by Sandy Dover / @San_Dova

Style Corner KICKS: Because you can’t rock basketball shoes all of the time. Just some of the time.

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One of the most unsung sneakers in the last 30 years has been the adidas Equipment Top Ten 2000, and for reasons, that I, have yet to fully understand, but can only begin to speculate on.

Consider the context of the sneaker’s genesis and arrival—built for the second player in the NBA to be drafted in the first round directly out of high school since 1975 (Kevin Garnett came the year before), Kobe Bryant was a relative unknown for the vast majority of the professional basketball world. His star only became nationally bright when he became a certified McDonald’s All-American and when the media discovered that his father was a former Philadelphia 76er named Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. You see, Kobe was the first guard to make himself eligible for the NBA Draft. He was skinny, he played with reckless abandon, and it was pretty difficult to assess where he was going to be selected, let alone whether he could actually be a success at all in the League. He was a risk and a highly doubted commodity.

After declaring for the Draft, it became known that he was going to be representing adidas as his footwear company of choice, and so, as was the time for mid-1990s stars, Kobe was a guest on Ahmad Rashad’s NBA Inside Stuff and he was showcased on the program somewhere near his Draft night. He briefly was shown with these shoes…these alien-looking shoes…roundish on the bottom…elastic-strapped…with laces crossing broadly over the width of the foot… and navy on top of white with a hint of maroon? Weren’t the Los Angeles Lakers’ colors purple, gold, and white?

The shoe itself became Kobe’s introduction to the footwear world of the NBA, but was quickly toppled over by new editions of the Feet You Wear series, like the Equipment Top Ten 2010 (which could easily fit in with the shoes of the year 2010 and today) and the Equipment Elevation—shoes that shared an even more advanced and evolved look that seemed to identify with fans much more crisply. As for the EQT Top Ten 2000, as quickly as it came, it left, and without so much as a beckon call from observers who saw the shoe debut. Fortunately, the three stripes made the right kind of executive decision and re-released them to the world.

Today’s 2000 is almost exact—save for a few color swaps. Synthetic embossed and patent leathers make up a luxurious black sneaker with hits of purple and gold for a dark Lakers colorway. The lining is plush with overstuffed fill and textured for comfort. The three broad elastic stripes still cover the upper and the Feet You Wear outsole is still as legit as it ever was.

The shoe itself is still as functional as it was 1996. It would be easily transferred to a lifestyle shoe if not for a few NBA players making a point to wear the shoe in game action, and that may be its current saving grace, as the 2000 is a capable performance sneaker that just so happens to be able to chill in a low-tempo setting. No re-work, no new sole, no enhanced features. It’s as true as the day that Kobe declared for future NBA stardom, and it still looks the part.

Sandy Dover is a feature writer and published author, multi-industry media producer, and a SLAM web columnist & print contributor whose work has been prominently featured and published by Robert Atwan’s “America Now”, Yahoo!, ESPN, and STACK. You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline and contact him via his website at about.me/SandyDover.