Nike is scheduled to release the Nike Kobe 9 Elite on February 8, 2014, straying from previous releases in the Kobe, Lebron and KD lines by launching the Elites before the base model. The Elite editions in all of these players’ lines, and especially Kobe’s, haven’t deviated much from the original models, but if the leaked images of the Kobe 9 Low are even remotely close to the finished product, the Elite 9s will change that significantly.
The shoe is remarkable in many ways, from the technology utilized (this is Nike’s first basketball shoe to incorporate their innovative Flyknit technology, along with the now commonplace Flywire and Lunarlon components), to the bold and unique styling (Flyknit allows for spectacular colour combinations unseen on other fabrics or materials, and ensures at least some level of variance from pair to pair).
For me though, the most intriguing thing about the Kobe 9 Elite is what it reminds me of, and the hints it gives to Nike’s future, and past.
The Nike Air Mag, originally created in 1989 for the film Back to the Future Part II and then rereleased in 2011 for charity, stands as one of Nike’s most fascinating creations and one of the greatest hype-magnets ever. Marty McFly’s shoes (in the film at least), lit up and laced themselves! They are the ultimate ‘I want to have proper foot support and look fly while remaining as lazy as possible’ piece of footwear ever, although I doubt that was Nike’s intent. Regardless, despite the overwhelming excitement upon their rerelease in 2011, there was a certain level of disappointment that Nike hadn’t developed the technology to achieve power-lacing nirvana quite yet. Fear not sneakerheads, Nike was way ahead of you:
In a not so subtle manner, Foot Locker manager #2 played by Tinker Hatfield (the one and only), essentially confirmed that power-lacing was on the Nike docket for 2015.
It goes without saying that Kobe Bryant likes to win stuff. He wants to be the best, at everything, and although his signature line with Nike has been a raging success (especially since the Kobe 4 debuted), how could he challenge Michael Jordan’s sneaker legacy? Maybe by having the first power-lacing basketball signature?
I believe that the following things happened, and I will continue to believe that they happened until Kobe Bryant, Eric Avar or Tinker Hatfield personally tell me otherwise. I believe that during one of their design meetings in the immediate post-2011 Air Mag world, Kobe told Eric and/or Tinker that he wanted his signature line to be the evolutionary through-line to the 2015 Air Mag. His line would slowly begin to mimic design cues of the original Air Mag, but with modern technology and materials. They would utilize the newest technology available, working towards an inevitable power-lacing option that would be proprietary to his line for at least one generation of basketball shoes after the 2015 Air Mag releases. Tinker and Eric think this is brilliant, because as amazing as the 2015 Air Mag will be, it is a shoe rooted in the past, and Tinker is always focussed on the future. Kobe loves it because it’s another stamp on his legacy passport.
I love thinking that this happened, and I love the fact that Kobe’s desire to win everything makes me believe that it might have actually gone down like that. Either way, it’s exciting when innovation takes form, even if you have to stretch the imagination a bit to see it.