In March of 2022, the sneaker landscape and Kobe Bryant fanatics rejoiced. Nike and the Bryant estate had secured a new partnership that rang true to the continuation of the five-time Champion’s signature line.
In total, 10 Protro toolings have been prepared so far to roll out throughout the coming holiday season and next summer. From the Nike Kobe 4 and 6 to a quartet of Kobe 8’s, these renovated silhouettes bear the exact same resemblance as their original counterparts featuring updated court-ready technology.
Bryant’s passing and immortal inspiration were felt more than anywhere within the NBA community. When the latter two entities failed to initially come to an agreement, players across the League began stockpiling any and all Kobe shoes they could get their hands on. With beloved styles of the past and all-new color blockings set to hit the market as soon as Mamba Day – August 24th – the Beaverton brand will be assessing the professional landscape for the next crop of leaders to helm the late Bryant’s brand.
All photos courtesy of athlete Instagram accounts and NBA Kicks.
Few players in the League exclusively hoop in Kobe Bryant’s line. And none have been as influential as DeMar DeRozan.
The Compton native has been rocking Kob’s silhouettes since his high school days and ensuing career at USC. Studying Bryant’s game as he grew up in LA, the 6’6 guard mirrors the allure of the 18-time All-Star’s signature fadeaways and masterful midrange work.
As the 33-year-old moves into the latter stages of his career, his future with The Swoosh is all but secured – having signed a new four-year deal last August. With over 100 pairs of Kobe’s stashed away at the United Center for a season’s worth of games and practices, DeRozan will surely have a hand in marketing the upcoming Protro line via the NBA hardwood. All the while, he’s laid out the blueprint for future athletes to come.
“If it’s basketball, it’s Kobes. It’s nothing else. That’s all I wear. He was my idol growing up,” Julius Randle told Bleacher Report back in September 2021.
In youth leagues as a kid, Randle channeled Bryant’s inspiration by sporting both #8 and #24 jerseys. Getting drafted by the Lakers in 2014 and playing with his idol for two seasons was a full-circle moment.
The Dallas native has been a member of the Swoosh family since inking a deal as the seventh overall pick in the 2014 Draft. Since then, Randle has been bestowed with a number of PEs. He’s also provided first looks at promotional pairs like the Kobe 6 Protro “BHM”, confirming his continued ambassadorship in concert with the coming wave of Protro releases.
If there’s anyone in the WNBA that’s truly repping the Mamba Mentality, look no further than two-time Finals Champion Jewell Loyd. Assuming the role of head honcho for a youthful Seattle Storm team, the five-time All-Star is averaging career highs across the board; dropping 24.1 points per game while shooting 38 percent from three.
When the Notre Dame product entered the W in 2015, Bryant anointed Loyd as the ‘Gold Mamba’ for her innate scoring ability and relentless attack. Their mentorship quickly took off. Loyd would often pick his brain and drum up questions over social media and at Lakers games during holiday breaks from college.
On the court, Loyd continues to champion Kobe’s admiration for the women’s game. Meanwhile, she’s dedicating her career milestones in his memory – scoring a career-high 41 points in the Kobe 6 Protro “EYBL”.
Back in the midst of July, New York Knicks star point guard Jalen Brunson was asked if he’d ever want his own signature shoe. “Honestly, I’d rather have an unlimited supply of Kobe’s versus [having] my own shoe,” he responded to Overtime.
Brunson has been rocking Bean’s signature line since he was named Mr. Basketball of Illinois as a junior at Stevenson High School. If you were to ask the Southpaw what his favorite Kobe is, he’d say the politically correct answer is the Kobe 6 “Grinch” – which he dropped a career-high 46 points in against the Cavs in March.
According to Kixstats, Brunson played over 78% of the 2022-23 season in Kobe silhouettes. He has shown favoritism towards the Kobe 5 and 6 in recent years, furthering the visibility of his Protro line within one of the biggest markets in the world.
Throughout the early stages of his career, Anthony Davis resided as the main endorser of the Beaverton brand’s big man-centric footwear. Most often found in the Air Max Audacity, the 6’10 forward made the switch to Kobe’s footwear after a 2019 blockbuster trade that sent him to Los Angeles.
Since then, the Chicago native has favored the Kobe 4, 5 and 6 while teasing future releases. In May of 2021, Davis took to Instagram Live to preview the Nike Kobe 6 Protro “Reverse Grinch”. Up until then, the opposing color blocking of one of Bryant’s most beloved pairs had just been a fanciful rumor. Now, the silhouette is slated for a release this coming Christmas.
Knowing that Bryant’s sixth signature shoe is his go-to on gameday, we can expect the 6’11 man in the middle to preview a number of the coming Protro releases in the house that Kobe helped build.
From his hometown of Philly to the Italian provinces where he spent his early years, Kobe Bryant’s impact on the game of basketball is globally renowned. Growing up in the Bahamas, Buddy Hield idolized Bean. When Hield led Oklahoma to the Final Four in 2016, Bryant was sitting courtside, reportedly “blown away” by the then 24-year-old shooting guard.
The Freeport native would continue to sport #24 in honor of Kobe’s immense personal effect. During his rookie campaign with the New Orleans Pelicans, Nike gifted Hield with a Player Exclusive pair of the Kobe A.D. – an uncommon occurrence for a first-year player under contract with the Beaverton brand.
Since then, the Indiana Pacers sharpshooter has sported Kobe-exclusive models. After signing a multi-year extension with Nike in November of 2022, the eighth-year guard may become privy to an expanded arsenal of silhouettes over the coming months in connection to his Caribbean roots.
Tyrese Haliburton grew up a LeBron James fanatic and thus often shaded Bryant’s greatness in favor of propping up The King. But eventually, he grew to appreciate Kobe’s intense fervor on the court as he excelled at Iowa State.
A month before he would be selected by the Sacramento Kings in 2020, Haliburton told then ESPN anchor Rachel Nichols that his first big NBA purchase would be a pair of the Nike Kobe 6 “Grinch”. Following a trade that sent him to headline the backcourt for the Indiana Pacers, Haliburton fused the silhouettes of his two basketball idols into one with the Air Zoom Generation x Nike Kobe 6 Custom. 19 assists later and social media was in a frenzy.
As the 2022-23 All-Star enters the latter years of his rookie endorsement deal with The Swoosh, the likes of the Kobe 8 Protro are sure to make an appearance in Indianapolis this fall.
At 7’5 with the handles of a guard, Victor Wembanyama has been positioned as the NBA’s next generational talent. Alongside Gregg Popovich and co. the San Antonio Spurs have solidified their frontcourt piece for the future.
While the 19-year-old Frenchman has become particularly fond of the G.T. Run, we can’t help the idea of Wemby dawning Bryant’s sleek low-tops and drop-in constructions that he’s appeared to favor throughout his time with Metropolitans 92 in France.
Wembanyama has been a Nike athlete dating back to his professional days across the pond, so it’s not far out of the realm of possibility that the reigning No. 1 overall pick could explore the brand’s expansive footwear archives. In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait and hope.
Comparisons between Shaedon Sharpe and Kobe Bryant’s early careers have been routinely drawn over the past few years. Both burst off the ground with a complete abandonment for landing when soaring to the rim. Both utilize fast-twitch athleticism to fly past defenders. Both assume full confidence behind each and every shot.
Sharpe completes the Bryant endorsement package with a knack for Kobe’s full on-court discography. He favors the Kobe 9 Low – going as far as to cut off the collar of the Elite’s “All-Star” colorway for a Summer League matchup in July.
The Canadian’s connection to his all-time favorite player went as far as playing all 80 games of his rookie campaign in Bryant’s signature line. After signing a multi-year deal with Nike shortly after his selection to the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2023 NBA Draft, the 6’6 20-year-old will have a bevy of options at his disposal come Year 2.