“I sat down with Kobe and he was very clear — ‘I want the lowest, lightest weight basketball shoe we can make.’”- Eric Avar
words // Brennan Hiro Williams
In 2008, the Nike Zoom Kobe IV shattered the myth that excess height and padding are needed to protect elite-level basketball players. With its low-cut profile and lightweight build, the Zoom Kobe IV set the Kobe Bryant signature line down a distinct design path that continues to this day.
Nike continues its 20 Designs That Changed the Game series with a closer look at the Zoom Kobe IV:
Kobe, a fan of the “beautiful game,” global football, noticed how athletes in a sport that stopped and started as abruptly as basketball weren’t asking for high top shoes. In fact, some of the world’s greatest goal scorers opt for the most minimal boots that can be designed.
Kobe went into a meeting with Avar with this on the mind. When it was over, any murmurs about feasibility were moot. “Kobe was adamant. From a functional standpoint, he wanted to prove that you can create a high-performance, low-top basketball shoe.”
Emboldened by the breakthrough Nike Hyperdunk, Eric and the team realized that Nike Flywire’s secure fit could assist this light, low and responsive design to deliver on Kobe’s hefty request for less. Bryant’s open mind was especially helpful. “Kobe is probably one of, if not THE, most progressive players I’ve ever worked with in terms of wanting to push technology and performance technology in design.”
Once the low-cut silhouette, Nike Flywire and outrigger began testing out with Kobe, it was time to develop the visual identity of the shoe. Around this time, Kobe’s Black Mamba persona was becoming a central source of inspiration, so Avar finished off the design with a little comic book villain menace.
“To me the Nike Kobe IV was the start of fully defining the signature formula that works for Kobe. We succeeded in combining his performance needs with his style in a way that challenged conventions, which had always been the goal.”