Kobe Bryant played a large role in popularizing low-top basketball shoes thanks to his signature Zoom Kobe 4. While hardly revolutionary, it refined the concept and undeniably helped change the game. In the years since, however, the line has grown stagnant. That’s not entirely surprising considering Kobe spent his last few seasons hampered by injuries and preparing for retirement.
His latest signature model, the Nike Kobe A.D., was largely met with indifference, and that’s understandable. Even Michael Jordan's post-retirement line has seen a diminished level of interest. So when an alternate edition of the Kobe A.D. leaked, my first thought was that it must be some type of lifestyle variation of the model. Why would a performance update of a retired athlete’s signature line be debuting at the end of the basketball season?
I still don’t have an answer to that question, but that’s exactly what it turned out to be. At a time when I thought innovation might be over for the Kobe line, Nike turned out the most ambitious addition to the series in a long time. And it’s one that seems to directly address some of the problems I’ve had as of late.
I’ve been critical of Nike’s frequent use of bootie-like designs on performance basketball models because they have some inherent issues. They can be very hard to even get your foot in if their uppers are rigid enough for proper support. They also often lack the dynamics of more traditional designs when it comes to fit, thanks to less moving parts. And attempts to add lockdown features like Flywire often come at the expense of comfort, as excessive lace pressure has been a frequent problem.
Those reasons are why I was so excited to try out the Kobe A.D. NXT and its new fit system, which, in theory at least, addresses each of those issues. But could this unexpected release really push the line forward even after Kobe’s retirement?
Hover over the dots for a breakdown of how the Nike Kobe A.D. NXT performs on-court.
Nike Kobe A.D. NXT - Fit
Nike Kobe A.D. NXT - Ankle Support
Nike Kobe A.D. NXT - Cushioning
Nike Kobe A.D. NXT - Traction
The Kobe AD NXT has some exciting high points, but it isn’t without issues, one of the biggest being its price. At $200, it’s the most expensive basketball model in the entire 2017 Nike Basketball line (including the Air Jordan). That said, there are far better values out there. It’s also not a shoe for everyone. Its lack of midfoot support could be a deal-breaker for some players. While I truly enjoyed playing in the shoe (thanks mostly to its fantastic upper comfort), the biggest positive for me is what it might represent. I truly hope this isn’t a one-and-done use of the technology, because even though it worked well, it could get even better with a little refinement. Just because Kobe Bryant's playing days are over doesn’t mean his influence on innovation has to be.