“Just heat after heat after heat,” the New Jersey native says.
Kevin Porter Jr, who will be lighting up scoreboards at USC in the fall, predicts that 10 years from now, Kobe’s kicks will share a legacy with the GOAT.
“Definitely still gonna be one of the top shoes in the game, period,” he says. “Just like Jordan.”
And Nike’s fully aware that Bryant’s line has to set the pace for hoops sneakers.
“The hardest part for us with Kobe is that there is an expectation on the shoe,” Tony Grosso, Senior Product Line Manager, says.
Kobe, even though he’s been retired for two seasons, is the one driving Nike to make sure his kicks continue to deliver.
Grosso says, “If I came to [Kobe] with some cute stories, saying, ‘Here’s what we’re gonna do,’ he’d be like, ‘No. What’s the innovation platform?’ He’s just like, ‘Uh, this doesn’t feel like you guys are really making it easier for a kid to play basketball and get buckets on his opponent. What’s up? What are you doing to make this better?’”
That’s why it took Grosso and his team two years—most sneakers take up to 18 months to make—to properly build the Kobe AD NXT 360, which marks the next evolution for the Black Mamba’s sneakers. It uses a comprehensive Flyknit component that starts at the upper and wraps around the midsole.
It’s the pinnacle of innovation at the Swoosh right now, but it’s just the beginning of Kobe’s newest silhouettes. It’s going to be complemented by the continuation of the Protro line.
Protro, a combination of “performance” and “retro,” started in February with the introduction of an updated Kobe 1. The 2018 release has the same appearance as the version that dropped in 2006, but it’s been remixed with modern-day technology. The plan is to keep that up with more Protro releases.
Grosso also says that a lower-priced Kobe model will run “for a while,” meaning there will be at least three Kobe sneakers to release each year.
“It’s not very often that an athlete retires and has a signature model that’s going to continue on,” Grosso says. “There’s only been one, and that was MJ.
“We didn’t really wanna do it like a Team Kobe,” he continues, referencing the first crop of players that signed with Jordan Brand in the late ’90s. “We think that characteristically there are a couple of guys in the League that exemplify that Mamba Mentality. But I wanna change it all the time. Next year we should be doing different things with different guys.”
“To me, the number one dude is Kyrie,” Grosso says. “Kyrie is connected to him so much. But Kyrie has his own signature line. Like, how do we cross-pollinate those guys?”
So more Kobe and Kyrie collabs are on the way?
“There’s gonna be ‘Kobe x a bunch of shit’ coming in the next year,” Grosso says.