Anyone can argue that Kobe Bryant is the closest thing we'll ever see to Michael Jordan... That's not what I'm here for. I'm here to showcase one of my favorite PE's in existence: the Air Jordan VIII's personally made for the Black Mamba.
I took these photos about a decade ago during the old SoleCollector shoe competitions. I remember freaking out because it was the first time I was able to see these rare gems in person. They belonged to @BALLINTWN at the time, and unfortunately I was not able to obtain them when they were shortly up on the market several years ago. This particular pair was game worn by Kobe himself, and signed with his old signature (number 8 included).
This photo above from the 02-03 NBA season has always been a personal favorite of mine... "Passing The Torch" anyone?
If you look hard enough, you might be able to see the resemblance in certain sequential signature shoe models. For example, the Air Jordan IIIs and the IVs have quite a few similarities, as do the VI and the VII silhouettes. Even in the LeBron game shoe line---the Air Max LeBron VII and the VIII designs have very similar aesthetic qualities. One thing that they all have in common is the lead designers... Tinker Hatfield designed all of the aforementioned Jordans, and Jason Petrie designed the entire second half of the LeBron series.
Tinker's Air Jordan XX3 is my favorite shoe design of all time. I know they aren't for everybody, but that doesn't bother me one bit. If a product design isn't initially polarizing, the boundaries probably weren't pushed to the furthest potential. I'll admit that it took a little while for the design to grow on me, but I've come to realize that the entire shoe is photogenic from every angle. The expectations for the Air Jordan XX3 were astronomical, mainly because of how iconic the number is to the entire signature line... I believe that the shoes were adequately filled.
Most shoes today have hidden design cues that are sort of like Easter egg hunts. The XX3 has a few details that might be common knowledge to Jordan connoisseurs, such as the "M.J." stitch pattern on the side walls and the crystalized heel design (as a nod to the XX3 being the gem of the game shoe line). But, one of my favorite design aspects is the toe area. It appears as if Tinker Hatfield borrowed design cues from two of the XX3's older brothers: the XX and the III. The front of the midsole area appears as if it was taken directly from the XX, and the toe piece right above that looks very similar to the III (without the elephant print). Hatfield designed all three of those signature models, so I've always been a fan of this design nod. Plus, the number 23 is obviously made up of a 20 and a 3, so this little-known design element has always intrigued me...
Can you see it?
Bonus pics from the photo shoot...