Largely forgotten, the Kobe II was best known for having three iterations, regular (ultimate ), ST (strength) , and Lite.  I’ve owned all three but got rid of the Lites simply because I didn’t like how they looked and they were super stiff. The USA colorway above is far and away my favorite, followed by the Orca ST. Not all that popular,I have probably seen one person other than myself wearing the Kobe II which I guess is a good thing if you like being unique. Back then a sig shoe meant something more than just slapping your name on the shoe and Kobe didn’t care if you liked them or not.

Above: I dug into the back of closet for these. My DS pair of Orcas. Not sure where by worn pair is in my closet lol


I love (present tense) the traction on the Kobe I so I was excited to try the Kobe II and the Free inspired outsole with full herringbone.  The outsole was  more flexible but not to the point where I was wowed. The traction itself was pretty good overall but not nearly as good as I had hoped. I found myself slipping on semi dusty floors and on clean floors I didn’t get that squeak and stop that I love so much.  The problem is two fold: the rubber is harder than the Kobe I and there are too many non herringbone parts to the outsole due to the Free design. Each flat area basically created a spot dust to cling onto rather than get brushed away. Don’t get me wrong, it works pretty well overall but for a Kobe shoe it isn’t quite up to snuff.


Nike decided to ditch a traditional midsole and just put the Zoom in the insole to allow Kobe to be lower to the ground.  Sound familiar ? The good thing about this setup is that the insole is fixed and not a drop in so I don’t get that annoying pinch between the upper and insole on cuts. I had a hard time feeling the Zoom and it was a total 180 from what the Kobe I provided.  The ST version of the Kobe II tweaked the cushioning to make it more plush by implementing Max Air in the heel while keeping Zoom in the forefoot. I could tell a slight difference but nothing that really made me ecstatic. 

The stiffness of the sole also added to the overall ride quality since it is very rigid and hard. Even with Free, the shoe isn’t really very flexible at all.

Below: the navy blue section is a foam/ plastic that adds rigidity to the shoe making it hard to flex.


I remember when I got these how intrigued I was by the inner workings of the shoe. Nike added another layer of padding to the heel to help with lockdown and add a little more comfort to the shoe. However the upper is so stiff and bare of any lining that it doesn’t conform at all to the foot. Part of it has to do with the patent leather in the toe box and let me explain. Back then, Nikes ran bigger than they do today so I bought a 10.5 in both the USA colorway as well as the black and gold. There was and still is a lot of room in the toe box of the USA colorway but the black and yellow pair I could barely squeeze my foot in and had to go up to an 11. I’ve noticed this to be the case almost anytime patent leather is involved since I believe it is harder to get patent leather to conform to a foot..Actually you can’t get it to conform to a foot it isn’t built that way. Thus, when making shoes with patent leather in the toe box, manufacturers have to give a little more wiggle room for error and for different feet. 

Regardless of materials, the fit in the toe box is too generous as I could feel my foot sliding around all over the place inside the shoe. If I went down half a size, it would have worked out side to side wise but then the toe box would be too short for me. Lockdown in the heel, however, was excellent thanks to the inner sleeve and the strap.

Upon reading an old Sole Collector, it turns out Nike was going green and did not have any glue on the shoe so that also explains the fit. Everything had to be sewn together so without glue they couldn’t get quite the same tolerances we are used to. It could also explain why my friend Dan blew his shoe out like Ginobli, literally ripping the upper off the sole. It’s great to go green but there has to be some quality control.


Kobe has never really wanted a lot of protection or support in his shoes just look at his sneaker history starting with the 2k4, 2k5, hyperdunk etc..The support on the Kobe II comes from its fit. The stiff upper and strap help a little but it’s marginal to say the least.  Stability is great though due to a nice wide flat outsole. No tipping at all.


Containment is good but as I stated earlier there is a lot of movement inside the shoe so that offsets the shoe’s containment ability. I can feel my feet move on hard cuts. To reduce side to side movement, I double socked and it helped but the problem still exists. 


Coming off the smoothness of the Kobe I, I had high hopes for the Kobe II but after playing in them I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, these are still one of my favorite Kobes of all time despite how they play on court. But compared to today’s shoes that combine great fit, cushioning and traction, the Kobe II lags way behind.

2 Comment on “Retro Performance Review: Nike Zoom Kobe II

  1. Pingback: Nike Kobe A.D. Mid Performance Analysis and Review |

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