When Kobe became high-key incapacitated due to his Achilles injury at the end of the 2012-13 season his future on the court seemed bleak. Players in the tail ends of their careers don’t bounce back from injuries very well and Kobe was no different – we all (sadly) knew he was done that fateful game against the Golden State Warriors. With that said Kobe’s future with Nike never deviated – the line would live on.
The Nike Kobe 8’s low profile and high range of motion (due to the shoe’s soccer boot inspiration) didn’t help prevent Kobe’s injury one bit, so Nike needed to create something on the opposite end of the protective spectrum with Bryant’s next shoe. So the biggest question became “what’s the most supportive and lightweight type of shoe across sport?” Boxing boots were the answer because of their high (cut) yet mobile, unrestrictive, design. Nike couldn’t make Kobe a literal boxing boot made of leather though so they utilized their newest and most versatile technology – Flyknit.
The Kobe 9 Elite (high and low versions) was the first basketball shoe to feature Flyknit construction and the results were perfect. Nike used the tech in two ways: to reinforce key areas like the Achilles toe box, and to keep the mid-foot breathable and flexible. Fused construction rounded out the upper to maintain structural integrity. Familiar elements like Flywire, carbon fiber and rubber finish up the Kobe 9 Elite from a tech standpoint.
In this installment of Sample Sunday lets take a look at how the Nike Kobe 9 Elite went from what we see below to the image above!
You’re looking at one of the later, more complete, versions of the Nike Kobe 9. This pair used the EM (engineered mesh) we got from the more ‘budget friendly’ Kobe 9 EM but in a true mid cut. Everything from the ankle pads down look to be very similar, if not identical, to the final EM version released to retail.
This pair in a Suns friendly blend or orange and purple shows what the early concepts of the Kobe 9 Elite looked like. These appear to be in the conceptual phase with a super soft ankle, blended Flyknit overlays and rough outsole. We can see that the overall vibe of the carbon fiber heel counter was an early choice that made it all the way through to the final product. These look unwearable but show how far the Kobe 9 Elite High went from beginning to end.
This version looks like a precursor to the Nike Lunar Epic High that used a truly sock-like upper. We can see how the Flyknit in this pair runs unchecked too (aka without any fused accents).
What would you call this shape? I say “mega rounded”. We’ll also say this is like V.3 of the Flyknit experiment too.
Now we’re starting to get to versions that look familiar to what we got at retail. This Flyknit appears to closely replicate the final version but without any fused sealers nor outsole.
Final product… mostly.
Images via The PromoTagged and SoleCollector.