For the second season in a row, DeMar DeRozan has had the honor of debuting Kobe Bryant’s latest retro rerelease of his revamped Nike signature kicks, a moment the Los Angeles native certainly doesn’t take for granted.
Thanks in part to the NBA’s loosened color rules, the current San Antonio Spurs scorer unveiled the Kobe 4 Protro in vivid teal and purple accents, tying back into the upcoming All-Star Weekend’s host city of Charlotte, North Carolina, and Bryant’s original draft day colors, after the Hornets selected him 13th overall in the 1996 draft.
“I grew up watching him and idolizing his game, then playing against him and playing in his last All-Star game with him,” DeRozan said. “It’s a shoe [series] I’ve worn my whole career. To have that really come full circle is definitely something I can’t even put into words.”
While Air Jordans have been rereleased relentlessly over the years as near-replicas of their original designs, Bryant’s quest for his relaunches filters through a different approach. “Protro,” as he dubbed it, blends both performance and retro, upgrading decade-old technology with more cushioning, lighter materials and sleeker constructions thanks to today’s modern manufacturing.
The “Draft Day” colorway donned by DeRozan will be fittingly launching during All-Star Weekend beginning Friday in Charlotte. He’s expected to have his own player-exclusive colorways of the model as the season continues, and Nike will be releasing even more Kobe 4 Protro editions, diving through draft-inspired storytelling.
With the return of the Kobe 1 Protro over the past year and now the low-top leading fourth edition, the return of the starting points of the long-loved Kobe line feels possibly overdue.
“I was always wondering what it’d take for them to start retroing [Kobes],” DeRozan said. “So many dope early-on Kobes haven’t been rereleased. I think it was the perfect time for them to be able to come back out, for a new generation to be able to adapt, and for the older crowd that understands, to get them, too.”
While DeRozan and several others around the league have been carrying the torch now that Bryant has left the game, Kelly Oubre Jr. has found himself enjoying one of the more unique sneaker deals around the league. The only active player currently signed to Converse, the Phoenix Suns swingman has been sifting through his own collection of Kobe sneakers on the court, with Converse not producing performance sneakers for now while being a subsidiary of Nike.
The crux of Oubre’s impact for the brand has been felt off the court, as he’s become arguably just as known for the style and sneakers he brings on a nightly basis to the heightened visibility that is the arena entry. Last week, Oubre debuted Converse’s new Black History Month edition of the iconic Chuck Taylor.
“Every game since my rookie year, I kind of came in and just always wanted to look nice and always wanted to outdo myself,” Oubre said. “[Style is] not about anybody else, it’s about how you feel in what you’re wearing. That’s kind of been my mantra coming into the league, just wanting to always look my best. Now that it’s taken off, I’m just happy to be the freshest person in the NBA.”
As Black History Month continues, players on each team have been proudly wearing current patterned and special themed pairs from several brands, such as Memphis Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley’s kente cloth-accented Air Jordan 33. Sacramento Kings speedster De’Aaron Fox has been dipping into a batch of pairs from the very beginning of Nike’s annual “BHM” launches in 2011, such as the Kobe 6 and KD IV.
Along with a look at his own assortment of “BHM” options, PJ Tucker has started to pull out a variety of rare All-Star themed sneakers from years ago, leading into this season’s showcase weekend. Unboxing a pair of Nike Kobe 3s made for the 2008 All-Star Game in New Orleans, the red and gum sneaker is highlighted by a white, curling heel swoosh and laces.
“That’s the best part!” Tucker texted. “The white laces make the shoe.”
Before he takes part in his very first All-Star Weekend in the Rising Stars game, Kings rookie Marvin Bagley III had yet another player-exclusive edition of the Puma Clyde Court to debut, this time inspired by his draft day suit.
While his look last June incorporated a subtle shimmer charcoal-grey jacket and matching bow tie, styled along with a black shirt and pants, it was the inside of the Boushra AlChabaoun-designed jacket that added some flair and personality.
“I just wanted to do something that was a little bit different than everybody else,” Bagley said at the time. “Not too flashy, but something that was a little bit different.”
Along the polka-dotted right inner lining of the jacket was his own screaming face, along with a repeat pattern of the acronym “J.R.E.A.M.,” a remix of the early 1990’s Wu Tang classic song “C.R.E.A.M.”
“Jesus Rules Everything Around Me,” Bagley explained. “That’s something that I live by every single day.”
Puma incorporated his face into the shoe’s sockliner, and added in the J.R.E.A.M. acronym underneath the clear outsole. As Bagley and the rest of his Puma Hoops rookies take to the Rising Stars game Friday, you can expect to see them debut the brand’s newest silhouette for the second half of the season.
Check out all of the best sneakers from around the NBA this week and vote for your favorite pair in our latest poll at the bottom. For real-time updates on the feet of the game’s biggest stars, be sure to join our ESPN SneakerCenter Facebook Group.
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