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Kobe Bryant’s Adidas Sneaker Design Was Inspired by Audi

Kobe Bryant's basketball career was beyond successful. His career in the shoe game had a much rougher start. While Kobe's collaboration with Nike produced some great sneakers, his first collaboration with Adidas wasn't as well-received. The sneakers were certainly unique, and that's likely thanks to the designer finding his inspiration in the automotive industry.

Kobe Bryant was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame on May 15, 2021. Vanessa Bryant was there to witness the induction and gave a moving speech. Ever since Bryant’s January 2020 death in a helicopter crash, the basketball star’s widow has worked hard to keep his legacy alive, but his sneaker line is sadly set to end. News of the end of his sneaker relationship with Nike hit fans and sneaker enthusiasts especially hard. Nike isn’t the only company Bryant worked with on shoes, though. Did you know that Bryant’s earliest sneaker designs took inspiration from an incredibly unlikely source?  

Kobe Bryant’s Adidas collaborations drew inspiration from Audi

As a rookie, Kobe inked a deal with Adidas and wore several shoes from the sneaker purveyor on the court before the company developed his signature line. Bryant’s first shoe with the company dropped in 1997 and had moderate success. With the end of one sneaker campaign, came the Kobe. The signature shoe drew inspiration from an unlikely source. The sneaker was designed to resemble a car.

Kobe Bryant's legs and shoes are phootgraphed during a Lakers game at the MCI Center in Washington DC on April 2, 2002
Kobe Bryant’s sneakers | G Fiume/Getty Images

According to High Snobiety, the shoe’s designer, Erik Lund Nielsen, drew inspiration from the Audi TT Roadster back in 2000. The result was a shoe that, while unusual looking, was generally accepted, although not exactly beloved. The clunky but futuristic design seemed to fit the vibe of the year 2000. The following year, they took the Audi inspiration even further. The Kobe Two was even clunkier and more futuristic looking. With hidden laces, the sneaker looked like a cross between a space boot and, as Sole Collector suggested, a toaster. Almost no one was a fan. Shoe aficionados often cite the style as one of the worst shoe designs in recent history.

Kobe Bryant moved sneaker brands after a disappointing design

Sneaker enthusiasts and basketball players weren’t the only ones to mock the Kobe Two. Bryant disliked the feel and comfort of the shoe so much that he made an executive decision to return to his original KOBE sneaker during the 2001-2002 season. He took home yet another ring wearing a pair of Adidas kicks, but the Kobe Two would be the last in his signature line with the company.

Kobe Bryant holds up his Lakers jersey for the crowd crowd at US Airways Center on February 19, 2012.
Kobe Bryant | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Bryant bought out his contract for the chance to move to a different manufacturer. The move was a good one for the sneaker world. Bryant’s collaboration with Nike lasted decades and produced several solid basketball sneakers. The Nike Zoom Kobe line remains popular, even after the famed baller’s untimely death.

Kobe Bryant’s estate and Nike were unable to reach an agreement to extend the legend’s sneaker line

While Bryant and Nike enjoyed a partnership for almost 20 years, that is all coming to an end. According to GQ, Vanessa Bryant attempted to work out an in-perpetuity deal with Nike as Bryant’s contract with the sneaker giant was set to run out. They declined. The final two Nike releases will drop in the Summer of 2021. The news has led to increased demand for the signature line. Several current players wear shoes from the line during games and are looking to buy up as much stock as possible.

Kobe Bryant's Nike shoe line is displayed at Niketown in New York on June 24, 2009
A Niketown display of Kobe Bryant’s Sneakers | Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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So far, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Cristiano Ronaldo are the only three sports stars with lifetime deals. Jordan’s relationship with Nike stretches back to the 1980s. His very first signature shoe was released in 1985. The Jordan 1 line remains wildly popular even today.