In 2015, we had the honor of interviewing and shooting Kobe Bryant for Highsnobiety Magazine. Now we're making images from that shoot available for you to own. All profits will go to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation and you can shop the selection here.
The adidas Kobe 2 is one of the most unorthodox performance shoes ever created; at first glance it's a shoe that looks like it simply doesn't belong anywhere near a basketball court, much less on the foot of a superstar athlete.
Since it debuted in 2001, the shoe has garnered coverage from across the web, including headlines calling it "NSFW," a "monstrosity," the "Ugliest Sneakers Kobe Bryant Ever Wore," and articles that asked questions like "Is it a sneaker? Is it a toaster?"
Its predecessor the Kobe 1 was conceptualized by designer Eirik Lund Nielsen, who famously used the Audi TT Roadster to inform its shape. Eastbay catalogues explained the $124.99 shoe with auto-inspired design language, describing the heel and toe as the "spoiler" and "grill" respectively. Quotes from Nielsen featured in the catalog, revealing, “The key to the design of The Kobe was the collaboration process between the automotive industry and footwear industry, inspired by a unique design approach. Traditionally, footwear design starts with the last and builds outward. With The Kobe, we built the shoe from the outside in. The quality materials married with a unique design approach have led to one of the most innovative basketball shoes to hit the market in recent history.”
The futuristic Kobe Two took that same design language and channeled it into an even more bizarre-looking low-top, that arrived in a handful of monotone colorways, however the highlight of the bunch was arguably the martian-esque silver edition. Following the 9/11 attacks, Bryant also donned an American flag-themed pair of Kobe 2s on the opening night of the 01-02 season. The shoe released to the public on December 7, 2001.
The shoe came with a blitz of TV advertisements and placements in magazines, including one particular commercial that remains iconic to this day.
Reportedly unhappy with the Kobe 2, it would be the final three-stripe signature shoe worn by Black Mamba, when he sported the divisive design during the 01-02 season. A shoe that didn't look much like a shoe, Bryant eventually rejected the Kobe 2, opting for the original Kobe 1 for the Lakers’ Finals run during that season. Kobe even went on record about the adidas Kobe 2 for The Corp podcast, speaking about adidas and saying "That company doesn't count," and going on to state, "That's what taught me that I need to lead the design charge."
Bryant actually opted to buy out his contract with adidas, and after a brief sneaker free agency period, Bryant would sign with Nike in June 2003, leaving behind a tumultuous sneaker collaboration with adidas behind to start anew with Nike.
Years after Kobe Bryant had left for Nike, adidas had started capitalizing on nostalgia by treating his sneaker to retro releases, replacing the “Kobe” moniker with “Crazy.” For example, the Kobe 1 was now the Crazy 1. The adidas brand skipped over the Kobe 2 though, choosing instead to dub the KB8 II as the Crazy 2.
In an age when anti-beauty aesthetics have never been more dominant, and shoes like Crocs and Balenciaga's Triple S possess real cool factor, maybe the adidas Kobe 2 would fit in perfectly today.
Although it was received as somewhat of a design blunder at the time, the Kobe 2 is a shoe that is intrinsically tied to the story of Kobe Bryant, an athlete who leaves behind a legacy as one of the greatest artists who has ever played in the NBA, a tour de force on the hardwood, Was the adidas Kobe 2 a far cry from a traditional basketball shoe? Sure. At the same time, was it a daring step outside of design conventions? Yes, and the design paired with Kobe's heritage makes it one of the most noteworthy basketball shoes of all time.