The history of Kobe Bryant’s iconic shoe deal with Nike

The history of NBA star Kobe Bryant's basketball shoe deal with Nike

Kobe Basketball shoe deal comes to an end
NBA Star Kobe Bryant's basketball shoe deal ends with Nike. Credit: Stefanoaica Ionut (

Kobe Bean Bryant was one of the most talented and influential players to ever play the game of basketball.

This was clearly reflected in the fact that, in 2003, he signed a deal to became one of Nike’s esteemed signees.

The contract continued throughout the duration of his career, a period of 18 years with the company.

After he retired in 2016, he signed a five-year extension with Nike to exceed his shoe line long after his retirement.

Following his tragic death in January last year, Nike continued to release his iconic colourways to commemorate him.

Earlier this month, it was announced that the deal has now been terminated.

Here, we take a deep dive into one of greatest basketball sneaker lines in history.

Because of his tremendous talent on the basketball court, he received countless shoe deals from multiple companies. After buying out his deal with Adidas in the summer of 2002, the Lower Merion High School phenom entered a ‘sneaker free agency’.

His contract stated that he could not sign with another brand until 2003, so in the 2002-2003 season, basketball fans experienced one of the most unique things to ever happen in the NBA.

One of basketball’s generational talents could now wear any shoe he wanted, freely. In that time, he wore brands like Converse, Reebok, and classic Jordan player edition colourways.

Eventually, he signed with Nike in 2003, debuting his signing in the Zoom Huarache 2K4.

It was not until 2006 that his first signature shoe with Nike came in the form of the “Air Zoom Kobe 1”.

His most iconic performance in those shoes came on January 22 of that year against the Toronto Raptors, scoring a career high of 81 points.

He then released the Zoom Kobe 2, scoring an insane 65 points against the Portland Trail Blazers in them and the Zoom Kobe 3’s, where he won his first and only MVP award.

But it was not until the Zoom Kobe 4’s where the direction of the Kobe line changed to what it is known for today.

Kobe’s aim for this shoe was to make the “lowest cut, lightest basketball shoe”, according to designer Eric Avar.

The Zoom Kobe 5’s was the shoe that Kobe won his fifth and final championship in, winning against rivals Boston Celtics in 2010.

One of the most eye-catching renditions of the shoe came in the form of the Bruce Lee-inspired colourway.

The Zoom Kobe 6 introduced one of the most iconic colourways, not just in basketball, but for sneaker culture in general in the form of the “Grinches” which he wore on Christmas Day in 2010.

This iconic sneaker was re-released on December 24th of last year, the first time since its debut 11 years ago.

The 18 time All-Star was a huge fan of football, spending most of his childhood in Italy.

Because of this, he released one of the colourways inspired by the classic football cleat, the mercurials and named it the Zoom Kobe 8 “Mambacurial”.

The next signature shoe released in a high-top silhouette which featured 8 lines on the back, resembling the stitches Kobe received after the devastating and arguably career-ending injury, tearing his Achilles tendon.

The Zoom Kobe 11 was the last shoe he wore before retiring in 2016, cementing his legacy with a 60-point game at Staples Centre.

The Zoom Kobe line has been one of the most successful basketball shoe brands in the history of basketball, with 130 players in the league currently wearing his shoes every night (that makes 20 percent of the league in Kobe’s).

And it is not quite over just yet.

His wife Vanessa Bryant announced that there will be two more releases set to release before the end of the saga, leaving a sad, but memorable parting gifts for all basketball fans around the world.