SC ZK3 Headerwords_Nick DePaula photography_Steve Mullholand

As published in Sole Collector's Issue 26 : Available HERE After two great performance successes in the first two installments of the Zoom Kobe line, the Zoom Kobe III took on its own unique styling approach as designer Eric Avar came back into the fold. Avar again took Tinker's advice of changing things up every so often in a shoe line to heart. This sneaker was undoubtedly unlike any other shoe in the line, as it took on a theme and aesthetic all its own. "He's very, very big on analogies and metaphors," Avar explains about Kobe's approach to design. "That's great from a design standpoint, because it's just so rich in design inspiration and how you pull different inspirations. At that time, he had talked a lot about the black mamba snake and it being one of the most deadly and sleekest creatures on earth and how that related to his game." 76076011LB008_BOSTON_CELTICIt was the notion about the black mamba's lethal abilities that immediately clicked in Avar's mind, as he instantly knew where he planned to take Bryant's third shoe. There were a few goals he had right from the start as he attacked the design of the shoe, namely, he wanted it to be lightweight, incredibly stable, and very sleek and comfortable against the foot. "We always talk about how good design is the perfect balance between science and art," says Avar. "And it starts with science, and you always have to make sure that the product performs well. From there, how do you bring some of the performance to life, and how do you mix [in] the character of the athlete ... so that, as Kobe says, the product becomes an extension of him." With the Zoom Kobe III, the approach was actually fairly straightforward, as Avar and his team of developers implemented a decidedly protruding outrigger for unmistakable support, as well as Nike's reassuring Zoom Air in both the heel and forefoot for cushioning. "The upper was really pretty simple. It was one piece of mesh with this injected, molded structure, and it was really breathable and very conforming," notes Avar. "Kobe says it's one of his favorite shoes to this day. The shoe played great, there was great cushioning and a great responsive feel." Unlike the Zoom Kobe II before it, the III goes sans strap, and it includes a simple lacing setup for quick and easy entry along with a full Sphere Liner for amazingly plush comfort. One thing the shoe did carry over from Bryant's previous signature kicks was the diamond touches along it - this time appearing in the forefoot's traction pattern, as the configuration served as an ode to his daughter, Diamante. The shoe became an instant hit among basketball players for its incredibly light weight and close fitting comfort, though some people were certainly initially uncertain of its at-first awkward appearance. "We tried to bring some classic elements into this shoe, but we also pushed the needle with this one, and it's kind of a love/hate shoe definitely with athletes and consumers," admits Avar. "And every so often, I think that's a good thing to do. You push the boundaries and have people question what footwear can be. We created a unique product that is very much manifested from Kobe's unique style." Despite whatever initial resistance to the shoe's appearance there may have been, consumers were won over either once they wore the shoe themselves or because Kobe was having a career season in them. It would be the shoe he wore during his first-ever MVP Award season, and he also wore the Zoom Kobe III while leading the Lakers all the way to the NBA Finals. Either way, Eric Avar has no regrets for the shoe's daring look. "First and foremost, it's about performance," he says. "It's about creating the best product for him, but also for all ballers. He likes being on the cutting edge of new technology and new style, but also to push the dynamics of what a high-performance basketball shoe could be." SC ZK3 Header2 [Be sure to click on the image below for a Wallpaper version!] Huarache2k5