Ironically enough, Kobe’s first ever exclusive signature shoe with Nike was not developed by Eric Avar, but rather, Nike Basketball Design Director, Ken Link. At the time, Avar was away on medical leave.
“I think the best thing about Kobe is when he looks at a shoe, he wants to see himself and his game in his shoe”, said Link about Kobe’s involvement in the development process.
The Nike Zoom Kobe I was created with the successful aspects of the 2K4 and 2K5 Zoom Huaraches in mind, but make no mistakes about it, these kicks were made with only the Mamba’s specific needs at the top of the priority list.
While the Zoom Kobe IV has been an obvious trend setting sneaker with the low-top cut, one of the main elements Kobe wanted to shed from the Huarache series was the strap on the collar because even then, he wanted to experiment with a lower line for the collar. How low he could go was still up in the air at that time, but even on the Zoom Kobe I, we can see a lowered collar line, with the collar itself made of a perforated soft fabric.
Contrary to Kobe’s usual demands as far as weight goes, he asked Link to add slightly more cushion and padding due to the fact that he had bulked up over the summer to a rock solid 225 playing weight. With that request fulfilled and the usual two Zoom air bags in place, the Kobe I boasted excellent cushion and support, despite being minimally heavier than the other kicks the Mamba had worn with Nike.
The few aspects Kobe preferred to keep and even expand upon were the pronounced outrigger and a molded TPU wrap around the heel. The heel of the shoe was of particular interest and importance to Kobe because he could not afford any slip of his foot within the shoe, especially at the heel due to his ever present need to make quick movements in games. With the final crucial piece being a high quality traction pattern on the outsole, the sneaker was ready to assist the Mamba in his NBA crusade.
If there’s any question about the reliability and performance of the Zoom Kobe I, look no further than January 22, 2006 as supreme evidence. On that very day, wearing the White/Black/Varsity Purple colorway of the very shoes we have been discussing, Kobe scored an astonishing 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, setting the second highest single game scoring mark in NBA history. So as you can imagine, these sneakers are of particular significance to both Ken Link and Kobe.
The Mamba had a message to send to all of his haters out there in a classic Kobe commercial. Scope it!
[Original Release: 2006; Weight: 17.15 oz.; Players: Kobe Bryant]