Before his tragic passing in early 2020, Kobe Bryant was one of the most recognizable professional athletes in the world. At his peak, Bryant was so famous that fans could recognize him by the numbers on his jersey or the logos on his sneakers.
Kobe played in the league for almost two decades. Because of that, many younger fans may not remember the Black Mamba was nowhere near the first logo he had.
This article will break down Kobe’s logos and where Bryant was at in his career when he wore them proudly. But first:
NBA Logos: A Brief History
Back in 1984, when Nike pushed hard to sign a young, unproven talent named Michael Jordan, nobody knew how beneficial the partnership would become. They’re still together under the Jumpman name three-plus decades later. The Jordan Ones that came out in 1984 were revolutionary; Nike created a logo for them that ended up ingrained in every basketball fan’s mind for generations.
Before Jordan, though, players didn’t have signature logos or sneakers. Bird, Magic, and Dr. J never had their own sneakers; any of the biggest stars of the ’70s and ’80s wore Converse.
After the success of MJ’s signature sneakers, many players jumped on the bandwagon and got their own shoes. None compared to Jordan’s in popularity, but some did make a splash. A big part of their success was the logos that were chosen. Players like Shaq, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, and Allen Iverson followed suit with their own catchy personal logos.
Other sports stars made the leap into branding as well. Ken Griffey Jr. changed baseball footwear when his shoes were released to significant acclaim in 1996. You can still snag a pair today—for upwards of $300.
Nowadays, it seems like anyone who makes an All-Star team has their own signature logo. If you’re more recognizable, your sneakers sell better. That means more money lining your pockets—even though most profit goes to companies like Nike, Under Armour, and adidas.
Kobe’s Logos: A History
Did you know that Kobe’s original signature sneaker was with adidas and not Nike?
Yep, back in 1996, even though he was a struggling rookie who wasn’t even in the starting lineup, adidas went all-in on Kobe. He soon became the premier face of their Feet You Wear campaign, which revolutionized sneaker soles.
Bryant accomplished a career’s worth of achievements while with adidas. He made five All-Star teams and four All-NBA teams. He created a dynasty with the help of coach Phil Jackson and all-world center Shaquille O’Neal, winning three straight NBA titles from 2000 to 2002. He also became one of the best players in the game while wearing his signature adidas sneakers.
That all changed in 2003.
Kobe stayed with adidas until his contract expired in 2003. He then signed with Nike. Immediately afterward, Kobe’s name was all over the news with a rape allegation that took him all the way to court. Even though most of Kobe’s sponsors dropped him, Nike stuck around—and over the next 20 years, they built a footwear empire together.
To grasp Kobe’s early time with Nike, you had to understand his situation and what became the “Mamba Mentality.” He was succeeding on the court while coming apart at the seams personally. As a result, he said he needed to compartmentalize his life. “I went from a person who was at the top of his game, had everything coming,” Bryant said in the documentary Muse, “to a year later, having absolutely no idea where life is going or if you are even going to be a part of life as we all know it.”
He began hearing the whispers of the public while he was playing and needed to figure out how to tune everything out while he was on the court. “I had to separate myself,” Kobe explains. “It felt like there were so many things coming at once. It was just becoming very, very confusing. I had to organize things. So I created The Black Mamba.”
Kobe was watching the movie Kill Bill Vol. 1 when he heard the name and liked it. After doing some research, Bryant realized the name fit him well during this time in his life. But the nickname changed Kobe. After his personal issues in 2003, he was a man and no longer the wholesome kid playing a game he loved.
Nike took this persona and ran with it, making it the focal point of Kobe’s sneakers as well. Which led to his second logo, the Sheath. This logo draws parallels to the sword logo on Beatrix Kiddo’s samurai sword from Kill Bill Vol. 1. Kobe said that the sword represents raw talent. The sheath is what a sword is kept in, protecting it from personal baggage and challenges.
Retirement from basketball didn’t slow Kobe down. Upon leaving the NBA, he jumped head-first into the worlds of entertainment and business, reinventing himself for the third time. As a result, he needed a new logo—and from that, the Hourglass was born.
It’s nondescript. The symbol does look like the number 8, which was Kobe’s jersey number until 2006. Bryant was well on his way to becoming an entertainment and business titan at the time of its appearance. He had a stake in Body Armor, while his production studio had helped him win an Academy Award.
It is unfortunate that we will never see everything Kobe had to offer in the business world.
We were, however, lucky enough to witness Kobe grow into the 41-yeard-old father, husband, and businessman before he died in the infamous helicopter accident with his daughter.
- Best Kobe Bryant Basketball Shoes
- Kobe Bryant vs. Michael Jordan: Who is Better?
- How Many NBA Championship Rings Does Kobe Bryant Have?
- Who Has the Most Buzzer Beaters in NBA History?
A logo can be a potent symbol in the life of a business, company, and in the case of our article, a professional athlete. What some athletes select as their logo symbolizes more than just who they are on the basketball court. This was the case when it came to Kobe’s.
After the “Frobe” early on, you could tell that Kobe’s logos meant more to him than just a symbol. The Sheath is still very well known in basketball circles. Either way, the legacy that Kobe left started with a logo but went deeper.
What was your favorite Kobe logo? Let us know!