How many professional athletes are so legendary that they are celebrated around the globe and throughout social media on back to back days? The answer is one, and that is Kobe Bryant. With a birthday that lands on 8/23 and “Mamba Day” that lands on 8/24, which are the two jersey numbers that Kobe Bryant wore during his career, the Black Mamba is still top of mind for sneakerheads. The longevity and importance of Kobe Bryant signature sneakers cannot be overstated. From his early years, fresh out of high school and signed with adidas, through his free agency year during the 2002-2003 season, his 11 signature sneakers with Nike before he retired, and even beyond, thanks to the Nike Kobe AD line, the Black Mamba’s sneakers have been at the forefront of performance basketball shoes.
As you scroll through this list of the best Kobe Bryant signature sneakers, keep in mind that we only included models with Kobe’s name or initials included. That means shoes that may be associated with him, like the adidas Top Ten 2000, Nike Zoom Huarache 2K4, Nike Zoom Huarache 2K5, and the countless exclusive colorways he’s had along the way in various models are not included.
20. Nike Kobe AD Mid
To me, the AD Mid comes across as very lazy. It doesn’t look much different from the previous model, and it’s just kind of boring. What they did with the layered knit Swoosh was dope though.
19. Nike Kobe AD 2016
It’s not the Kobe AD did anything particularly wrong, it’s just the fact that it didn’t do anything particularly right… It was low, it had the Kobe logo and utilized Zoom cushioning, but outside of that everything was extremely ‘meh.’ Kudos to the stylish, Vegeta-like, heel clip though, that was awesome.
18. Nike Kobe AD NXT
Between the backward-facing Swoosh, the shroud, and the quick lace system underneath it, the AD NXT stands out from the rest of the retirement-era AD models. If this model received better colorways and some more on-court appearances, it would be much higher on the list.
17. adidas KB8 3
Most people have been wearing a piece of the adidas KB8 3 for the past few years and they don’t even know it. The YEEZY 500 uses the same tooling as this Kobe Bryant signature sneaker that originally released in 1999. To me, it’s a perfect representation of the era. In fact, if you look closely, you can kind of see the similarities in the shape of the And1 Tai Chi, which Vince Carter won the dunk contest in that same season.
16. adidas KB8 2
The adidas KB8 II was another that utilized Feet You Wear technology. If you hooped in these back in the day, they are probably higher up your list. The layered paneling and three-dimensional textures are still impressive to this day. T-Mac also laced up the white pair when he was playing in Toronto, so there’s that.
15. Nike Kobe 11
Kobe played his last game in the 11, so it’s important enough that I’d pick up a pair of the Fade To Blacks even though it’s relatively boring. That says everything you need to know about this shoe. Mamba out.
14. Nike Kobe 3
The Kobe 3 is my least favorite from the early years of the Nike Kobe shoes. I appreciate the attempt to tie in the waffle sole but it just feels like a miss to me.
13. Nike Kobe 2
The Kobe 2 was not as impressive to me as the Kobe 1, but I’m a sucker for straps, so it gets a thumbs up. Looking at it now, the rounded shape of the outsole seems much more drastic than I remember it.
12. Nike Kobe 7
I love the interchangeable aspects of the Nike Kobe 7 “System” and this release had some of the best commercials of all the Kobe sneakers.
Awesome colorways but was a complete torture trap for my feet! That’s all I have on these…hahaha
11. adidas Kobe 1
First things first, Frobe comes to mind. This was my first ever Kobe sneaker. Definitely a bit bulky in today’s sneaker standards but definitely a classic.
Kobe was a young bull by 1998 and the Kobe 1 harnessed his new-age style of play within a sneaker with pure style. They’re not for everyone and that’s okay, but you can’t tell me that another shoe looks like the adidas Kobe (in a positive sense).
10. Nike Kobe AD 2018
Sometimes a shoe just looks good, like darn good, and the latest Kobe AD installment is surely a looker. From a performance standpoint, they shined; and they were Kyle Kuzma’s weapon of choice throughout the 2018-19 season too. Every element of the upper was well throughout and executed perfectly. These are a change in the right direction for Kobe’s post-career kicks.
9. Nike Kobe 10
Variety is the spice of life, so the Kobe X sure was spicy. I love how they came in 3 versions: Flyknit High, Flyknit Low, and EM and how each variant offered something new to the Kobe X equation. My favorite part of the Kobe X was the cool tooling (midsole/outsole), it’s futuristic and simplistic aesthetic hit every note for me. Oh, and the HTM x Kobe X collection was hands down my favorite HTM pack ever.
8. Kobe AD NXT 360
The Kobe AD NXT 360 is one of those shoes that has such interesting tech that how it looks doesn’t even matter. The NXT 360 is basically a Flyknit sock with an outsole attached. It wraps completely around your foot, hence the “360” in the name. It’s $200 price point kept me away.
7. Nike Kobe 5
Kobe’s fifth signature shoe with Nike was great, I’m not denying that one bit, but they didn’t do anything groundbreaking in my opinion. Nike took what worked with the Kobe 4 and refined it, but I look at the 5 as a half-step towards pure greatness rather than a leap. My biggest qualm with the 5 was its plastic-y panel construction – I didn’t like it nearly as much as the Kobe 4, or the Kobe 6. Don’t get it twisted, at the end-of-the-day, I love the Kobe 5.
Although these aren’t made of premium materials, these were some of the best basketball sneakers I ever wore on court. This model is one of my favorite of the Kobe line. With colorways such as Bruce Lee and Chaos, these transitioned well for both on the court and off the court wear. Legendary sneaker, especially since Kobe, best the Celtics in this model.
6. adidas KB8
The adidas KB8, which is now called the adidas Crazy 8, is one of the most important basketball shoes in the modern era. It’s arguably the best basketball shoe adidas made before Boost. There’s also been a lot of good retro colorways over the years, which can’t be said about a lot of retros.
5. Nike Kobe 9
The boxing shoe-inspired style of the high-top version is not for me. However, the quality of materials used on the Kobe 9, and the gratuitous use of carbon fiber, is nothing short of impressive. I’m still on the hunt for a pair of the lows for a decent price.
I was never able to get my hands on these, but I was amazed by the sneaker as a whole. Definitely kicking myself for never getting these into my closet. The Flyknit construction on the Highs and Lows (no disrespect to the EM models) just looked fantastic!
4. Nike Kobe 1
Leather construction, how beautiful you are. 81 points. Legendary colorways. Yup (King of the Hill voice)
One of the best-constructed performance sneakers I’ve ever seen. Materials were amazing along with comfort. These eluded me as a kid, but I was able to secure a pair of the recently Protro-ed models.
3. Nike Kobe 4
To me, this is the best Kobe signature sneaker of all. I think if you take into consideration Kobe leading the Lakers to their first NBA Championship without Shaq, and the fact that this shoe changed the way people thought about low-cut basketball sneakers, it’s the most impactful sneaker in the whole Kobe legacy.
2. Nike Kobe 8
Okay, okay, okay, let me defend this pick right quick.
Most people may not be on board with this sneaker but it played like an absolute champ on court. The engineered mesh and drop-in Lunarlon midsole felt like it absolutely molded to my feet the more I played in them. Although I didn’t break them out casually as much as the 5 or 6, the Kobe 8 is definitely in my top 3 Kobe’s of all time. Also, Kobe showed some true grit, draining 2 free throws in these after tearing his Achilles.
1. Nike Kobe 6
What says Black Mamba more than textured snake print? Nothing, the answer is always nothing. I absolutely adored the 6’s heel clip design, I loved the breathable tongue, I loved the under-foot feel, I loved every aspect of this shoe. There’a pair of Kobe 6 FTBs in my closet alongside some OGs and I can safely say that Nike knows how to flawlessly reproduce this model – can’t wait for the Protro next year.
Hands down my favorite Kobe sneaker…Ever! I immediately fell in love with the scales on the upper. Crazy enough these pair still play well on the court almost 10 years after their original release. This was one one of the sneakers I definitely used my Champs employee discount on any chance I got. Plus all I have to say is Grinch!
I can’t rock with any of the snakeskin-like materials in the Kobe line but as I mentioned on the podcast, the launch of the Grinch Kobe 6 on Christmas Day changed the way most of the footwear brands thought about how to market sneakers. It led to me shooting courtside at the Clippers game for Li-Ning and Baron Davis, too. So I respect it, despite not being a fan of the style.
For more on Kobe Sneakers, check out Episode 45 of our podcast.
Nick Engvall is a sneaker enthusiast with over 15 years of experience in the footwear business. He has written for publications such as Complex, Sole Collector, and Sneaker News, helped companies like Eastbay, Finish Line, Foot Locker, and StockX better connect with their consumers, has an addiction to burritos and Sour Patch Kids, and owns way too many shoes for his own good.