As a sneaker head, I (and many others) are consistently overreacting to things. It’s an almost natural reaction for us. We see early images of upcoming sneakers, and we immediately freak out. The reasons hardly matter. It could be the most trivial change. But, that’s what we do. Despite that, the Nike Kobe A.D. is an exception. The latest Kobe sneaker does something rare: it rationalizes my worries.
Let’s start with the shoe itself. Bryant is known for his bias towards low-profile sneakers. Part of that ideal is diverting focus away from cushion and towards court feel. Consequently, we see the Kobe AD take on a low-top shape and Zoom Air/ Lunarlon cushioning. The shoe also needs to be relatively durable. With this in mind, Nike uses mesh as the upper’s base. So far, so good. All standard stuff, right?
And there is my first issue with this model. The Kobe A.D., like previous Mamba models, is in the process of a hype campaign. As such, we see Nike designers and execs (along with Bryant himself) espouse it for its innovative qualities. But here’s the question: where’s all the innovation?
When the Kobe 11 dropped, the fluff was understandable. Flyknit, heel Zoom, Bryant’s last season. The hype machine made sense here. Even the Kobe 10 had a reasonable marketing effort. But, the A.D. is going in a slightly different direction. In a video breakdown with the great Jacques Slade, Bryant talks about what went into this design. We hear terms like “latest technology” and “more breathable.” We’ve heard that from Mamba (and Nike) before. This time, I’m a little less than convinced.
Here’s a functional (albeit rough) summary of what we know so far: mesh and Flywire sit on top of Lunarlon, heel Zoom, and a seemingly improved traction pattern. Essentially, this is something like a fortified EM or Mentality model. Now, I don’t necessarily have a problem with that in and of itself. But, presenting it as the next great Kobe signature – rather than an amplified mid level model – is a bit much.
By and large, I have to admit that I’m not terribly disappointed with the marketing. It’s all fairly standard. In contrast, my other beef with this shoe is more panicked. I do not like the choice to name it the Kobe A.D.
To be sure, Nike and Mamba have been a bit dramatic about naming their sneakers in the past. But, the A.D. or “After Death” sounded like bad news for fans of his signature line. Or, at least, it does to an irrational, worrisome, reactionary human being. I.e. sneaker head. Being one of those, I saw the name choice as a signal of some shift away from the performance line of shoes.
When Jordan retired, the numbering system more or less continued, letting us know the latest sneaker would be an improvement (or an effort at such) on the former. The Kobe A.D., as Bryant himself notes, is focusing slightly away from “Kobe the player.” That lean away is worrying. Bryant’s obsessive nature about his sneakers’ details came at least partly from his constant on-court needs. This made the basketball court a perfect lab. Is the A.D. a shift away from that year-to-year fine-tuning? Probably not, but it isn’t encouraging.
Bryant retiring from basketball was bad enough. Here’s hoping he doesn’t throw in the proverbial towel with his sneakers as well.