words // Nick DePaula:
Originally designed by Tinker Hatfield as an extension of 1991’s Air Huarache running shoe, the Flight Huarache was one of those shoes that enjoyed a cult following for a period of time, but didn’t look to have much legs beyond its early 90’s lore on the feet of the famed Michigan Fab Five.
All of that changed during the fall of 2003, when a freshly-inked Nike endorser in Kobe Bryant took to the court in home and away player exclusive colorways of the Flight Huarache before wearing shoes specifically made for him.
Nike designer Eric Avar, who Tinker actually had design the original outsole of the 1992 basketball version, was inspired by Bryant’s newly formed partnership with the Swoosh and looking to create a modern performance product with his game in mind.
That shoe would become the Zoom Huarache 2K4, a precision-based pinnacle sneaker that would shift the design language of basketball product in the 2000s towards more modern and clean lines, away from the cumbersome mechanical cushioning setups that ruled the early 2000’s era.
As a prelude of sorts to debuting the 2K4 during the second half of the 2003-2004 NBA season, Kobe showed love to the lineage of the line and sported the Flight Huarache in 29 of his first 35 games. It was a shoe he even distinctly remembered in its original form.
“It was a fun shoe, and I was very familiar with it back in High School because of the Fab Five, obviously,” says Bryant. “Those shoes were so tough to find, and I think I only had one pair, and I only wore them once a month. [laughs]”
While playing in Retro sneakers is now the norm for players league wide, it was a new concept for Bryant at that time, but he was still keenly looking at the features of the then-decade old Flight Huarache.
“The thing that I noticed — I always used to look at the technology of a shoe — at that early age, I could tell that my ankle had a lot more freedom of movement, which interested me because it felt different than any of the other shoes that I played in,” he says. “It felt better and it moved better in that shoe.”
That “freedom of movement” that Kobe references liking would of course soon after manifest itself in the Huarache 2K4 and 2K5 series’ collars. It would more dramatically go on to become one of Kobe’s lasting legacies in the footwear world, as he later on took the low top hoop shoe to broad and widespread acceptance for hoopers of all ages.
As Nike Sportswear now plans to release the original home player exclusive colorway of the Flight Huarache yet another decade later, enjoy a look at Kobe in action in the original PE below in this classic edition of Kicks Of Court.