When Kobe Bryant thought about the design of his fourth Nike signature shoe, he raised an important question: Why did the world’s top football strikers wear low-cut shoes while basketball players — participating in an equally dynamic sport — still believed that high-tops were best?
Bryant told Eric Avar, Nike’s VP of Creative Director of Innovation, that he wanted the lowest, lightest weight basketball shoe Nike could make. Bryant got his wish with the Nike Zoom KOBE IV, which will be re-released in a Protro version (a blend of “performance” and “retro”).
Originally released in 2009, the Nike Zoom KOBE IV proved that a light, low-cut profile could still give optimum support at the game’s highest level. It wasn’t the first low-cut Nike hoops shoe (the 1972 Bruin takes that distinction), but its impact on the game was tremendous, as it linked the low-top movement with a single player. In today’s diversely talented league, low-top shoes are now worn by every type of player, from shifty point guards to rangy forwards to powerful bigs.
The tech in the original shoe was futuristic for its time. Its Flywire construction that used thin, strong nylon fibers to support the upper, had debuted a year prior in the Nike Hyperdunk (the silhouette Bryant wore in Beijing in 2008). LunarLite foam in the forefoot, a Zoom Air unit in the heel and a full-length Phylon midsole provided responsive cushioning.
The Nike Zoom KOBE IV Protro takes a ’96 draft day colorway, inspired by a Charlotte color scheme, and brings in some updated performance features, including an adjusted vamp shape, a sleeker heel shape, and wider outsole traction.
The Nike Zoom KOBE IV Protro releases February 15 on SNKRS North America, nike.com and at select global retailers.