Kobe Bryant started 2009 in his prime. Seven years after the Lakers’ secured their three-peat — with MVP Shaquille O’Neal at the helm — Kobe would finally lead LA to their first Shaq-free NBA Championship of the new millennium.
Any concern that the Black Mamba was nearing the end of his career was quickly dispelled — further reinforced the following year by a back-to-back championship win. Kobe had secured his spot as the top-paid player in the NBA, a position he would hold for the rest of his career. On the inside though, age was catching up with Kobe, and more than a decade of professional play had started to take its toll. It wouldn’t take long for the cracks to begin to show. The period from 2009 to 2014 was an emotional rollercoaster for Kobe fans, filled with hard-fought victories, crippling injury and some of the most memorable sneakers of his entire career.
Read on for our breakdown of Kobe Bryant’s most iconic sneaker moments from 2009 to 2014.
NIKE ZOOM KOBE 4 (2009)
Often regarded as the best shoe in Kobe’s entire sneaker history, the Zoom Kobe 4 won praise for both its looks and performance. It will be forever regarded as a turning point for the Kobe line that would see it adopt a more diverse range of colourways outside the usual spectrum. Light and lower than any basketball shoe before it, a huge departure from the high-top Zoom Kobe 3, the ZK4 redefined the essential components of b-ball footwear. The ZK4 also helped Kobe on his way to the Lakers’ fourth title, and the team’s first championship ring since Shaq emptied his locker. Kobe scored 61 points against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden rocking a pair of yellow-laced blacked out ZK4s on February 2, 2009.
NIKE ZOOM KOBE 5 (2010)
The Zoom Kobe 5 managed to drop even more weight than its predecessor and ramp up the eccentric range of colourways. The ZK5 would prove to be Kobe’s last championship winning shoe, narrowly claiming victory over the Celtics 4-3. For the final game of the Finals, Kobe donned a gold-trimmed pair of pure white ZK5s for that extra bit of winner’s luck.
NIKE ZOOM KOBE 7 (2012)
For the 2012 London Olympic Games, Kobe would wear the Zoom Kobe 7 in patriotic red, white and blue. Team USA followed up from their 2008 dominance, securing Kobe his second, and last, Olympic gold medal.
NIKE ZOOM KOBE 8 (2013)
The Zoom Kobe 8 holds its place in Kobe footwear history out of infamy. On April 12, 2013, the Lakers faced off against the Warriors in an absolute nail-biter. With just 3:08 left on the clock, and the Lakers down 109-107, Kobe took the ball and drove against Harrison Barnes at the top of the key. Suddenly, Kobe collapsed, clutching his left ankle in agony. The unstoppable had been stopped — his Achilles tendon was torn and the Black Mamba sidelined for months of recovery. The Lakers went on to secure the win that night, 118-116, and make it into the playoffs but, with Kobe out of action, they were stopped by the Spurs with four consecutive losses.
NIKE ZOOM KOBE 9 ELITE (2014)
Returning to the game after his Achilles injury, Kobe returned to the league in a shoe unlike anything he had rocked on court before. The Zoom Kobe 9 emerged as a super-high cut silhouette, to compensate for his 2013 injury — a drastic change from Kobe’s usual low profile sneaks. The ZK9 would also set a first in basketball footwear as the first to incorporate lightweight Flyknit into its design.