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Nike Kobe XI 'Achilles Heel'

Kobe Bryant’s illustrious career is coming to a close at the end of this season, and Nike wanted to give him another signature basketball sneaker, the Kobe XI, before he closes the doors on his legacy.

Kobe will be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. Over the 20 seasons the Black Mamba has played for the Lakers, he won five NBA championships, has been on the All-Star team 17 times, and he has helped lead the U.S.A to gold medals in the Olympics twice. Kobe also ranks third in the NBA’s all-time regular season scoring list.

Bryant is the son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, and when Kobe was six his father left the NBA. Joe Bryant moved his family to Rieti, Italy to play professional basketball there. After his father retired, Kobe and his family moved back to the U.S. in 1991.

After the move back to the states, Kobe went on to shatter records at Lower Merion High School in a suburb of Philadelphia. When he graduated high school, Kobe decided to go straight to the NBA instead of going to a college. He was picked 13th in the draft by the Charlotte Hornets, who traded him almost immediately to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal agreed upon before the draft.

Kobe has had a fantastic career rivalling careers of other greats like Michael Jordan. Though he started his career with adidas, Kobe signed on with Nike in 2003, and he has been repping Nike Basketball ever since. Now Nike is sending him off with a low-profile silhouette.

Nike Innovation Director Eric Avar has been working with Kobe for years, and he says Kobe is always pushing him for something new and cutting edge. Avar has used Kobe’s signature line to debut groundbreaking tech for basketball silhouettes, including Flywire, Nike Free, and Flyknit, while at the same time keeping Bryant’s sneaker simple. This latest model is no different.

Avar has infused the Flyknit with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) threads, creating a stronger generation of Nike Flyknit. “The Kobe XI design represents the whole being greater than the sum of the parts,” says Avar. He has included other Nike innovations like Lunarlon foam and Zoom Air units.

Loaded down with tech, the upper of Kobe XI is constructed with Flyknit reinforced with TPU threads, and mesh tongue for enhanced breathability. The silhouette features a drop-in midsole made of Lunarlon foam for soft responsive cushioning, and housing a Zoom Air unit in the heel provide maximum responsiveness. The drop-in midsole is grooved to allow for natural articulation of the foot, and the outsole features a unique traction pattern to satisfy Kobe’s obsession with court feel and grip.

The ‘Achilles Heel’ is the first colorway dropping for the Kobe XI, and it features nods to the Greek hero Achilles and Kobe’s career. An “Achilles Heel” is a weak point, and the term was born from the Greek hero, whose only weakness was his heel. The right heel of the sneaker displays a graphic representation of the Achilles, while the left heel features four stitch marks representing the four feet of thread used in Kobe’s 2013 Achilles tendon surgery.

The Flyknit upper of the Kobe XI ‘Achilles Heel’ starts off in University Red at the toe, and at midfoot it begins to fade to black on heel. The TPU threads can be seen as a silvery thread through the entire upper. The inner liner is University red, the laces and tongue are black, and the sheath logo on the tongue is accented in gold. Finishing out the sneaking is a black midsole, and a translucent outsole.

The Nike Kobe XI ‘Achilles Heel’ drops on Saturday, Jan. 9th, in stores and online. They will be available in Men’s for $200 and grade schoolers’ for $135. Cop a pair to send Kobe off with love, check out Where to Cop for details.