♪He is just an icon living ♪♫… in Los Angles … and it’s sweet being the local Nike sponsored university. The icon is Kobe Bryant (not Jayden Smith) and that lucky school is USC. For over a decade the Trojans of USC have been lacing up Kobe signature basketball shoes. Recently they’ve been relegated to less eye catching, but serviceable, TB (team bank aka generic team colors) editions of the Paul George 1, Kobe 11/ AD and Hyperdunks. But collectors still reminisce on the ‘golden era’ of Kobe x USC exclusives of seasons prior. From 2009-2011 Kobe sat confidently on his NBA throne and Eric Avar (lead designer on Kobe signature line) was cranking out classic footwear. Ballers across southern California devotedly rocked Kobe’s shoes like SoCal native DeMar DeRozan. DeMar would end up bringing his talents to USC in 2009 and his love for Kobe’s would spread across the campus. Coincidence? Maybe. Tupac said it best:
“To live and die in L.A
It’s the place to be.
You’ve got to be there to know it
What everybody wanna see”
It’s true, tons of people want to see Los Angeles for themselves. The city has historically been a huge draw in USC’s recruiting process. Nike’s relationship with the university only multiplies the allure by outfitting athletes with some of the freshest gear in the country. Combining Kobe’s successful footwear & fame, geographical location and the tradition of USC, Nike laced up Trojans in these iconic Kobe x USC renditions.
Kobe IV, 2009
DeRozan approved with a sharp patent leather toebox and two-tone outsole splatter. Random features, but two that help make the shoe pop (see cover image above). USC’s logo on the heel make ‘these superficial things super official.’ NCAA sanctions the following season banned tournament play for the next there years. The O.J. Mayo’s ineligibility scandal took these beauties off of the national spotlight so these were the only pair of this trio worn during March Madness.
Kobe V, 2010
Armor-like details wrapping around the upper give this Kobe V it’s unique Trojan Warrior look. 3M wasn’t used on the shoe but the detailing is more visible in different lighting. Gold accents on the branding and laces give this iteration more pop. Like the year before, USC branding on the heel elevates the shoe from good to grail.
Kobe VI, 2011
This is where things get interesting… The Kobe VI’s DNA is that of a snake and it’s easily noticeable throughout the upper. This design choice makes for a subtle, contouring, print that elevates the familiar scheme to new heights. The evolution from crimson patent leather –> crimson armor print –> full body crimson texture. Branding shifted to the lateral heel due to the smooth plastic finish of the heel counter. Building off the Kobe V, the VI utilizes no white accents making this version the most color saturated.
It’s important not to forget the PE’s during USC’s forgotten seasons. There’s a chance of the Trojans making the NCAA Tournement this month. If so, it would be nice to see a player bust out some of these classics. I’d be happy if Nike released any of these gems… in my dreams it’s happened already, but until then dreaming will have to do. Tell us if you think USC will make the tourney and let us know which pair you’d like to see release.