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Nike Introduces Kobe 8 Protro & Mamba League Tourney in Brand Relaunch

During the first phase of a reimagined rollout, Nike will begin re-releasing iconic Kobe Bryant sneakers from his playing days.

Ahead of what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 45th birthday on Aug. 23, Nike officially announced the company will release the Kobe 8 Protro, in what will be the first wave in a new series of launches from the late Lakers great’s signature sneaker series with the brand. 

Styled in a divine triple white look — with detailed embroidered logos along Nike’s Swoosh and Kobe’s Sheath logos — the midsole of the clean-themed sneaker also incorporates a miniature repeat all-over graphic of Kobe’s logo. The collar features a white basketball leather texture. 

While the Kobe 8 was included in Nike’s “Prelude Pack” in 2014 ahead of Bryant’s return from his Achilles injury, and the “Fade To Black Collection” in 2016 during his final NBA season, this month’s launch marks the very first time that the Kobe 8 returns in “Protro” form.

Nike Kobe 8
Photo courtesy of Nike

The under-the-hood updates aiming to improve upon the original sneaker worn by Bryant during the 2012-13 season include a full-length React foam midsole for an improved ride and cushioning, replacing the original drop-in Lunarlon midsole.  

Bryant famously coined the “Protro” concept himself, ahead of the release of the Kobe 1 Protro in 2018. In fusing together the notion of creating a pro-level Retro sneaker, the concept sees each of his past shoes updated to the current standards of Nike’s greatest performance technologies.

“We’re always looking to build on things that we’ve done in the past and try to improve them,” Kobe Bryant said at the time in 2018. “Protro is about evolution and improving on things that were.”

Nike Kobe 8
Ezra Shaw / Getty Images

Initially debuted by Bryant in a vivid black and sulfur colorway in 2012, the new “Halo” colorway concept for the Kobe 8 came directly from Vanessa Bryant’s input. The all-white “Halo” theme will serve as the annual birthday release colorway for future Kobe sneakers in the years to come.

After renewing The Kobe Bryant Estate’s contract with Nike in March of 2022, Vanessa has taken a hands-on approach to crafting the storytelling and launch strategy for the Kobe sneaker series. 

“With this new partnership, fans will soon be able to have access to Kobe and Gigi Nike products for years to come,” Vanessa Bryant said of the renewal announcement. 

More recently, during Nike’s Q4-FY23 conference call in late June, Nike CEO John Donahoe echoed the excitement around what’s to come for the Kobe series. 

“It’s going to be an exciting summer, as we set the stage to relaunch the Kobe brand in advance of Kobe Day on 8/24,” said Donahoe. 

In addition to the Kobe 8 Protro launch on Nike’s SNKRS app and at select retailers on Aug. 23, Nike will also host a two-day elite youth basketball tournament in Los Angeles. 

Held in front of Bryant’s old Staples Center stomping grounds, the Mamba League Invitational will invite eight top men’s and women’s teams from the LA area to compete in a tournament. The championship game will take place the following day — 8/24 on “Mamba Day” — as a tribute to Byrant’s two jersey numbers with the Lakers.  

With the Kobe 8 Protro expected to be Nike’s priority model for the next year from its Kobe series, along with additional Kobe 6 Protro launches, it’s that performance lens initially envisioned by Kobe himself that will extend and carry his sneaker series into the future for the next generation of players. 

“I wanted to build a business that wasn’t just based on things I have done in the past,” Bryant said of the Protro concept in 2018. “It is important that the brand stands for performance and that everything we do is innovative.

“Even if we are releasing shoes from the past, they still must be built on performance.”

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