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On December 4, Nike unveiled the much-anticipated Kobe 9 Elite at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. The moment you walked through the doors you were greeted by a life size gold-plated version of Kobe’s logo – drawn to resemble the sheath of a samurai’s sword. Kobe is one of the few athletes, joining Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, LeBron James and Vince Carter, who have been worthy of getting their own marks, so it’s no surprise that he’s flaunting it.

In addition to unveiling the new Kobe 9, Nike revealed the Kobe Prelude Pack which features all eight of Bryant’s previous signature shoes. Celebrating his career accomplishments linked with art movements, the pack acted as the focal point of the event leading up the official unveiling of the high-top. In the gallery, all eight shoes were suspended above gloss-white podiums that featured gold-lettered descriptions detailing the importance of each release. Working closely with Nike on developing technically innovative shoes that are driven by performance and combined with creative storytelling, Kobe has successfully built the foundation for one of the biggest fan bases in sports by producing his signature shoes on an intimate level. Each of the eight Prelude Pack shoes will release weekly beginning with the Nike Zoom Kobe I Prelude on Saturday, December 7.

Nike staff then guided us to the rear of the gallery where we laid eyes on the world’s first basketball shoe to incorporate Nike Flyknit, got our hands on all the materials used during the design process and had the opportunity to check out a few of the shoe’s earliest versions. “We are just scratching the surface of the potential of Nike Flyknit to transform the way we design shoes to meet athletes’ needs,” said Mark Parker, president and CEO of Nike. “The Kobe 9 redefines the basketball shoe by combining power, strength, and flexibility with lightweight materials and a whole new method of manufacturing.” Before we knew it, Nike creative director and vice president of innovation, Eric Avar, was delving even further into the revolutionary technology, “Nike Flyknit acts as a second skin for Kobe, giving him engineered strength similar to the design of a spider web – tension and strength just where it’s needed.”

After working with him for over a decade, Mark Parker and Eric Avar have built quite the relationship with Kobe. The three sat in the front of the room for nearly an hour going back and forth about all the ideas and obstacles that they faced when looking to create the perfect basketball shoe. “I draw inspiration from where I am as a player, as a person, and where my career is at this moment,” Kobe reflected. “I’m trying to do something that the majority of people think is impossible to do. I let my emotions out when I step on the basketball floor, it’s always been my escape, and these shoes will touch a nerve on the court in the same way I do.”

The Kobe 9 Elite features three key technologies: Nike Flyknit, Flywire and Lunarlon, giving the shoe unsurpassed lightweight performance. Reverting back to a higher silhouette for the first time since his third signature shoe in 2007, the Kobe 9 Elite features a knit collar for the feel of a low-top with the support of a mid-top, and nine red embroidered details on the heel that act as a reminder to Kobe’s achilles sutures. One of the shoe’s truly unique features is the design on its outsole, which is based on the pressure mapping of Kobe’s own foot creating a beautiful pattern while providing superior traction on court.

The Kobe 9 Elite releases globally on February 8, 2014, at Nike and select global retail locations.

Photography: Christian Prieto for Highsnobiety

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