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13th June 2023 EDT FEATURES

In Honor of Mamba Day: 5 Kobes on the SNKRDUNK App

Celebrating the life and legacy of the great Kobe Bean Bryant.


Words by Charles Basa

There’s no way to talk about Kobe without understating the magnitude of his legacy and impact, on the court and off it. Plethora of books have been published about him, and if God had said the “job’s not finished,” many more would have been published by him. It’s been more than two years since the tragedy that united the world in grief, six since the last time he suited up in the purple and gold. But every August 24th ad infinitum, he will be honoured and celebrated.

For all the numbers he’s racked up in his 20-year Hall of Fame career, his accolades are innumerable: five championship rings; four NBA All-Star MVPs; two NBA Finals MVPs (back-to-back, no less!); and one regular season MVP… just to name a few. Once there was nothing left to collect in the league, he drove nine miles from the STAPLES Center (now Crypto.com Arena) to the Dolby Theatre, and got himself an Oscar. If he had wanted, he could’ve collected more gold than Mansa Musa.

More books will be written, a biopic will be made, murals will endure, and more things outside of basketball will bear his name. His “8” and “24” jerseys will forever hang in the rafters. New players will continue to be inspired, his contemporaries will continue to add to his myth, and they will continue to wear his Nike Kobe signature line.

Looking at the status quo, Kobes are three of the top 10 most-worn sneakers in the NBA today, with two of them at the helm. Like the modern classics before it, they were never short of highly-coveted colorways and rare collaborations. Unfortunately, many of them were limited releases and impossible to get on retail today. But we might be able to help.

Without further ado, let’s run down the list of at least five of them you can get on the SNKRDUNK App.

As storied a career Kobe has had, it’s unbelievable to think he wasn’t the crème de la crème of his draft class. Not even in the top five, not even in the top 10. 12 more players were drafted before him as the 13th overall pick. Selected by the Charlotte Hornets, and before he even played a single game, they traded him.

The pack uses the narrative as the motif, dressing the “Unlucky 13” in the Hornets’ colours of white, purple, and teal, while the insoles list all the teams that passed on him. Similarly, the insoles in the “Dirty Dozen” makes the same vindictive call, with the upper a mosaic of colours belonging to the 12 teams that saw coal in the 18-year old rookie, instead of the diamond he’d become.

Many in the legendary ’96 Draft went on to have successful careers, but none could breathe the same air as Kobe did at the mountain top. Every year of his career, he’s made the 12 teams and 12 players that preceded him pay. In the grand scheme of things, #24 was UNDEFEATED.

The Black Mamba was always going to survive in the concrete jungle. He was an inveterate achiever, a sentiment confirmed by the love of his life, Vanessa Bryant, during his posthumous Hall of Fame induction. When the days of studying plays and analysing opponents were behind him, he was using his mind to co-author a series of young adult novels—one which serves as the inspiration for this Nike Kobe 6 Proto.

The Wizenard Series is an allegory of the transformative power of basketball, mixing reality and fantasy, while imparting life’s most valuable lessons. The whimsical lines and rich colours are motifs borrowed from the New York Times Bestseller.

Bruce Lee was more than a martial artist and an actor. He was an iconoclast, and arguably one of the greatest philosophers in the modern age. Though their lives never intersected, Kobe was a disciple. Taking inspiration, adopting the mentality and applying the wisdom of his master in his approach to life and the game. Bruce Lee embodied Mamba Mentality decades before it was even coined.

The colorways pay homage to the Jeet Kune Do founder and two of his classic films. The original release sees the shoe dressed in his iconic yellow jumpsuit in “Game of Death”, the alternate version nods to the iconic still of him in “Enter the Dragon”— scratch marks and all.

As seen on Kobe himself during the 2010 Christmas Day matchup against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Being the Grinch on the court and Santa Claus courtside, everyone who sat in the front row were gifted a pair. This was one of the silhouettes that skyrocketed in value after that January day in 2020, seeing prices fly upwards of US$1000 on the resale market.

Many players over the years like Ja Morant have rocked the pair. It’s as much a tunnel-ready sneaker as it is in-game. Showstopper on the court, and the show itself on the runway.

Saving the best for last, the pièce de résistance. A tribute to both Kobe and daughter Gigi. The pair almost never saw the light of day after talks between Nike and the Bryant Estate fell through. When sneakerheads saw the writing on the wall, they started hoarding Kobes in droves causing prices to surge, making many of them unobtainable.

When this happened, the biggest losers weren’t just the fans, it was the people whom Kobe meant so much to, people who tried their best to practice the Mamba Mentality, people whose lives Kobe has inspired.

Thankfully, an agreement was reached and an official release came to pass. Proceeds from the shoes went directly to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, as an effort to “honour Gianna (Gigi) Bryant’s impact and her goal to build a better, more inclusive future for the game.”

As far as commemorative sneakers and tributes go, the “Mambacita Sweet 16” takes it home. It’s Mamba Mentality embodied, it reminds us of the drive and resilience that Kobe displayed playing through injuries, through failure after failure; his indelible mark on the game, the the same one Gigi would’ve made on her own; the fire they both possessed, and the day God put His thumb and index finger together, and quietly doused it—knowing that that flame has already spread far and beyond the candle’s wick.

Images via Sneaker Freaker and Nike