Lets take a quick, Rick & Morty-like, history lesson… On March 21, 2018 DeMar DeRozan debuted the latest iteration in the long running Kobe Bryant signature line – the Kobe A.D. 360 NXT. This wasn’t the first time the latest Kobe had to be unveiled on-court by well… not Kobe; the IX made its debut on the feet of then Laker Nick Young. Kobe’s tenth signature shoe was personally worn by Bryant and teammates like DeAngelo Russell. The XI would be the last shoe Bryant rocked on-court and he wore them during one of the greatest ‘last games’ of all time (“The 60-Point Mic Drop”). Last season we saw almost every non-signature Nike athlete like Isiah Thomas and Devon Booker rock a PE version of the Kobe (12) A.D. Mid; and, bringing us full circle to the newest Kobe signature shoe, the A.D. 360 NXT (AKA Kobe 13-ish). We dysfunctionally described the last five Kobe releases to highlight the inconsistency the line has had to endure. During the Kobe 8’s lifecycle no one expected Kobe to tear his achilles and take a quick turn towards retirement. He was at the top of his game, Kobe the player and Kobe the shoe line finally showed their mortality and (in our opinion) no one was prepared. Nike figured the IX would drop in-hand with Kobe’s superhero return from a normally catastrophic injury for a player his age without a hitch, but plan B was excited and Nick Young wore the shoes. This trend of uncertainty centering around Kobe and the effect it had on future releases (and overall direction of the line) to the point where we’ve had an evolution of the Kobe A.D. three seasons in a row in stead of three signature Kobe shoes.
The A.D. Low, OG, whatever you want to call it released with a theme that revolved around Kobe’s spiritual successors on the court. Nike said it best, “Noted for his cerebral approach, Bryant’s transition from player to mentor focuses on transference of his revered “Mamba Mentality.” This is evident in both his approach to the game’s intricacies — from footwork to reading defenses — and his consideration of equipment.” The linage of Kobe’s “Mamba Mentality” culminated organically because many athletes credit Kobe’s mindset as a tool during personal mental battles anyway. Instead of continuing the Kobe line using a traditional numbering system, Nike opted to designate post-NBA Kobes with ‘A.D’. The literal translation of “anno domini” from Medieval Latin is the year of our Lord. In relationship to Kobe it symbolizes the years after basketball.
Here’s where things start getting complex. After the A.D. came the A.D. Mid which wouldn’t normally cause confusion, but unlike historical high/mid/low versions of shoes and their unified grouping (ie. we don’t consider the Jordan II and II Low as completely entries in the Jordan line – they’re just two variations of one entry) was broken so it feels like the A.D. and A.D. Mid are unrelated. Design wise they look different enough to warrant this duality but then Nike should have renamed the A.D. Mid the ‘B.C.’ or something. When the Mid dropped the OGs went on steep discount and Nike started phasing out the low top versions like they were trying to move on from something… We couldn’t put our finger on their logic. The OG A.D.s looked good, came in great colorways and had a great story behind them. In comparison, the Mid didn’t carry on the same storytelling elements as its predecessor and released in a lot of TB (team bank aka generic team based colors) colorways and endorser themed designs so the shoe overall didn’t feel really associated with Bryant. The Mid could easily have the Kobe branding removed and call it a brand new team shoe (non-signature), but hey, we don’t call the marketing shots at Nike.
A lot like the A.D. Mid, Kobe’s next signature release the A.D. 360 NXT came out of nowhere. Unlike the Mid, this A.D. introduced a brand new design that felt like a far departure from the last two entries into the Kobe line. Lets not forget to mention the A.D. NXT which was a shrouded version of the OG A.D. – that wasn’t a hot look. So in total we’ve had four Kobe shoes released over two seasons in very close succession under the same titling. If this is going to be the future of the Kobe like, this being the A.D. naming, then consumers are going to be confused on what’s ‘new’ and ‘what’s a new version of an old shoe’. Since the Kobe IX the line as a whole has become very modular but this is reaching a new level. What do you think about the Kobe signature line since Kobe’s retirement? Are you confused too? Are we looking too far into this? Let us know on Instagram!