Released: February

It was possible to see the Kobe 9 Elite coming. After four straight models of going lower and lower and lighter and lighter, Kobe Bryant and designer Eric Avar were reaching the end of that particular vein. It was time to mine elsewhere. And, Kobe being Kobe, the place they were going to go was the least expected—a high hightop like none other. There was a lot of technology, of course, from carbon plates to a proprioceptive upper to Kobe mainstays Flywire and Lunarlon—but it was the Flyknit upper, the first time the tech had been used in a basketball shoe—that really drew the eye. It was like nothing that had ever been designed before, which made it perfect for Kobe. And if it was hard to wear as a street shoe, what of it? It played wonderfully, and for those daring enough to wear them off the court, it stood out like nothing else. — Russ Bengtson