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This lot is closed for bidding. Bidding ended on 12/11/2022

Kobe Bryant became the first guard in NBA history drafted out of high school in 1996, ushering in a new era of “Showtime” basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers. After twenty glorious seasons in the purple and gold, Kobe belongs on the Mt. Rushmore of all-time greats. 60 points in his final career game put Kobe in a legendary category all by himself. There will never be another “Black Mamba” with that same competitive drive, that same killer mentality on the court, or that same level of obsession with perfection.

Featured here is a pair of Kobe Bryant game-worn Adidas sneakers, fresh to the hobby, from his third year in the Association. The NBA lockout shortened the 1998-99 season to just 50 games. The 20-year-old shooting guard played in every one of them, raising his scoring average to a twenty per night and raising eyebrows around the league. He took his game to a whole new level, improving in every offensive category [except 3-point %]. If not for the All-Star Game getting canceled because of the strike, Bryant would have surely made his second Western Conference squad.

The intriguing background of these sneakers and the significance of the game Kobe wore them make the pair truly special. The story goes that Kobe gifted them to former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf following a 3/3/1999 Lakers home game against the Phoenix Suns at the Forum (the last year the Lakers called it home). That night, young Mamba tallied 32 points, five rebounds, five dimes and even blocked four shots in L.A.’s 101-95 victory. (See 0:25 mark of video at bottom for the highlight of Kobe's incredible reverse dunk in the game.) It was Kobe’s highest scoring game at home in his young career, and his second highest overall to that point. He had previously dropped 33 in a 12/17/1997 road game against MJ and the Bulls.

The second overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Ryan Leaf was a big name in sports at that time having finished his rookie campaign with the San Diego Chargers. The two high-profile athletes, playing in the Southern California media spotlight, became friends through their personal assistants who happened to go to the same high school. This brought Leaf and Bryant together on multiple occasions – Ryan attending Laker games in L.A. and Kobe heading down the coast to watch Charger games at Qualcomm. Seeing how the two celebrity athletes supported each other, it's no wonder Kobe felt compelled to give Ryan a pair of his game sneakers. And not just any pair. After torching Rex Chapman and the Suns defense, Kobe invited Leaf back to the Lakers locker room where Kobe took off these shoes he wore in the game and handed them over. These details are provided in Leaf's enclosed letter of provenance.

Progressing from the original Crazy Eights, Kobe rocked these Adidas’ second edition ‘Crazy 8 II’ shoes during the entire regular season, which lasted from early February to early May of 1999. Made of nylon and patent leather, the white colorways with Lakers purple Adidas stripes and black trim around the upper ankles, these kicks were certainly a step up from the rather non-descript first edition Crazy 8’s Kobe sported the season prior for his exclusive shoe brand. The Adidas logo adorns the outer ankles (as well as the tongues in purple), while a catchy “K8B” is embroidered on the opposite side of each upper ankle. That same K8B logo also appears on the outer toes. Another unique feature is Kobe’s iconic No. “8” in purple at the mid-section within the laces. Each design element – silver lace tips, glittery silver tongues, extra padding within the inner heel – make this Kobe Adidas signature model on par with just about any Nike player exclusive shoe at that time, at least from a structural and aesthetic perspective.

The sneakers come in Kobe’s size 14 – he moved up from size 13.5 as an NBA sophomore – with proper player sample tagging that indicates a “08/98” manufacturing date. The laces and insoles appear all-original. Overall, the shoes exhibit outstanding game use and could very likely have been worn by Mamba in multiple games. There are dozens of Getty images from the season, but as was the case in that era, not every game was photographed to the same extent as today (especially of a player’s feet). Thus, photo-matching efforts were inconclusive. Yet, we stand behind these shoes as being worn March 3, 1999. Leaf is adamant that was the date. However, it's theoretically possible the pair could have been worn three weeks later on March 24th when the Suns made their only other visit to L.A. that season. In that contest, Kobe led all scorers from both teams with 25 points in a 106-101 loss to the Suns. The shoes come directly from Ryan Leaf's personal collection with a detailed letter of provenance.

Current Bidding
Minimum Bid: $4,000
Final prices include buyers premium.: $6,389
Number Bids:4
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