He’s got five NBA championships, two Finals MVP awards, is a one-time league MVP, and has joined the All-Star team 18 times all while being part of the storied Los Angeles Lakers franchise for all 20 years of his celebrated basketball career—and his legacy doesn’t stop there.
His name: Kobe “Black Mamba” Bryant.
With all his on-court achievements, the Lakers saw it fit to not just retire one, but two jerseys that the legendary player wore during his illustrious career.
As our own little way to pay tribute, we created a rundown of Kobe’s most iconic sneakers as he evolved into becoming one of the best players in NBA history.
1) Adidas EQT Elevation
Most fans don’t consider these kicks as part of Kobe’s most popular shoes out there, but you know what they say—you can never forget your first. It might not be a full-fledged signature shoe, but he did win the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk competition with some sick between-the-legs finishers all while rocking the Adidas EQT Elevation.
2) Adidas The Kobe
Whether they look like space boots or not, fans either loved these kicks for its futuristic style, or flat out hated everything about them. The unique design was based on the sleek TT Roadster after Audi and Adidas decided to team up in 2000. Meanwhile, Kobe won the first of his five rings with these kicks. The succeeding models of The Kobe would also gain popularity after the Lakers guard went on to secure the first sensational three-peat after the Michael Jordan era.
3) Nike Air Zoom Huarache 2K4
In 2004, Kobe decided to ditch Adidas so he could ink a more profitable partnership with Nike. But a couple of legal contracts prevented them from creating a signature shoe, prompting Kobe to choose the Huarache 2K4, one of his first ever shoes with the global sports apparel giant.
4) Nike Zoom Kobe 1
Nike was finally allowed to create Kobe’s first signature shoe for the NBA’s 2005-2006 season, but this move didn’t translate to a fourth ring for the three-time champ. Rings and titles aside, Kobe did drop a career-high 81 points during a total demolition job against the hapless Toronto Raptors while wearing the Nike Zoom Kobe 1.
5) Nike Zoom Kobe IV
It’s been five long years since Kobe last won the championship, but things were about to change with the Nike Zoom Kobe IV. His fourth signature shoe was among the first to feature flywire and lunar foam technology that helped give him just the right push to capture his fourth NBA title, plus his first Finals MVP award.
6) Nike Zoom Kobe V
Following his success during the previous season, Kobe would go on to commit to the low top design that he helped to create for his signature line with the Nike Zoom Kobe V. The result: his fifth ring, a second two-peat and a back-to-back Finals MVP awards.
7) Kobe XI
These kicks are probably best known for being Kobe’s last signature shoe line during his active career as a basketball player. While the fresh design and perfected flyknit were indeed top-notch, these weren’t enough to lift Father Time’s curse on an aging Kobe, who by this time has already suffered various injuries in his 20-year career. Despite this, the Black Mamba still went out with a bang, exploding for 60 points in his final game against the Utah Jazz while wearing a limited edition Fade to Black pair of the Kobe XI.
8) Kobe A.D.
Can you guess what the initials stand for? Here’s a hint: these were Kobe’s first post-retirement signature sneakers. As a retired player, Kobe said that he needed his shoe line to embody the essence of his symbolic “passing away” as an NBA player. Hence, his "resurrection" shoe was dubbed“After Death” instead of the Kobe XII.