Largely forgotten thanks to the popularity and greatness of the Kobe IV, the ZK III was and still is one of the best fitting shoes of all time and is the granddaddy of Nike’s current line of shoes.

I remember the first time I laid eyes on the Kobe III… I almost threw up. Coming from my love of classic Jordans,  I thought to myself, this has got to be one ugliest shoes of all time. I never tried them due to how hideous I found them to be. I was repulsed, but then I decided to buy a pair after they went on sale, and then I fell in love.


Okay, well nobody is perfect . Traction on the ZK III is by far the worst aspect of the shoe as sports a diamond patterned sole. The ZK III has a diamond theme throughout the shoe inspired by Kobe’s daughter Diamante

It isn’t terrible after break in but it certainly isn’t great either. The diamond pattern doesn’t allow the rubber to flex and push away dirt like a traditional herringbone pattern would; Actually , it inhibits it since the thickness of the diamond makes that section firmer since so much rubber exists inside each diamond. Luckily the rubber is pliable and soft so some dirt can get swept away. This is by far the worst traction pattern on any Kobe though. I still slipped everywhere on dirty floors but on clean floors it was good but still not great especially for a Kobe.


Targeted Zoom in the heel and forefoot. Despite having the same set up as many other Nikes at the time, this set up felt very muted to me. Didn’t really get the bounce back even though it was there but it doesn’t feel like the crappy Zoom Air that Nike has been putting out lately either. I can feel it but I guess the response in the heel is more dissipated throughout the entire heel area. 

 I was surprised how low to the ground the forefoot felt back then although a lot of shoes have gone that route since then. Can’t really feel the Zoom in the forefoot but I’m guessing Kobe wanted that court feel instead.  There is a noticeable heel to toe drop but it isn’t bothersome but takes a little time to get used to.


Fits like a sock with a sole, Just a plain perfect fit all the way around. No heel slippage, no deadspace at all.  The upper literally wraps around the foot and ankle thanks to the flexible upper. The upper is made of mesh with a tpu overlay to provide support and containment.


Below: hey look real leather ! 

 Compared to newer shoes, the upper reminds me of the Clutchfit Drive… Actually the whole shoe reminds me of the Clutchfit Drive (except the CF has better traction). 


Support comes mainly from the fit and the large outrigger at the forefoot.  The heel counter is hidden but is effective albeit flexible.  Stability is excellent due to the outrigger and wide flat outsole.  I never felt like i would sprain my ankle in these thanks to how stable try were.  Despite the wonderful stability, the III feels natural underfoot.


Despite a minimal upper my foot never left the footbed on hard cuts. The TPU upper kept my foot in place perfectly.


This shoe is 8 years old, how did time go by so fast ? I still remember Kobe wearing these agains the Celtics in the finals like it were yesterday.  Regardless of age, this shoe set up the platform for Nike basketball; look at the lineage since then and you can connect the ancestry straight to the Kobe III: Hyperdunk(s) or any Hyper shoe, fuse or mesh uppers, low tops (the upper is so flexible it Nike decided to get rid of mids).  If Nike gave the Kobe III the Kobe IV sole, you’d pretty much have a perfect shoe.

6 Comment on “Retro Review: Nike Zoom Kobe III

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