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words // Nick DePaula
photography // Steve Mullholand

Context: To help celebrate Kobe Bryant's 35th birthday this week, we'll be taking a look at a handful of the earliest Nike sneakers he's worn, with a new shoe each day.

As published in Sole Collector's Issue 26 : Available here.

After the tremendous success that the Zoom Huarache 2K4 experienced just a year prior, Nike Basketball now had a market of fans eagerly awaiting the next iteration of the Huarache line. They were rightfully expecting the same top-notch performance attributes, and the next evolution of the line wouldn't disappoint, as the Eric Avar-designed Huarache 2K5 featured a similar collar strap for protection and once again incorporated the highly responsive Zoom Air for cushioning.

SC 2k5 Kobe"We felt like we had something good going with the 2K4, and Tinker [Hatfield] always says, 'Every third Jordan or so, you really change things up from a performance and construction standpoint and from a visual standpoint,'" says Avar. "The 2K5 was coming very much on the heels of the 2K4, and we felt like we had a good thing going and we didn't want to reinvent the wheel too much with this one."

Rather than entirely re-craft the look of the Huarache 2K4 that people seemed to be falling in love with, Avar looked instead to the performance attributes of the shoe that could use some improvement. "We were wondering, though, 'Could we make it a little lighter, could we make it a little more dynamic?'" recalls Avar. "We were working with Free at the time, so we wondered if we could make it more flexible and make it have a little more responsive toe-off."

Avar, who also designed the original Nike Free 5.0, sure enough decided to incorporate what he learned from that running shoe and inject several of its Free principles into the 2K5. He carved out weight along the midsole and added in segmented flex grooves for increased flexibility. Along the heel, the crash pad and point of contact was also more radiused for a more natural landing and improved heel-to-toe transition. But, the biggest shift from the 2K4 to the 2K5 was certainly the newly segmented flex grooves along the forefoot's midsole and the more pronounced outrigger, which provided some stellar lateral stability.

While the Zoom Huarache 2K5 was once again a team shoe worn at the collegiate and professional levels, Kobe Bryant was a headlining act for the shoe, and he could often be seen wearing it in a mean Black/ Canyon Gold colorway and various other Lakers-related styles. The Huarache 2K5 was also the shoe that debuted his Sheath logo, as three colorways that released in the summer of 2005 incorporated his logo just above the external counter along the heel.

The shoe certainly featured several trusty performance attributes, but it also included the use of laser etching, as the toe and tongue featured hits of leather removed with the help of a laser machine for an added graphic element. The 2K5 wasn't as revolutionary as some of the sneakers to come in the Zoom Kobe line, nor was it as iconic and simplistic as the Zoom Huarache 2K4, but it did do a great job of foreshadowing the role that Nike's Free ideology would have in Kobe Bryant's sneakers in the coming years. It also began the evolution of the outrigger within the line, which seemingly becomes more pronounced every year in order to support the lateral needs of the ever-active and explosive Bryant. More than anything else, it continued to build from the stellar on-court performance that brought the 2K4 such adoration, and it offered up several added benefits - like increased flexibility - along the way.

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