The debuts of the new signature shoes of many of Nike and Jordan Brand’s biggest stars are already in our rearviews — LeBron 11, KD VI, CP3.VII — but one was missing. Well, consider that oversight corrected, as we now unveil the Nike Kobe 9 Elite, the confluence of some of Nike’s preeminent performance technologies — Flyknit, Flywire and Lunarlon.
The most apparent break from tradition is obviously the silhouette, as the Kobe 9 opts for a hightop cut — a very hightop cut — a significant departure from the lowtop design that has graced Kobe’s last five signature shoes. Designer Eric Avar created the shoe to “play like a lowtop,” however, with a strong focus on working with the natural motion of the foot.
But even beyond the shoe’s height, the Kobe 9 is clearly unlike any before it. Flyknit is incorporated into the construction, offering a light, flexible fit that’s still stable and structured, ensuring it meets the demands of the NBA’s most intense player. This particular Flyknit weave also allows for differently-laid-out “performance zones” — regions of the upper that perform differently based on the requirements of that part of the foot. Further, the Flyknit manufacturing process is remarkably efficient, meaning the Kobe 9 reduces waste by 50% compared to a standard basketball shoe.
That Flyknit upper is reinforced with stabilizing Flywire, employed to lock down the midfoot while still allowing the shoe to move with the natural motion of the wearer’s foot. Further, a carbon fiber heel-counter stabilizes the heel as well as the the foot during lateral motion, protecting without adding bulk or weight.
Beneath, a Lunarlon insert cushions the foot while ramping up responsiveness. Avar was focused on eliminating bulk and distraction, and the Lunarlon foam accomplishes that while keeping the foot connected to the court.
Moving down to the outsole, Kobe’s latest undergoes yet another break from the norm, eschewing the typical herringbone traction in favor of a more minimal rubber outsole covered in a pressure-mapped anatomical pattern. It delivers durable traction while mimicking the foot’s natural contours, completing the “Natural Motion” philosophy that guides the shoe’s design.
The Nike Kobe 9 Elite release date is set for February 8, 2014, worldwide. A lowtop edition will follow in the spring.