Maybe it's because of his competitive spirit, his confidence that comes off as arrogance, or his all-consuming desire to be the best, but the world has a love-hate relationship with Kobe Bryant. With the launch of the new Zoom Kobe IV this week, many have felt that Bryant and Nike have read too many of their own press clippings by introducing a low cut signature basketball shoe.
But lest we forget that Gilbert Arenas and Steve Nash have been rocking lows for some time now, and they're hardly lower tier players. Kobe is driven, I can see him in the Nike boardroom demanding "Everyone is wearing the Hyperdunk. I want my shoes to be the lightest sneaker you've ever made." He doesn't care about the aesthetic, as we've seen from his prior sneakers. He just wants to be the best, and any way he can get an on court advantage he will take it, the Zoom Kobe IV weighs 11.6 ounces.
Now they aren't horrid shoes, but I hardly think kids will be giving up their Jordans to rock these with their denim. According to analyst Matt Powell of SportsOneSource, fashion basketball is a $2 billion business, while performance basketball is a $500 million business. Furthermore, Nike owns 98% of the fashion market space, which Jordan Brand dominates at 87%, Nike is at 10% and Converse is at 1%.
While the Air Jordan campaign begged "Is it the shoes?" Kobe guarantees the IV will improve your performance. "The shoe will make you run faster, and jump higher because it doesn't weigh that much. It's simple math." Nike employs the Flywire technology that was used in the Hyperdunk with a Zoom Air unit in the heel and Lunarlite in the forefoot. If the Kobe IV is going to perform like a smaller and lighter Hyperdunk, expect it to be a popular pick amongst serious ballers. China will get first dibs on the Kobe IV on January 1st, with North America and Europe to follow in February 6th. There are going to be a number of exclusives and colourways, but he will be wearing them on the court for the first time this Tuesday against Miami.
Many make comparisons to Kobe's drive to win and that of Michael Jordan. While it's a worthwhile debate, the Air Jordan sneaker legacy versus any other shoe is not. But as often is the case with Kobe, he just really just wants the best sneaker to help him be the best, he doesn't really care about winning any popularity contests.
Thanks to Darren Rovell @ CNBC SportsBiz for the stats.