words & images // Nick DePaula:
While Michael Jordan’s industry defining signature series is known for its timeless design and first-of-its-kind athlete storytelling, decades later, Kobe Bryant’s namesake line with Nike Basketball has long been highlighted for its innovation and attention to detail, pushing the envelope of a performance basketball shoe on the hardwood even further.
It should come as no surprise then, as Nike prepares to begin an era of ramped up Retro Kobe releases, that they’re taking an entirely new approach to remaking Bryant’s original models. As part of the 2013 “Prelude” and 2016 “Fade To Black” Packs, each model of the series had been re-released in the past, as close to the original as possible.
This time will be different.
Dubbed Protro, the concept aims to update the earliest sneakers of the Kobe series with improved tech, modernized uppers and eventually, revamped materials for even lighter weights. As Bryant’s series became beloved by ballers, the intent is to keep them still Pro-ready for today’s standards and a new generation of players, even in their Retro form. It’s a project that’s been three years in the making, with tweaks along the way.
“We’re always looking to build on things that we’ve done in the past and try to improve them. Protro is about evolution and improving on things that were,” says Bryant. “I wanted to build a business that wasn’t just based on things I have done in the past. It is important that the brand stands for performance and that everything we do is innovative. Even if we are releasing shoes from the past, they still must be built on performance.”
Back in the mid-2000s, as Kobe was just starting out his now 15-year partnership with Nike Basketball, he had some early insights for designer Ken Link that helped to inform and shape the Zoom Kobe 1.
“What I wanted to do, was I wanted to have more cushioning,” Kobe recalls. “It was a season where I was coming off of some knee injuries and some things like that. So, we actually sacrificed some weight with this shoe for a lot more cushioning. As soon as you put that shoe on, you are going to see that it has a lot more cushion.”
While the original version featured sizable heel and forefoot Zoom Air units, the Protro edition elevates the cushioning even more, with full-length Zoom Air. The mesh package along the collar has been switched out for a softer textile against the skin, and the body of the upper has also been slimmed out for an improved fit. Rich full grain leather and nubuck overlays still remain, along with the heel’s wrapping TPU chassis and midfoot carbon fiber shank.
“We really wanted to make sure that the shoe looked exactly like the One, but was built through the lens of performance athletes, specifically professional athletes on the NBA court,” says Tony Grosso, Nike Basketball footwear product director.
Take a detailed look at the Nike Kobe 1 Protro below, in the original Black / White / Varsity Maize colorway worn by Bryant back in early 2006. Launching on Saturday, February 16th, be sure to also keep an eye out for even more special edition launches next week during LA All-Star Weekend.