Nike Kobe 9 Introduces Flyknit to Basketball
Kobe Bryant made it fashionable for elite NBA players to wear low-tops on the court. But after a devastating Achilles injury, he wanted additional support and protection for his Kobe 9. Cue up an ultra-high high-top.
The launch version of the Nike Kobe 9 Elite, released on February 8, 2014, brought Nike's Flyknit construction to basketball for the first time in a high-top style. Designed by Eric Avar, the Kobe 9 led the way in performance technology for the Nike basketball line. The year brought a mixture of releases to the Kobe running shoe landscape, including a low version and a more affordable non-Flyknit version.
After starting his career with adidas before switching to Nike, Bryant had a history of working side-by-side with footwear designers to craft a performance model fit precisely to his on-court needs. The media announcement of the Kobe 9 was held in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles to help signify the changing world of design the Kobe 9 would offer–with a focus on performance that also boasted an artistic flair.
Nike Kobe 9's Remarkable Performance Features
Kobe Bryant obsessed about detail, so it was no surprise that the Flyknit technology Nike introduced in running shoes made its basketball debut in the Kobe signature line. Modeled after the height of Manny Pacquiao's boxing boots, the Flyknit upper allowed for form-fitting precision while offering comfort and lightweight materials. The technology allowed the design to go high–the first since the Kobe 3–giving the support of a mid-top and the feel of a low-top.
The shoe, which Kobe said, "will touch a nerve on the court in the same way I do," is loaded with performance and comfort features:
- Flyknit upper is flexible, durable and allows for limitless colour patterns
- Lunarlon foam cushioning increases response and absorbs shock
- Carbon fiber heel counter provides lateral security
- Flywire cables create a lockdown fit and eliminate foot slippage
- Traction pattern on the outsole mimics the natural contours of the foot
Note on care: Do not put your Flyknit running shoes in the washing machine as the heat may cause the shoes' glue to loosen. Apply a water-repellent spray before use.
In reference to Kobe's Achilles injury, the Kobe 9 Elite includes nine red embroidered marks on the heel. As the year went on, Nike offered up a mix of Kobe 9 styles, releasing a Kobe 9 Elite in a low and a Kobe 9 EM, replacing the Flyknit with engineered mesh, also in a low version. There was also a Nike Kobe 9 NSW from Nike Sportswear, a stripped-down lifestyle version without the performance elements.
Nike Kobe 9 Colorways: Each One a Work of Art
The initial colourway of the Kobe 9 Elite was Masterpiece, which highlighted the precision colouring capabilities of Flyknit, something Nike had already used in the running world but hadn't brought to the hardwood. The Masterpiece was meant to "create a piece of art on the upper" and set the stage for the design nimbleness the line would enjoy moving forward. Nearly a year after the release of Masterpiece, the Kobe 9 Elite came out with What The Kobe. This colourway uses multiple colours across the Flyknit upper while bringing in reflective tonal graphics and speckling in the midsole.
The Kobe 9 enjoyed plenty of other colourful moments:
Elite Christmas, a red-and-white style inspired by a Christmas stocking
Elite Detail, with an art-appreciation feel in black, white and grey
Elite Black History Month, featuring a stark geometric print pronounced by the Flyknit material
Limited-Edition Elite NRG Volt, and versions highlighting purple, gold and metallics
Elite Low Beethoven and Hyper Grape; the former subtle, the latter ultra-bold
EM Low Peach Jam, celebrating the Elite Youth Basketball League
EM Bruce Lee, which pays homage to the iconic action film star
Nike also released a series of design collaborations between designer Hiroshi Fujiwara, Nike visionary Tinker Hatfield and then-Nike CEO Mark Parker, also referred to as the HTM Collection.
Collectability and Value of the Nike Kobe 9
The collectability of all Kobe Bryant running shoes took a drastic turn with Kobe's tragic passing in January 2020. As fans of the NBA superstar clamoured to celebrate Kobe and grab a piece of his basketball history, his product was snatched up from Nike and resale markets. The Kobe 9 colourways didn't typically command high prices on resale sites because it wasn't the most wearable shoe for those seeking a lifestyle model. However, after Kobe's death, demand and resale prices went up.
EM designs typically sell in the hundreds, with Peach Jam the most popular in the bunch. Specific high-top versions can run between $AUD520 and $AUD7801*, while exclusive models like the limited NRG release resale for up to $AUD2,6002* and HTM versions can easily fetch $AUD5,2003* on the running shoe enthusiast market.
1Australian Price indication converted from US$600.
2Australian Price indication converted from US$2,000.
3Australian Price indication converted from US$4,000.
*All prices are based on historical eBay data. Actual selling price of items not guaranteed and may vary.
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