To commemorate the historic career of the late NBA legend and life of Kobe Bryant, 8/24 (August 24th) has officially become a day to remember and celebrate the Black Mamba’s life. Kobe’s influence on and off the court has allowed a generation of new basketball players to follow in his footsteps by embracing their own versions of the Mamba Mentality.
As a way to honor these achievements, while also acknowledging his strong presence within sneaker culture, STAY FRESH presents 8 of Kobe’s Greatest Sneaker Moments and his passing of the torch to new generations.
Debuting in January of 2006, the Nike Zoom Kobe 1 didn’t take long to be seen in the spotlight. Merely days after its release, Kobe Bryant would go on to drop 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. Which, some consider to be his greatest basketball moment of all time.
With 3:12 left in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Gold medal game, the United States was battling against a Pau Gasol led Spanish team. Fresh off his MVP performance in the prior NBA season, Kobe unleashed a series of clutch buckets saving the national team from a potential heartbreaking loss. Donning a pair of Nike Hyperdunks while doing the unthinkable, Kobe’s performance was so memorable that it will also be immortalized in basketball sneaker history.
Following his departure from adidas in 2001, Kobe’s sneaker free agency began. During the 01-02 season, Kobe could be seen wearing multiple pairs of Air Jordan sneakers. He mostly wore the Air Jordan 3 and 8 model in a Lakers PE colorway. In 2016, the two pairs would be released to the public as part of an Air Jordan ‘Kobe Pack’
Honoring Team USA in the London held 2012 Olympics, the Nike Kobe 7 featured a patriotic colorway which would be seen sported throughout the tournament. While Kobe may have been the guy in the previous Olympics, it was soon obvious that LeBron would be taking that role this time around. This didn’t stop the Mamba as he would scorch teams periodically helping the national team win back to back Gold medals in his newly established rotational role. As this was his final International game, the sneakers he wore will remain a part of Olympic basketball history.
Drawing inspiration from the Audi TT sports car, the Eiruk Lund Nelson designed sneaker was Kobe’s 4th sneaker with adidas and by far the most memorable. The sneakers outlandish design resembled ‘moon shoes’ which was an unconventional silhouette when compared to other basketball sneakers released during that era. Worn in his first ever NBA Championship, adidas’ ‘the Kobe’ silhouette has etched its place in basketball sneaker history.
Recently re-released, the Nike Kobe 6 ‘Grinch’ were originally worn in 2010 against the newly established Miami “Big 3” which consisted of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Fresh off their Championship season, the Kobe led Los Angeles Lakers were highly opposed in this Christmas day matchup. As the game progressed, many were on the edge of their seats watching Kobe duel Wade and LeBron simultaneously in front of their eyes. An image of Kobe backing down LeBron in the post while wearing a pair of bright green Kobe 6’s will remain in the minds of basketball and sneaker fans forever.
The 2010 Boston Celtics were far from lackluster. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were three of the NBA greats who stood in Kobe’s way on his path to winning his fifth and final Championship. Averaging nearly 29 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, Kobe led the Los Angeles Lakers to a Game 7 win against his toughest opponents in playoff history. Donning a pair of his Kobe 5’s, he claimed the beloved Larry O’Brien trophy as well as his second NBA FInals MVP trophy, making this finals celebration legendary.
Facing the Utah Jazz in the final game of his career, Kobe unleashed the Mamba by dropping 60 points on the then playoff contending team. In what many may consider to be the most exciting game Kobe has ever played, the 37 year old basketball legend grinded out one of the most historic wins in NBA history. The moment along with his Kobe 11 ‘Black Mamba’ sneakers will remain stitched in sports fans and sneakerheads’ memory for eternity
As Kobe’s basketball career slowed down, his role from superstar to teacher became more evident as he started to mentor the very kids who looked up to him in his greater days. Players like Demar Derozan, Devin Booker and Jaylen Brown all sought out Kobe to learn how to channel their own Mamba Mentality. They’ve even gone to great lengths to even look like the great one from their shooting sleeves to his sneakers. Kobe’s influence spanned across many NBA players, young and old.
Following his retirement in 2016, Demar Derozan soon signed a deal with Nike to become an ambassador for Kobe’s signature sneaker line. Since then, Derozan can be seen sporting the newest Kobe models as well as some classics from time to time on court.
Since he entered the NBA in 2015, Devin Booker could be seen in multiple Kobe sneaker silhouettes. Kobe’s influence finally became reality for Booker in his final game against the Suns. He inspired the young star to embody his playstyle and work ethic with the quote “Be Legendary.” Booker said Kobe sat down with him after the game and layed out each step to take on the way to greatness. Following Kobe’s retirement, D-Book went further by practicing at the Mamba Sports Academy, learning directly from the great one on how to perfect his game.
Channeling his inner Kobe throughout his 2022 NBA Finals run, Jayson Tatum went to great lengths in an attempt to win his first NBA championship. Tatum could be seen wearing multiple Kobe Protro models throughout the playoffs as well as a pair of Air Jordan 36 ‘Black Mamba’ PE’s. His admiration for the late Kobe Bryant has been on full display since his passing. Tatum, as well as other NBA players, are living and practicing Kobe’s belief by inspiring the next generation.