As Kobe Bryant settles into his first year of retirement, Nike and the Black Mamba have decided to bring back some of his most notable signature shoes.
Bryant initially scoffed at the prospect of a retro line to pay homage to some of the iconic footwear he wore throughout his career. “It just didn’t fit right with everything I stood for, with the Mamba Brand,” says Bryant.
But Bryant eventually changed his mind and developed the idea of a performance retro and coined the concept Protro. “Protro is about evolution and improving on things that were,” says Bryant. “I wanted to build a business that wasn’t just based on things I have done in the past. It is important that the brand stands for performance and that everything we do is innovative, even if we are releasing shoes from the past they still must be built on performance.” After three-plus years of working on the idea and determining the right modifications and timing, the Zoom Kobe 1 Protro has become a reality.
This updated version of the Zoom Kobe 1 carries the same aesthetic but has been upgraded with 2018 technology. The result is the translation of the shoe Bryant famously scored 81 points in on January 22, 2006, to the performance needs of today. Nike Basketball footwear product director Tony Grosso and his team focused on reducing weight and evolving production to eliminate pieces of the original Zoom Kobe I that were no longer needed.
“We really wanted to make sure that the shoe looked exactly like the [Zoom Kobe] 1, but was built through the lens of performance athletes, specifically professional athletes on the NBA court,” says Grosso.
Another push was to improve the shoe’s cushioning. Nike Zoom Air has come a long way in the last 13 years and the team was able to use those advances to add a better system for performance athletes, specifically in the form of a Zoom bag setup with a rocker and ride that is smoother than the original. They were also able to improve the ride by eliminating foam and decreasing the size of the carbon fiber shank to create a more engineered feel.
Toronto Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan, known for pulling classic Kobes out of his closet, liked the Zoom Kobe I Protro so much that he wore the shoe in a game more than two weeks ago.
Much to the delight of Grosso and Bryant, the world just accepted the shoe as an original Zoom Kobe 1. DeRozan’s play validated the performance aspect of the Protro as the nine-year veteran led the Raptors to a victory with a 21-point performance, complemented by seven rebounds and six assists. DeRozan will wear the Protro tomorrow night in Toronto.
The Zoom Kobe 1 Protro will be available February 17 on nike.com and select Nike retailers.