During the 2002-2003 season, Kobe Bryant was a sneaker free agent. Having just finished his contract with Adidas, the major sneaker brands were attempting to woo the Black Mamba with creative, flashy, and innovative shoes. The Jordan Brand’s gift to attract Bryant was a customized pair of Air Jordan 3s and a pair of Air Jordan 8s, both fashioned in the Lakers colorway.
Upon the announcement of Bryant’s retirement from the NBA in 2016, fans and brands alike paid homage to one of the great legends of modern basketball. As a way to commemorate his historic career, and the brief but shared moment, Jordan Brand paid tribute to Bryant by creating a Kobe PE Pack which included the Air Jordan 3 and Air Jordan 8. The set was reserved on a friends and family basis. While a release to the public was rumored, the drop never came to fruition.
The time to honor the great career of the Black Mamba has never been more pressing. After his death in late January of 2020, he was posthumously elected to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in spring of 2020. He is remembered as a league MVP, five-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, 11-time All-NBA First Team, two-time NBA scoring champion, NBA Slam Dunk Contest champion, 18-time NBA All-Star and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, but above all, a dedicated family man and father. He has been lauded by teammates for his “Mamba Mentality”: the work ethic that made him a formidable opponent on any court.