December 18, 2013 BY Sneaker News / 9
With LeBron James relishing in another year of success and Kevin Durant’s stardom rising at a rapid rate, would there be enough elbow room for the elder statesmen of Nike Basketball? His Lakers weren’t performing at a Championship level, and a sudden injury near the end of the regular season prevented the superstar from chasing that coveted sixth ring. But despite the on-court setbacks, Kobe Bryant definitely held his own in 2013 for a number of reasons – a popular signature shoe, the first-ever Retro(s) in the “Big Three” era of Nike Basketball, and an incredible launch event for his revolutionary next model.
It’s no mystery that the Nike Kobe 8 (the lone Kobe model to release this year) deserves all the credit for keeping his name consistently in the sneaker headlines, with various treats like the Mambacurial and “What The Kobe” offering up plenty of excitement for his fans. But his triumphant return from injury, which coincided perfectly with the unveiling of the Nike Kobe 9 Elite and the eight-shoe Prelude Pack, may have boosted the 5-time champion to the top of the power rankings to end the year on a high note. To see how it all unfolded, get the full rundown of all the year’s major Kobe stories below.
With the Snake being the celebratory animal of the Chinese zodiac, there was no better opportunity for Nike to go the extra mile with the Nike Kobe 8 and the running reptile theme. Three “Year of the Snake” versions were created to bring the naturally-fitting concept to life – a special red Camo colorway, as well as black leather and red suede EXT editions.
The All-Star release of the Kobe 8 flexed the muscle of Engineered Mesh, presenting an incredible graphic print like nothing we’d seen before. The design took on the outer space theme head on, utilizing blazing hot orange and red tones with green accents to grasp the extraterrestrial feel of the Houston-inspired capsule.
Of the Easter-inspired trio of Nike Basketball signature shoes, the Kobe 8 was by far the most colorful of the bunch thanks to a multi-colored gradient fade across the Engineered Mesh upper.
A nod to one of the great attractions of Los Angeles, the “Venice Beach” colorway featured a series of abstract red, yellow, blue, and grey streaks unlike any other color or pattern applications seen on the Kobe 8.
Nike beefed up the Kobe 8 with the Elite installment, adding Dynamic Flywire and a carbon fiber heel-cup for added stability. A pristine Black/Gold version and the Superhero edition were the only two releases of the model, and with Kobe going down with his ankle injury before the postseason, viewers never got the chance to see much of the Kobe 8 Elite in action.
Surprisingly, very few Lakers-friendly versions of the Kobe 8 were released. One of the select few was the “Purple Gradient”, which featured a light-to-dark fade on the EM upper atop a speckled black midsole. With no storytelling elements or fancy nickname, this colorway stood on its own merits, making it an easy choice for Kobe 8 sleeper of the year.
The Kobe 8 went off-court with the NSW Lifestyle model, opting for a significantly simplified construction featuring classic vulc soles and ambitious upper materials like a textured green snakeskin effect and a Mexican blanket-inspired motif.
The soccer boot design aesthetic has been a key driver to the success of the Nike Kobe signature line, but it wasn’t until the Mambacurial that the concept came full circle. This summer release combined the Kobe 8 silhouette with the Mercurial Vapor cleats, porting over the trademark colorway and detailing for an incredible collision of two worlds.
It’s well known that Kobe Bryant is a revered figure in Asia, so it’s not surprising that Nike has worked some Asia exclusive colorways into the mix. Stateside Kobe fans were pining away for this elusive release boasting an insane exploding sparks graphic treatment.
Channeling the beast within Kobe, Nike brought out snakeskin in the form of the Pit Viper graphic. The initial Purple colorway was followed by a Green Glow version later on, while the graphic print itself became a selectable option on NIKEiD.
A major landmark was reached with the unveiling of the Flyknit-infused high-top Nike Kobe 9, and it was celebrated with an exclusive media event at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant, Eric Avar, and Nike CEO Mark Parker were all in attendance for the kick-off just prior to the Black Mamba’s triumphant return from injury.
The popular “What The” concept returned to the Kobe silo for the second straight year, drawing the very best details of the Kobe 8 catalog, as well as some new ones, and juxtaposing them all onto one single mis-matched pair.
The Nike Kobe line finally reached Retro territory with the introduction of the Prelude Pack. All eight signature models were designed with a specific style of art in mind, with imagery depicting key moments from each year.
Perhaps the final bang before the launch of the Kobe 9, Nike brought the snake theme to the world of 3D with the eye-popping Kobe 8 SS, featuring a highly texturized upper with protruding silver studded scales.