The bidding’s begun on Bryant’s breakthrough sneakers — the Adidas KB8 — worn during his NBA All-Star Game debut in 1998.
On Feb. 8, 1998, 19-year-old Kobe Bryant scored the first start of his second season.
It was in the NBA All-Star Game.
“I’m very nervous,” Kobe told TNT’s Bryan Burwell the night before the game.
Even as an über-confident kid, he had good reason. For the weeks leading up to the NBA on NBC mid-season showcase, execs had marketed the exhibition outing as Kobe vs. MJ live at Madison Square Garden.
“I’m gonna play hard,” Kobe continued with a smile. “We’re gonna compete. I’m a very competitive person and so is he. We’re going to come out and have some fun.”
Just hours after that interview, the kid named Kobe took to tip-off without wearing warmups for the first time all year. Not far away, Los Angeles Laker teammates Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel supported on the sideline.
Across the timeline, the title-belt bearing Michael Jordan joined in on the pregame daps. For this bout, he was fighting a triple-digit fever in an effort to give 18,000 fans in attendance a show — and perhaps Kobe a lesson.
As the excitement mounted, Dutch dance duo 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This” boomed through the MSG sound system as Kobe’s partner in purple, Shaquille O’Neal, ascended for the game’s opening jump ball.
Surrounded by international fanfare in the middle of the Mecca, a young Kobe Bryant was precisely where he expected himself to be at only 19: standing among basketball’s best in his own signature shoes.
Twenty-four years later, that teenager’s game-worn sneakers could be yours thanks to PWCC.
But first, how’d he get there?
From Next to Now
All autumn in Los Angeles, Kobe Bryant came off the bench for a loaded Lakers roster.
As the season progressed, TV, footwear, and league execs began marketing Bryant as the next big thing, advertising the NBA’s illustrious exhibition as a passing of the torch. Notably, the 1998 NBA All-Star Game was set to be Kobe’s big stage debut despite being a spark-plug sixth man. Equally interesting, it was assumed to be Michael Jordan’s curtain call in what was deemed Chicago’s Last Dance.
Already established as a profitable pitchman, Adidas bet big on Kobe at the tender age of 17. Long before his second season, the company had already elected him as the future of its basketball business.
Like Mike, he was being groomed by marketing genius Sonny Vaccaro and creative visionary Peter Moore. At Adidas, he had his own signature shoe in the form of the KB8.
A nod to Bryant’s initials and at-the-time jersey number, the shoes stormed stores in Black/White and White/Black variations. For the big night in MSG, his sponsor supplied him with an unreleased player exclusive that balances Lakers legacy with photo flash.
Now in 2022, the one-of-one KB8s made for MSG action against Mike could be yours.
Stars & Stripes
Based in black tumbled leather with tonal patent branding, the festive footwear worn by Bryant in his first All-Star Game appearance is now up for auction at PWCC.
Starting at $23,000, the shoes carried Kobe to a team-high 18 points in his ASG debut. In fact, only the game’s MVP, Jordan himself, outscored Kobe in that prime-time television event.
Photo-matched in action shots from the 1998 outing, this pair kicks off PWCC’s rollout of game-worn footwear auctions. This Kobe exclusive proves incredibly sentimental in storytelling due to its All-Star arrival. It’s also rather rare where retail ringers are concerned.
Famously, Kobe debuted this black-based exclusive in the MSG spectacular. Over the course of the season, the colorway was never released in US stores, though Bryant broke them back out for a postseason rematch with the Utah Jazz and a summer tour with Adidas.
By his third season, Adidas continued the KB8 line with the release of the KB8 II and later KB8 III. Eventually, they rerouted young Kobe’s branding into something more mature: the Adidas The Kobe, a model in which Bryant brought home three NBA championships.
In 2002, Bryant broke contract with Adidas to enter footwear free agency. A year later, he signed with competitor Nike. Scorned, Adidas re-released classic Kobe signature shoes under the monicker ‘Crazy’ with the KB8 rebranded as the Crazy 8. In 2014, the All-Star iteration received the retro treatment to the delight of Day 1 fans who long pined for the Kobe exclusive.
While those are nice, this game-worn exclusive listed for auction proves one of the lone original pairs.
When considering the world of collectibles as assets, this sneaker set is quite the piece of history. Fans continue to flock to anything and everything Kobe since the days of his passing. Later this year, his revered Protro pairs from Nike are rumored to return. Just earlier this spring, a game-worn playoff series sneaker from his rookie season hit the market.
So, is it worth the money? That valuation belongs to the bidder. However, the starting price of this Kobe classic could be considered a bargain in comparison to a Michael Jordan player exclusive from the same season that recently closed for $378,000.
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