There is no such thing as a performance basketball shoe that truly stands the test of time. A sneaker can hang on because they are easy on the eyes and great for casual wear, and fans of a particular model will swear by how they feel years later, but as an on-court performer, their shelf life lasts as long as their technology and design can withstand change. Some stave off obsolescence longer than others, but eventually time catches up to them. Mids becomes lows, bulky becomes sleek, leather becomes yarn, Air becomes Lunar.

No shoe is eternal, but go back to almost any time period over the past 20 years and you can bet that whatever Kobe Bryant was wearing at that moment was competing for the crown of “best basketball performance shoe”. Save for his rookie year and one amazing sneaker free agent season, Kobe had a shoe that was designed with his specifications in mind and a goal of being the best. There were times when you could say that Kobe’s shoe was the best and there were times when it failed to hit. But he didn’t stop competing and neither did his kicks. If nothing else, at least you know he tried. Here is how we ranked Kobe Bryant’s Nike and adidas signature shoes.

MambaRank - Cover

 

adidas KOBETWO

MambaRank - adidas KobeTWO

People that have worn the KOBETWO swear by their performance and that’s fine. The problem with the shoe is that it looks so half-baked compared to the excellent precursor that you get the feeling this shoe was rushed out to the market even though in reality Kobe and adidas held off on releasing the KOBETWO because The KOBE was so popular. When it did drop, Kobe eventually ditched them in a move not unlike what LeBron James had to make with the Nike LeBron 11. It’s a concept car on feet and even in 2015 it still looks ahead of its time. I just hope I won’t live long enough to see that future.

adidas KB8 III

sneakerreport
sneakerreport

You might be forgiven for not knowing these existed, but seriously, there’s an adidas Kobe Bryant signature shoe between the adidas KB8 II and the adidas THEKOBE. Here’s a picture of Mamba wearing them to prove it actually happened.

kicksoncards
kicksoncards

Now that we got that out of the way, the KB8 III is notable for being the final shoe tied to Kobe that used Feet You Wear technology. Like the KOBETWO, it’s another shoe that has its devout fans, but ultimately, the lackluster design and Kobe not wearing them for the Lakers’ 2000 championship run doomed this shoe to obscurity.

Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K5

MambaRank - Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K5

Yes, we’re including the both Huaraches that Kobe wore during his pre-signature Nike days because of how revered they are and their connection to Mamba’s sneaker legacy. Designed by Eric Avar, the 2K5 was even lighter than the 2K4, made possible by the cut grooves on the midsole. Everything about the 2K5 was designed with performance in mind, so a little bit of the look was sacrificed in order to make a sneaker that was ostensibly better than the instantly classic 2K4.

Fun Fact: The Huarache 2K5 is the first shoe to feature Kobe’s Hattori Hanzo sword logo that isn’t totally jacked from Kill Bill at all.

Nike Kobe 7 System

Nike
Nike

Modularity was all the rage during early part of this decade as we saw kicks like the Air Jordan 2011 and 2012 come with interchangeable midsoles and booties. The Kobe 7 would attempt something similar with its “Attack Fast” (Zoom) and “Attack Strong” (Cushlon) Systems, but the result was a confusing mess that felt less like an attempt to really capture every type of baller and more like a way to get more money out of the consumer because there was no high-cut Kobe. At least not yet…

Nike Zoom Kobe 3

Nike
Nike

There’s something about the number 3 that just isn’t the cards for Kobe signature sneakers. Even though Kobe claims that this is one of his favorite shoes ever (his performance during the 2007-08 NBA season, which included his lone MVP nod and a trip the NBA Finals, might have something to do with that), it felt like a transitional shoe with its mesh upper and webbed design that looked less like something designed for a Black Mamba and more for a Black Widow. Thankfully a revolution was on the horizon.

adidas KB8 II

Packer
Packer

Worn by Kobe during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 NBA season, the KB8 II was another cult favorite from those who owned them when they first dropped. With Feet You Wear and a move to synthetic materials, the shoe was lighter than the bulky KB8 and played like it too. Sadly the retro that adidas now calls the Crazy 2 switched up from adiPRENE cushioning to EVA and the difference is noticeable. Great as a nostalgia piece, but maybe not for playing in them, I guess.

Nike Kobe 10

Nike
Nike

We’ll defend Kobe’s desire to chase the perfect low-cut shoe any day of the week, but only if we see marked improvements from one year to the next. While still a solid performing shoe that is worn by what seems like half of the NBA, it would be crazy to say that this made a dramatic jump over the Kobe 9. Still waiting on that pure Flyknit basketball shoe, Nike.

Nike Zoom Kobe 6

Nike
Nike

More than any other sneaker line (including Jordans), the Kobes always seems to spark debate as to which shoe is actually the best in performance. As somebody who loved most everything about the Nike Zoom Kobe 4 and Kobe 5, the Kobe 6 (and as you probably noticed in these rankings, the Kobe 7) was a letdown in terms of aesthetics and playability. But again, there are people who will swear by the 6 as the best of the early low-cut Kobes. My complaints were with the scaled upper that might have made sense from a signature storytelling standpoint, but was terrible for breathability.

Nike Zoom Kobe 1

NBA
NBA

It was bulky and very much unlike the Huarache 2K4 and 2K5 in a variety of ways, but the Kobe 1 will always be remembered for being the shoe Mamba wore when he scored 81 points, the second highest-scoring performance in NBA history. Damn, there’s that word “performance” again.

Nike Zoom Kobe 2

Nike
Nike

It’s crazy how similar the LeBron 2 and Kobe 2 are viewed in terms of perception. They were derided early on for their unconventional look, but as the years have passed, the desire and praise for them has only grown louder. And if the Nike Kobe 2 Prelude proved anything, it’s that when some thought is put into the style part, it can hang with its low-cut little brothers.

adidas The KOBE

Packer
Packer

It’s a work of art that was never meant to be touched. The brushed metal look and a style that was the brainchild of adidas and Audi gave us maybe the most futuristic shoe not named the Nike Air Foamposite One. The only difference is that when you put on a pair of Foams, you felt they were indestructible, but when you put on these Kobes, they crease like a (expletive) from the moment you take your first step. Unlike the KOBETWO, Kobe enjoyed a successful (it was the shoe he wore for each of his first three championships) run with these. Imagine how different things would have been had adidas not screwed things up with the KOBETWO.

Nike Kobe 9

Nike
Nike

How can a shoe that’s so disappointing still be so good? When word started to hit the internets that the Nike Kobe 9 was going to use Flyknit, my mind was instantly blow away by the possibilities for colorways, not to mention I really thought Nike had figured out how to make the material survive a basketball game. Turns out that the Flyknit was nothing more than smoke and mirrors, especially on the bootlike high-cut models that were seemingly created to placate the haters who refused to buy a low-cut Kobe. The shoe still turned out great as it was heavily used by many NBA players and both the Flyknit and EM versions produced spectacular colorways, but you get the feeling a lot of potential is still there to get better. And based on our ranking of the Nike Kobe 10, they still have a ways to go before they fulfill that potential.

Nike Kobe 11

Nike
Nike

It’s what we hoped the Kobe 9 and Kobe 10 would become – a pure Flyknit shoe. The TPU threads (ok, it’s not really “pure Flyknit” but it’s as close it’s ever going to get) allows the 11 to retain the strength of its predecessor while becoming a more lighter model. The drop-in midsole that mixes Lunar and Zoom Air is unobtrusive in the way that the Kobe 7 wasn’t. The sleek upper design that literally blends into the sole does away with a lot of the bulk that hampered the look of both 9 and 10. A fitting finale for Mamba to get Flyknit right just as he’s about to say goodbye.

adidas KB8

Examiner
Examiner

The adidas KB8 – now known as the adidas Crazy 8 – could have been the Air Jordan 1 of that generation had Kobe stayed with adidas. Imagine if Mamba never left the three stripes and he was conducting his retirement tour in some signature adidas Kobes with Primeknit and Boost. People would be nostalgic for the old days when a Young Mamba faced Michael Jordan during the 1998 NBA All-Star Game even more than they already fetishize that era.

Nike Zoom Kobe 5

EUKicks
EUKicks

Big Stage. Dark Knight. Chaos. Bruce Lee. Aston Martin. There might not be a better top five colorways of any Kobe shoe than that and quite frankly, that’s a damn good top five that could stand toe-to-toe with any shoe. The Kobe 5 improved on the Kobe 4 in a variety of ways, most notably with the return of bonafide Zoom Air, but this was also the shoe that really showed off what sneakerheads can do on NIKEiD. When the worst thing you can say about the shoe’s reputation is that Shannon Brown kinda tarnished his dope PE with a lame duck Slam Dunk Contest performance (again with that word), you did something great.

Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4

Modern Notoriety
Modern Notoriety

Kobe has said that the Huarache 2K4 was first time he felt like a shoe was like an extension of his feet. Now that could be just him talking that s**t because of his bad feelings towards adidas, but there is no denying what Avar, Mamba and Nike created with the 2K4 as a bar setter. Don’t be surprised to see somebody in their late 20s or early 30s still balling in the latest reissues of these classics because they managed to combine the best of all worlds for the time: a lightweight and sleek silhouette that evoked memories of classic ’80s and ’90s design. They are that good and yes, I’m still trying to find a good price on a pair of laser cut Kobe PEs.

Nike Zoom Kobe 4

Sneakerfiles
Sneakerfiles

Ankle Insurance? It sounded like a bizarre way to promote a basketball shoe, but Nike and Kobe were practically daring you to play in these low-cut kicks. Of course, there have been several low-cut basketball sneakers before the Kobe 4, but a combination of Kobe’s endorsement, rave reviews, dope colorways and success on the court (Kobe would get his first post-Shaq ring wearing the Kobe 4) was the game-changer that the sneaker world needed.

Nike Kobe 8

Nike
Nike

This is rarefied air. Engineered mesh made every Kobe that came before it obsolete in terms of comfort, breathability and flexibility. Lunarlon is always going to be considered “not Zoom Air so booooo” by those who prefer Zoom Air for their basketball kicks, but the cushioning was good enough for both on and off the court. The colorways were striking and set a standard that the Nike Kobe 9 and Nike Kobe 10 never surpassed. If there was such a thing as the perfect basketball shoe in 2012, it was the Nike Kobe 8. If Tinker Hatfield really is mind behind the Nike Kobe 11, I hope Eric Avar sent him a pair of these along with a broken microphone.

The post #MambaDay: The Kobe Bryant adidas And Nike Signature Shoe Rankings appeared first on KicksOnFire.com.

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