Sneaker News Top 30 Sneakers of 2011

December 29th, 2011 by

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2011 was supposed to be the year that Kobe Bryant led the Los Angeles Lakers to his second three-peat and the franchise’s third overall. It was supposed to be the year when all the Kobe haters could find another MVP colorway from his Nike Basketball signature series stuffed into their collective mouths, and perhaps most important to Kobe himself, a time when all those comparisons to Michael Jordan were proven valid. But along came a Maverick owner who stuck by his big gun for over a decade in hopes of capturing Kobe’s beloved Larry O’Brien Trophy, and it was that Dallas team led by Dirk Nowitzki that not only upset the Lakers and prevented a Christmas Day rematch with the Miami Heat, but also crushed the “Big Three’s” chance at that elusive first ring. Add in a nearly six month-long lockout onto the end, and you can see that the 2010-11 NBA season was filled with left turns, and yet, in some ways, for Kobe and his signature sneaker series with Nike, it was business as usual.

Kobe amassed an impressive array of milestones throughout the year, starting back in November when he became the youngest ever in league history to score 26,000 career regular season points. Merely two months later, he followed that up as the youngest 27k scorer in NBA history and just two days after that, joined a list of six other Hall of Famers with at least 25,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 5,000 assists. Never mind that Michael Jordan remains the quickest ever to accomplish this statistically verifiable proof of all-around greatness, or that an aging Lakers squad is perhaps now even further than last year’s team from capturing that sixth championship; like MJ, Kobe proved this past year that he’s also approaching rarefied air when it comes to moving signature sneakers. And with countless colorways of his sixth signature Nike shoe hitting shelves in 2011, Bryant did just that.

Following up on the low-cut silhouettes of the Kobe IV and V, the Zoom Kobe VI managed to both look right at home in the line and pack a boldly original punch all at once. The overall lines and design of the Kobe VI are quite similar to its predecessors, but for this go-around, in addition to the expected performance tweaks, Nike added an extra twist to establish a unique identity and to help bring a story to life in the process. Kobe adopted the ‘Black Mamba’ nickname a little while back, and while the concept made its way onto a few previous Kobe releases, Nike fully embraced the snake concept for the ZK6, constructing the majority of the shoe’s upper in a Flywire-embedded thermoplastic polyurethane snake-scaled shell. The reptilian materials were a far cry from the look of a traditional basketball shoe, but a string of imaginative color motifs would soon convert the non-believers and show just how vast the possibilities for the shoe could be.

The Nike Zoom Kobe VI debuted Christmas Day 2010 when Bryant broke out the lime green ‘Grinch’ model, which turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg when it came to crazy ZK6 colorways. The Zoom Kobe 6′s snake scale uppers lent themselves to all manner of graphical overlays, ranging from simple two-toned team-oriented looks to the more adventurous gradient, camo and 3-D releases, plus one pack in particular that served as a showcase of both the ZK6 and Nike Basketball color team’s visual capabilities, as well as Kobe’s role as All-Star 2011 host. The ‘LA Pack’ included a traditional red Western Conference color with a little extra pizzazz thanks to lenticular graphics and black sections peeking through the red scales, another take on the two-toned upper with a stereoscopic Hollywood edition offering the first ’3-D’ colorway of several to come, and two scenic views celebrating East LA and the Orange County Sunset to round out the bunch. Kobe might not have reigned supreme at the end of the NBA Playoffs last time around, but his Nike Zoom Kobe VI was the king of adventurous colorways in 2011 and suggests even wilder aesthetic possibilities for the new Zoom Kobe VII.

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