Kobe Bryant has been sidelined for quite some time now but that doesn’t keep him from creating another groundbreaking performance basketball sneaker. Eric Avar, the leader designer for the Kobe 9, has produced a masterpiece for the court as they continue to push the limit of the basketball shoes. For the past six years, Kobe Bryant has played in low-cut sneakers starting with the Kobe 4 back in 2008. The mamba has not played in a mid/high-cut shoe since his MVP year back in 2006-2007 in the Kobe 3’s so it’s definitely long overdue. So how does the extreme high-cut sneaker compare to the previous Kobe signature models? Read more below to find out as I break it down and prove that the shoe can handle its own on the hardwood.
Traction – 10/10
Traction on the Kobe 9 Elite is excellent. It implements a pressure map traction pattern from Kobe Bryant’s foot that is very similar to adidas Feet You Wear Technology. If you’re not familiar with FYW, it is a concept in which the shoe mimics the natural motions of the foot offering great stability. It keeps you low to the ground giving you almost a barefoot experience (think Nike Free). The Kobe 9 traction has a very organic and natural feel to it giving you ultimate control for any type of lateral, front-to-back, and quick stops. So for those quick guards who have plenty of multi-directional movements, you will be pleased with this outsole pattern.
As far as the rubber, it offers the best grip for any type of floor surface. I played in a dusty court and also a well maintained court and it held up every single time. Obviously I would swipe my soles at dead balls (it’s a habit) but even when I didn’t I had full confidence knowing I wouldn’t slip. The outsole is made specifically for indoor basketball so if you want to play outdoors in these, I would recommend order a pair from Asia as they have XDR soles. The rubber is too thin to play outdoors but thick enough to withstand many hours of play for indoors basketball. The traction is by far the best out of the whole Kobe signature line.
Cushion – 8.5/10
The full-length Nike Lunarlon insert makes its return on the Kobe 9 which has several improvements. Unlike last years Kobe 8 model, the Lunarlon used this year is denser and more responsive. The biggest problem with Lunarlon is that it tends to bottom out after 15-30 wearings. You start to sink within footbed as it becomes mushy and less responsive. However since the foam itself is denser than last years, it’ll hold up a lot longer than the Kobe 8.
They also added grip to the footbed of the insert that minimizes slippage of the foot during play. The added grip also gives a very comfortable ride and feels like a massage while you walk in them. The cushion holds up quite well allowing the foot to remain close to the ground and at the same time providing a lightweight ultra-plush cushioning. Lunarlon is great for those who need lightweight impact protection as the force of impact is evenly dispersed throughout the shoe. So if you are heavy footed or have feet pain during basketball, you might want to look into Lunarlon technology. I have no complaints other than the durability of Lunarlon, which is why I gave it a 8.5 out of 10.
Quick Tip : You can use the Lebron 11 insert in the Kobe 9 if you wanted a more responsive ride. I was really surprised on how well this worked. Coincidence maybe? Not sure, but options are always a good thing. Keep in mind that the Lebron 11 insert is much thicker than the Kobe 9 insert so it may get rid of the excess dead space that some may experience.
Cushion is graded on responsiveness, impact protection, and court-feel.
Lockdown & Fit – 9.5/10
The fit of the shoe is amazing. I recommend going true to size although some may go a half size down. Do remember that your foot will swell up during play so you want to have at least half a thumb of room in the toe box. If you are looking to purchase the Kobe 9 and have no way of trying it on, I would order your true size. It’s better to have a bigger shoe than a shoe that is super snug. For those who have wide feet, this is probably one of the few shoes out there you can get used to. The shoe is wider than previous Kobe signature models and can fit most foot shapes and sizes.
The Lockdown itself is phenomenal. Starting off with the mid-foot, the adaptive fit flywire system keeps your foot strapped in and secured on the foot bed. The lacing system feels very good. Not constricting at all. My heel was always in check as the internal heel-counter and carbon fiber clips on both medial and lateral sides did its thing. I had no heel slippage whatsoever providing ultimate support and lockdown. And if that wasn’t enough, the high-collar felt so good on my ankle. It didn’t restrict my movement whatsoever (leaving the last lace-loop open) and maintained great stability. It is for sure something I have never felt in any sneaker before. A new experience given that I have been playing in low tops for several years now. I was very surprised on how well I reacted to the high collar. I felt secure, safe, and locked in. Didn’t have to think twice about my movements. The proprioceptive collar is genius!
Transition – 8/10
The Kobe 9 Elite excels in this category as it provides an exceptional ride during basketball. All my movements felt very natural and organic due to the pressure mapped outsole and Lunarlon cushion system. Never did I feel that it was too heavy or clunky. It felt great. Nothing bad to say about it at all. 10 out of 10. It felt that good. Like I said in the video, I don’t play in any other shoe. This is my go-to shoe and it will be tough to knock this out of that number one spot because of how natural it felt.
Heel-to-Toe transition is how smooth a shoe feels as you strike on your heels to pushing off from your toes.
Support – 9.5/10
Support is everywhere in the shoe. First thing the world noticed about the Kobe 9 Elite was that high-cut ankle collar. Does it work? YES IT DOES! How? Well like in my previous video, it’s all about proprioceptors. Long story short, proprioceptors are cells that tell our brain the positions of our body parts at a given moment. Basically, if you can dress yourself with your eyes closed, those prioprioceptor cells are working. It is the same concept here with the Kobe 9. The high-collar is giving you that “support” that you want and expect telling your brain that you are protected and “trouble/injury free” when in reality, it is all a placebo effect.
True support is coming from the lockdown and fit of the sneaker. The foot is caged in within the Nike Flyknit material that conforms to the foot offering exceptional flexibility while keeping the foot grounded on the footbed. The high-cut collar, visible outrigger, and a wide stable base give the shoe great stability, which decreases the chance of rollovers (ankle injuries).
They also used a second layer of Fuse providing extra overall support. Obviously a Flyknit shoe isn’t going to hold up by itself when playing basketball. It is just too lightweight and flexible. So by adding Fuse as a backing to the Flyknit, it gives the shoe just what it needs to maintain a strong structure and foundation for basketball. I gave the Kobe 9 Elite a 9.5/10 in support. Only thing I would want to add is a TPU mid-foot shank plate. Not an issue, but it would give the shoe more rigidity and torsional support.
Durability – 9/10
The materials on the shoe are quite exceptional. It is the first time that Nike has implemented Nike Flyknit technology within the sport of basketball. I never owned a pair of Flyknit shoes before so I’m not sure how strong and durable it really is. During my experience, it held up very well. People would step on my foot thinking I would be in a lot of pain but I wasn’t. There are a few spots where the paint on the swoosh came off but that was expected. The great thing about the Kobe 9 Elite is that the Flynit and the materials on it didn’t feel cheap at all. However since it is still a Flyknit/woven material, it isn’t going to be as durable as other materials like Hyperfuse, Foamposite, and premium leathers so I scored it a 9 out of 10.
Ventilation – 8/10.
The materials on the shoe are quite exceptional. It is the first time that Nike has implemented Nike Flyknit technology within the sport of basketball. I never owned a pair of Flyknit shoes before so I’m not sure how strong and durable it really is. During my experience, it held up very well. People would step on my foot thinking I would be in a lot of pain but I wasn’t. There are a few spots where the paint
on the swoosh came off but that was expected. The great thing about the Kobe 9 Elite is that the Flynit and the materials on it didn’t feel cheap at all. It felt premium, flexed naturally, and quite comfortable. However since it is still a Flyknit/woven material, it isn’t going to be as durable as other materials like Hyperfuse, Foamposite, and premium leathers so I scored it a 9 out of 10.
Ventilation on the Kobe 9 Elite is not the best but it isn’t the worse. The tongue offers excellent breathability and has some perforations on the forefoot. However the sides of it contains no holes so don’t expect your foot to be super ventilated while playing in it.
Ventilation is not part of the overall score as it does not hinder the performance of the sneaker. However if the foot is excessively drenched upon play, it will effect the score and be mentioned in the review.
The Nike Kobe 9 Elite has done it again. If you had told me two years ago that Eric Avar and Kobe Bryant would create a high-collar Kobe sneaker I would’ve called you crazy. I had a feeling that Kobe would return to a mid-cut shoe, but not an extreme high-cut shoe like the Kobe 9. The Kobe 9 Elite is the whole package. It made playing in a high-top fun and I never would have thought that. It’s just a great shoe to play in and I recommend it for anyone who wants a secure and supportive. Also note that this review is for the Kobe 9 Elite. There is the low-top engineered mesh (EM) version and possibly a Flyknit mid-top model to be released at a later time.
I applaud Kobe and his team of designers for once again creating a Masterpiece sneaker for the hardwood. Kobe Bryant remains to be the only athlete that is heavily involved in the design process as he continues to push the limits of performance basketball. The Nike Kobe 9 succeeds in all aspects of performance and really makes you wonder on what else they have in store in the future.
- Add carbon fiber or TPU midfoot shank plate
- Remove medial carbon fiber
- Improve the durability of the Lunarlon insert.
*Updated scores as of March 25, 2015*
I wanted to update the score given the fact that over time, I realized I scored this sneaker a tad higher than I thought. The shoes are a bit more clunkier than the Kobe 8 which were a lot more smoother than the Kobe 9. This is due to the carbon fiber on the Elite version and the TPU side panel on the low EM version. It isn’t bad, but because of this, the score went from a 10 to a 8. Still a great sneaker to play in. It flexes well from heel impact to toe off. Just messy at times in the heel. Also changed the cushion score as well due to the longevity of the Lunarlon insert.