While Kobe was on the shelf nursing his Achilles injury from the prior year, Bryant and lead designer Eric Avar unveiled the Nike Kobe 9 Elite in December of 2013. The polarizing design went the opposite direction of prior styles, with the Kobe 9 being unveiled in (very) high-top form, which Nike says provides a proprioceptive feel of a low-top with the support of a mid-top.
This high-top upper was also the first to feature Flyknit, which previously was reserved for running shoes from the Swoosh. This helped provide a lightweight feel, with Flywire strands near the laces and a carbon fiber plate in the heel adding support. A drop-in Lunarlon midsole was one of the few carryovers from the Kobe 8, helping provide a responsive and low-profile cushioning set-up. A pressure-mapped rubber outsole outsole provides traction in the shape of the contours of the human foot.
The journey ahead for Kobe was also epitomized in the heel, with nine red stitches meant to mimic the sutures from Bryant’s achilles injury.
These stitches also appeared on the low-top Elite Kobe 9, as well as the engineered mesh low-top 9. Bryant played in only six games for the 2013-14 campaign, which he himself called a “s*** season.” Bryant would get in a few more games in the 2014-15 season, playing in a special “Mamba Moments” Kobe 9 Elite Low when he passed Michael Jordan in the all-time scoring list.