The Nike Kobe 4 Epitomises the 'Mamba Mentality'
Without a doubt, Kobe’s greatest gift to the sneaker community was the Nike Kobe 4. This silhouette represented ‘The Black Mamba’ at the peak of his creative and playing powers. Back in 2008, Kobe was fresh off a gold medal at the Summer Games, and once again contending for an NBA championship, so he challenged Nike to reintroduce a signature low-cut basketball shoe to market. It may have been low in profile, but the Kobe 4 remains a mammoth force on (and off) courts worldwide to this day.
Embodying the ‘Mamba Mentality’, the Kobe 4 drove progression, defying convention to blaze a trail for a new generation of performance basketball sneakers.
Breaking the Mould (and Ankles)
A self-confessed devotee to the world game, Kobe questioned Nike Performance Creative Director, Eric Avar, on why soccer players were able to stay so agile despite rocking low-cut cleats. With the majority of the NBA still treading in mids and high-tops, Kobe wanted an edge – he wanted to take that ability to swiftly turn and cut from the pitch to the hardwood.,
‘In soccer, you can still wear low tops,’ Kobe said at the time. ‘So I think you need a confidence to be able to push the boundaries a little bit.’
Thus, the creative process for the Kobe 4 was born. Building the silhouette from ground up, Nike made use of a Zoom unit in the heel, encapsulated within a Phylon midsole. Additionally, LunarLite foam was inserted into the forefoot area, elevating the overall comfort and energy-return properties.
Kobe’s affinity for the Hyperdunk was well-documented at the time, so it was no surprise to see silhouette’s Flywire technology used in the Kobe 4 upper for extra support and a more locked down fit.
‘The low profile shoe allowed (Kobe) to make sharper cuts, while increasing responsiveness,’ said Avar. Not surprising considering the streamlined design and unparalleled 11.6-ounce weight.
The numbers certainly backed up Avar’s claims. Kobe put together yet another stellar season, averaging 26.8 points, with close to 5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. However, full Mamba mode was activated in the Playoffs, where he averaged 30 points and secured another NBA Championship ring (and the Finals MVP to boot).
A decade on, the OG was given a reincarnation via Kobe’s visionary Protro concept, which injected the 2009 model with a swag of contemporary upgrades. Boasting an adjusted vamp shape, a sleeker heel shape, and wider outsole traction, the Kobe 4 Protro’s advancements gave today’s ballers more reason than ever to lace ‘em up.
(Pic via nbakixoncourt)
Legends Live Forever
Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine the NBA without low-tops. In fact, 10 out of 16 of the most prominent signature performance basketball sneakers on the market adopt the streamlined approach, and the Kobe 4 unsurprisingly remains towards the top of the heap. ESPN recently reported that over one hundred NBA players were wearing a variation of the model back in late-2019.
‘Some products are much more radical than others,’ says Avar. ‘Some are much more traditional. The 4 was a little in the sweet spot. It was just enough classic, just enough modern, that it has stood the test of time.’
Countless NBA stars, including Anthony Davis, Lonzo Ball, Devin Booker, and even Jordan-signed Luka Dončić have all been recently spotted tearing it up in a pair, but sneaker king PJ Tucker perhaps sums things up best.
‘I almost always finish games in ’em… Best hoop shoe ever!’
Much like Kobe’s lesser-known nickname ‘Vino’, the Nike Kobe 4 continues to get better with age, just like a fine wine.