Kobe Bryant on boxing shoes, muses and sutures: Nike unveils Kobe 9

A front and rear view of the recently unveiled Kobe 9 Elite. The nine horizontal red lines running down each heel are a nod to Kobe Bryant's Achilles tendon surgery.
(Nike Inc.)

The big reveal of Kobe Bryant’s latest signature shoe with Nike was held at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in downtown L.A. on Wednesday, an appropriate venue given that the basketball superstar sees this shoe -- the ninth to bear his name -- as a masterpiece of sorts.

“With this particular shoe, the entire concept of it is about muses,” Bryant told a clutch of journalists and sneaker bloggers at the event. “It’s about who and what in my life has inspired me since I was a kid ... aesthetically what I’m trying to do is pay homage to some of these people and those things.”

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“There’s also the concept of a masterpiece -- of it being a culmination. We’re calling it Kobe’s Ninth and, of course, you’ll find some great musical scores out there called the Ninth.”


Kobe Bryant didn’t refer to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony explicitly -- or shed much light on who or what some of the other specific muses might be (though Nike Creative Director and VP of Innovation Eric Avar hinted afterward that some of these may be revealed over time). But Bryant did say that the high-top silhouette of the Kobe 9 Elite in particular was inspired by the footwear worn a different type of athlete: wrestlers and boxers.

“I was with [boxer Manny] Pacquiao, watching him train [and] prepare for a fight,” Bryant said, “and I’m looking down at his boxing shoes and I said: ‘What if there’s something there?’”

Besides being an unusually high-profile high-top (with a diamond-quilted collar at that), the shoe is also noteworthy for being the first basketball sneaker to use Nike’s flyknit technology and the result is an extremely lightweight seamless one-piece upper.

The lead colorway is called “Masterpiece” (lest you forget, the word is sewn into the inside of the tongue of each shoe) and features a black knit mesh design over-top an artistic swirl of pixelated reds, yellows and oranges, “KB ninth” in gray around the back of the high-top collar and nine red horizontal lines embroidered down the back of the heel symbolize Bryant’s Achilles sutures.

On Friday afternoon the Los Angeles Lakers announced that Bryant, who has not played since tearing his left Achilles tendon in mid-April, would be back on the court for the Sunday matchup against the Toronto Raptors.

The Kobe 9 Elite is scheduled to roll out to retail globally Feb. 8, 2014 both in stores and online for $225.


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