And so as Flyknit technology makes its way to hightops for the first time in Nike’s newly announced Kobe Bryant’s latest shoe, the Kobe 9 Elite, it's pretty fair to say that Nike has built the first hightop sock.
You can read more about the technology at play here in the slide show above. But honestly, it’s not the unique Flyknit construction that makes the Kobe 9 so fascinating. It’s the highly personal, anthropomorphic detail hiding inside the shoe that make it something more than yet another fancy hightop. The Kobe 9 is a portrait of Kobe himself.
The outsole is like none other you’ve seen, because it was shaped by pressure mapping Bryant’s own foot (meaning anyone wearing the Kobe 9 is ostensibly wearing a Bryant prosthetic). And in a Frankensteinian twist, the nine red embroidered laces on the back of each shoe don’t just mark that this is the ninth iteration of Bryant footwear, they actually represent the sutures from his recent achilles tendon surgery—the repair of an injury that could have ended his illustrious career.
"It’s very personal in that way," says Eric Avar, vice president of design innovation at Nike. "But [Kobe and I] talked about it immediately. I’d met with him very shortly after surgery, and he’d shown me some pictures of the actual surgery. We went back and forth and decided it would be a really unique detail to add to the shoe. To him, it very much represents the journey, from a point of extreme challenge to coming back."
In this sense, the Kobe 9 is highly reminiscent of Derrick Rose’s recent comeback campaign with Adidas. But the Kobe 9 goes a step further. It’s not just a cool shoe wrapped in a smart marketing campaign. It’s actually a mass-produced manifestation of Bryant’s battle back into basketball. The Kobe 9 is truly Kobe Bryant in the year 2013. Or at least, his feet.
Look for the shoe on sale February 8 for $225.