words & images // Nick DePaula:
Kobe Bryant’s footwear legacy is just as cemented in greatness as his on-court NBA accomplishments. Over the course of twenty pro seasons, we’ve seen Kobe shift the sneaker game to new places, much like he’s pushed the depths of excellence and longevity in hoops since being drafted straight out of high school in 1996.
Before he was ushering in an era of low-tops during the late 2000s, he was teaming up with automakers to take his signature sneakers into a new millennium, with a look all its own.
While still with adidas, Kobe and The Three Stripes partnered with fellow-German company Audi at the turn of the century, together drafting off of the speedy TT Coupe to create The Kobe. The naming alone was awesome, but the look was equally bold.
To that point in time, shoes had used car inspiration to help shape a part or piece, but The Kobe’s sleekened silhouette and stance precisely mirrored the TT, making for a polarizing and defining look.
“The shoe, [like] a car, is a directional object,” Audi’s Derek Jenkins explained to AudiWorld.com way back in 2000. “There are only a few things in the world that are like that. So you use the same dynamic principles and proportion that you would use with a car, with a shoe.”
The final product launched in the fall of 2000 to a mixed response, with dramatic break lines throughout a molded upper and foam midsole. There was even a front grill, and a back spoiler. All these years later, it’s still lived on as a hallmark design for the brand.
“The sneaker is absolutely on fire…it’s hot! It’s real light and provides support for me,” Kobe was quoted telling AudiWorld, in what was of course likely a PR-crafted statement. “It’s smooth, it’s slick and it’s different and I love it. I’m crazy for it.”
How much Kobe truly loved the design language is up for debate, since it was the similarly Audi-inspired The Kobe Two a year later that drove Bryant to bolt from adidas, but regardless, it was a unique look and bold approach for the brand to take.
The shoe originally released in four monochromatic colorways, with minimal color accents. Below, you’ll find an exclusive in-depth look at a never-before-seen creme colored development sample, featuring a shrouded partial lace cover and chrome Torsion plate that were eventually ditched along the way. There’s also hues of purple and yellow to be found, and subtle “KB8” lettering along the outsole that didn’t make it to production.
Check out this rare The Kobe sample ahead, and stay tuned for more #KobeWeek features.
Stay tuned all week for an exclusive look at samples of each of Kobe’s three adidas The Kobe models.