Where Design Meets Art: The Nike Kobe 9 – Media Event Recap

The most general schools of thought would suggest that a player at age thirty-five, one who just half a year ago suffered a season-ending injury, would be thinking of retirement. After all, Kobe has enough accolades for two, maybe three Hall of Famers of the American-born sport, but nothing is ever really enough for an athlete with such an intense (maybe excessive) competitive spirit. It goes without saying that Kobe is indeed a remarkable athlete – one that is yet to close the book that has been scripted so marvelously for nearly two decades. He just signed a two year extension with the Los Angeles Lakers, and as he nears 100% health, he’ll be ready to suit up in the chase for a sixth Championship ring in a brand new sneaker called the Nike Kobe 9.

Prior to getting back in action, Kobe Bryant, joined by Nike, unveiled the ninth signature shoe of the storied legacy . The path to his current god-like state has been one filled with major ups and downs, as he eloquently detailed by way of the Prelude (which luckily for his biggest fans, will release in sneaker form). It all culminates in the Nike Kobe 9 – a perfect mesh of Nike’s most forward-thinking design and finely crafted art. Today, Kobe played host, alongside Nike CEO Mark Parker and Nike Basketball Design VP Eric Avar to introduce the Kobe 9, at Los Angeles’ cherished Museum of Contemporary Art. This meeting of incredible minds was one that doesn’t happen very often, so enjoy this recap of this great event that Sneaker News got the opportunity to experience first-hand.

The Nike Kobe 9 Elite will release on February 8, 2014 with a retail price of $225.

As a precursor to the unveiling of the Kobe 9, Nike Basketball showcased the Kobe Prelude exhibit. Each of Kobe Bryant’s signature Nike Basketball shoes were displayed in never-before-seen form, decorated with heartfelt emotion. Labeled the Kobe Prelude Pack, each model will release beginning this Saturday and will release in order every following weekend. Full release dates for the Prelude Pack can be seen here.

Media was given an opportunity to see the Kobe 9 in person. Alongside the completed models were various sketches by designer Eric Avar as well as some prototypes that helped the Kobe 9 design evolve into final form. For this model (the Elite, which retails for $225), Flyknit technology was the primary component; it was specially engineered to suit Kobe Bryant’s needs for the sport of basketball – we’re talking tighter stitching, thicker cables, and a knit pattern tuned to fit the sport’s particular requirements.

As stated earlier, the Kobe 9 features ample usage of Flyknit. The evolution of the basketball-specific Flyknit upper was a process that took two years. Here’s a look at some prototypes that served as stepping stones for the final design.

After a short introduction by Joseph Grima, an architect and curator of design, the discussion panel began with an entrance by Mark Parker. The Nike CEO, dressed in a tailored sportcoat and some Black Roshe Runs, solemnly stated Nike’s goal for never-ending innovation while providing athletes optimal gear – that’s high performance with minimized effort.

Parker was then joined by Eric Avar. The designer really needs to introduction as he’s been behind the entire Kobe line as well as some of Nike’s most iconic basketball designs. Avar, who has worked with the basketball hero for over a decade, described his interaction with Kobe on the ninth model as “intense”.

Finally, Kobe Bryant joined the group and offered his own insight onto the design process. What he wants, he gets, and what he got was a true spectacle of creativity. The high-top cut was revealed by him as a feature he personally called for (and keep in mind this was far before the ankle injury). After all, there is a tremendous amount of trust between the superstar player and designer, and as Kobe’s game continuously evolves, so does Eric’s design.

The panel was closed out with a nice photo op of the three. “These two love taking photos”, said Kobe.

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