counter ensured a solid lockdown, and the traditional herringbone traction pattern with a creative, venom-inspired graphic provided great traction.
Kobe's Sheath logo is on the tongue and his signature is on the heel of the right shoe. While wearing the Kobe IV during the 2008-2009 season, Bryant collected his fourth Championship ring and won his first NBA Finals MVP Award.
Trying to improve upon the super-low, super-light Zoom Kobe IV would seem to be a daunting task, but once again designer Eric Avar and the people at Nike Basketball would deliver in a big way.
Wearing the Kobe IV while leading the Lakers to the NBA Title in 2008-2009, Kobe came out of the gate in 2009-2010 wearing the sleek, sharp Zoom Kobe V. Kobe wanted the lightest, lowest basketball sneaker ever and Nike came through, releasing the V at an unheard-of 10.6 ounces. The upper is made of a thin, minimal and lightweight skin that incorporates Flywire technology and encases the foot. The height of the shoe provides Kobe maximum mobility while giving his feet full range of motion without resistance. The Zoom Air™ continues to be a presence in the heel and forefoot and offers a well-cushioned, comfortable ride for Bryant on the court. A heartbeat-inspired outsole has a herringbone-like traction pattern that was strategically carved out to reduce weight. Bryant wanted a precise shoe that looked good, but played even better.
While wearing the Nike Zoom Kobe V, Bryant averaged 27 points per game and collected his fifth NBA Championship ring.
After creating the lightest, lowest-profile basketball shoe of all time in 2010's Nike Zoom Kobe V, Nike made a few modifications in Kobe's signature line the following year.
Like the previous two models, Kobe Bryant's sixth sneaker is lightweight (10.2 ounces in men's size 9).
The shoe's design was based on a suggestion provided by Kobe, who wanted the shoe to provide a customized, fashion-design fit and feel. Nike designers were challenged to engineer a custom fit for all basketball players, and the solution was to build the shoe from the inside out.
The Kobe VI features a dual-density sockliner that molds to the shape of each player's foot. The sockliner extends higher up the ankle than most, cradling the foot for a better fit. The sockliner then works with the heel counter to provide a tighter, more supportive boost in the heel.
Along with the customized fit, the Kobe VI incorporates design cues inspired by Kobe's Black Mamba nickname. The texture on the upper and outsole is similar to the scales of a snake. Advanced Nike Flywire technology is built into the upper for support, but is subtler than in previous Nike basketball shoes.
Other upgrades include an Achilles notch for greater comfort; a conforming sockliner that molds itself to the player's foot shape; a tighter heel construction for a slimmer profile collar; and a higher density, full-length, injected Phylon™ midsole designed for basketball.
The Kobe VI once again features a lightweight Nike Zoom™ unit in the heel to deliver ultra-responsive cushioning. Black mamba-inspired traction features a pattern and flex grooves made for quick, precise cuts and agile moves. An exposed glass plate promotes multi-directional acceleration. The Kobe VI once again features a low cut for maximum mobility during quick cuts and defensive guard play.
The seventh edition of Kobe Bryant’s signature Nike basketball shoe, which launched in February 2012, had a theme designed and named for the way the All-Star Lakers guard played the game: “Attack Fast.”
This was the name of the stock sockliner/midsole in the Zoom Kobe VII. This power-stretch cuff offered stability and a sock-like fit. Zoom Air units in the heel and forefoot lent low-profile responsiveness. This was coupled with the familiar low-top cut that lent Bryant the flexibility he needed to generate his explosive movements on the floor.
“If you’re going to be on your feet, you need to have something that’s going to actually help enhance your game,” Bryant explained in a video at HouseofHoops.FootLocker.com. “That it’s not something that you’re going to just put on your foot to run around. I want things that are detail-oriented and meticulously placed in a shoe that I feel gives me an advantage.”
The Zoom Kobe VII Supreme, which released colorways just before Christmas 2011 and just after the new year, offered interchangeable midsoles, the Attack Fast and the Attack Strong. The latter replaced the Zoom Air units of the Attack Fast with full-length Cushlon cushioning geared for post players.
“I wanted to have something that was a little softer; something that kind of protects you and kind of aids the recovery process,” Bryant said of the Supreme. “Then when it’s on, go with something a little thinner – lower.”
The Kobe VII also featured a Flywire upper for the first time, and a cast urethane outer shell lent flexibility, durability and ventilation.
Bryant’s predator theme carried through the Kobe VII, as a mesh underlay conveyed one of several predator themes that Bryant used as inspiration. This Predator Pack, which released in March, included the gray fur design of a wolf and the aquatic blue of a shark.
“The concept of the predator … the idea came from a trip that I took to South Africa,” Bryant said in the promotional video. “A guy is driving us around and showing us … like a gazelle – ‘I want to see predators.’ And it kind of clicked, it was like, ‘This is kind of what I do in my profession; you hunt or be hunted.’ You’ve got to go after something. I said, you know I really want to incorporate that in the [shoe] line.”