It’s a hard question: What do you get the most precocious ballplayer in NBA history? Their own signature sneaker, of course. Kobe Bryant entered the NBA fresh out of the Lower Merion (PA) High prom as a 17-year-old in the soon-to-be-famous ’96 NBA Draft. With Bryant’s most high-profile basketball success having come at the adidas ABCD Camp in the summer of ’95, it was no shock he came in the League rocking the Three Stripes. Bryant spent an up-and-down rookie season wearing adi’s Feet You Wear models, like the EQT Elevation. While some haters looked at Bryant’s rookie year struggles to earn big minutes and a rough-shooting elimination game in the playoffs as proof he wasn’t ready for primetime, smart observers recognized the Dunk Contest win, the fact he was bold enough to be taking important shots in the postseason and that he was only 18 as obvious positives. This included adidas, which ushered Kobe into his sophomore campaign with his very own sig: The KB8.

Named in honor of his uniform number, the curvy, almost dream-like (I see puffy clouds) KB8 was considered an addition to the Feet You Wear line that Bryant had rocked previously, with its round edges making the silhouette extra agile, comfortable and good looking. The KB8’s tech features—mesh lining, EVA midsoles and adi’s Torsion system—made it one of the most advanced basketball shoes to hit the market. Unsurprisingly to those who know the game, Bryant’s second season in the NBA represented a major step forward: he started the All-Star Game, upped his scoring average to 15.4 ppg and helped the Lakers reach the Western Conference Finals for the first of many times in his career. On the court, his star only grew. Adidas rode Kobe’s wave straight through a number of signature releases and three straight NBA championships before the brand and player had a falling out during the 2002 offseason.

After an epic ’02-03 sneaker free agent season that saw Bryant play in a variety of non-adidas sneakers, he famously signed with Nike and wore the Swoosh for the remainder of his career. A 20-year Laker who scored more points than anyone ever has in the iconic purple and gold (mostly wearing Nikes), Kobe is thought of by many fans as a Nike guy, which is fine. But old heads know: Kobe entered the game in adidas, and when history carved out a pair for him, it was the KB8. Bryant’s departure from adidas meant the brand could no longer use his name or initials on any product, but adidas knew a winning shoe when they had one. Rechristened the Crazy 8 and retroed for the first time in ’07, the classic kicks have been seen on the likes of Derrick Rose (during his ’10-11 MVP campaign, no less), Justin Bieber (during the 2011 Celebrity All-Star Game) and various young adidas NBA athletes through the years. They cause a stir every time they come back on the market. Clearly, Crazy 8s will be here forever.


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