Today is Kobe Bryant's birthday, which means that the internet is going to be chock-full of tributes to the man's legacy. The sneaker internet will inevitably be consumed with such tributes that focus specifically on Bryant's footwear career, which spanned multiple brands and decades. We're down with that sort of idol worship here at Sole Collector, but the thing is that we've already done a good deal of it ourselves this year: We sat down with Bryant to talk about the future of his shoes, we highlighted his most memorable sneaker moments, and we even ranked all of his signature models. So, we've cast our sneakerhead biases aside for today's Kobe Kontent and enlisted someone else to grade his output.
As part of our series of having people who know nothing about sneakers assess them, we've enlisted Sara David, managing editor at Complex Life, to rank all of Kobe Bryant's signature shoes. Does she know anything about the cultural importance of these models? No. Has she ever seen Bryant jump over an Aston Martin? Probably not. But, at least that means she can look at these shoes somewhat objectively rather than defaulting to praising the ones that blogs have told her to. (Disclaimer: She does sit next to Brendan Dunne, so feel free to blame any of her bad taste on him.) Read her rankings below for some scorching hot takes from someone who knows nothing about sneakers.
I own one pair of sneakers; I am that bitch trying to wear sandals until the switch to boot season and then I loop right back around. I imagine sneakerheads as the kind of people who say the words “my brand” unironically—and I am not someone who can. My “style” (a term used very generously) is somewhere between “butch Hong Kong grandma” and “toddler refusing to take her bathing suit off.” (With such an age range, I guess you could call my style...timeless.) But I respect people who take their shoes seriously because it indicates that style, and therefore art, is a passion they feel deeply enough to convey confidently to the world.
I may not know shit about shoes, but I’m Filipino which means I’ve inherited an inexplicably deep and abiding cultural love for Kobe Bryant. My Pinay classmate’s entire family made the trek from New Jersey to Los Angeles to see Kobe play before he retired. My Pinoy friend’s 90-year-old grandma yells “Kobe!” whenever she successfully shoots garbage in the trash can. If you’re not close to any Filipinos, fix your life, and witness what feels like the last worthwhile case of hero worship in the world.
Filipinos are ride-or-die Kobe fans from Manila, to New York, to LA, and beyond—and Kobe loves us right back. To honor this, I tried to approach these shoes with an open mind. I came ready to love these shoes, but first, I had to see if I even liked any of them.