The Best 24 Nike Kobe Sneakers of All Time, Ranked
To celebrate Mamba Day, the Complex Sneakers staff ranked the top 24 individual Kobe Nike colorways of all time.
Although his line is celebrated now, Kobe Bryant’s time with Nike got off to an inauspicious start. He signed with the brand in 2003, switching allegiances in the wake of an Adidas deal that brought him into the league and an exciting period of sneaker free agency after that. Bryant was not immediately a signature athlete—the first Nike shoe really connected to him was the Huarache 2K4—and even when his signature models did come, they were not immediately impactful. We might go back and buy retros of the Kobe 2s and 3s now if given the opportunity, but not many of us were doing so when they first arrived. Bryant’s line eventually found its footing in the Kobe 4, which created a more distinct look for his shoes and basketball shoes in general. Nike elevated him with powerful marketing campaigns and the sneakers to match. As he collected more championships with the Lakers, Bryant became one of Nike’s most important athlete partners of all time, with 11 proper signature shoes in countless colorways that shifted the course of the sneaker industry.
For a while, it appeared that history would cease in the wake of his death. After Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, the future of his Nike line was uncertain. In April 2021, Complex reported that Kobe Bryant’s Nike deal had come to an end.
Nike put a freeze on the release of new Kobes, existing pairs hit all-time highs on the secondary market, and NBA players worried about running out of pairs to be able to hoop in. But luckily for all interested parties, Kobe’s widow Vanessa Bryant and Nike announced a new deal in March 2022 with hopes to “inspire a new generation of athletes and encourage youth participation in sport.” The new partnership began with the release of the Nike Kobe 6 “Mambacita Sweet 16,” an homage to the tragic passing of Bryant and his daughter Gigi. The Nike Kobe line has fully relaunched as of this summer, and more pairs are expected through the end of the year.
Bryant’s signature line is revered for the influence that it had on performance basketball footwear. Starting with the Kobe 4, the Black Mamba re-popularized low-top basketball shoes, silencing the fears that the world had about low-cut sneakers making players more injury prone. His impact is ever present, and we see the DNA and formula from the Kobe line all over other signature models, including the likes of Kyrie Irving, Ja Morant, and even later LeBron James models, just to name a few.
In honor of Bryant’s birthday and this year’s Mamba Day, the Complex Sneakers staff set out to rank the top 24 Nike Kobe sneakers of all time. The group focuses solely on his work with Nike—Adidas was foundational to Bryant’s sneaker catalog, but those models just don’t stand up to what he did with Nike. Check out the entire list below, and let us know what your favorite pair is.
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