The Black Mamba has left the game of basketball for some time now. Is his latest sneaker, the Kobe A.D., battle-worthy for the courts even after his retirement? Swoosh seems to think so, and that’s what we’re here to find out.
Traction – The Nike Kobe A.D. utilizes a minimalistic rubber outsole that features micro-tread traction. The traction itself contains many similarities to previous Kobe models. The forefoot has a very unique design with similar nodules to what was used on the Nike Kobe 10, while the midfoot to heel area uses a similar pattern to what was on the Nike Zoom Kobe 6. On clean courts, the traction pattern fared well, however, once you hit some dust, you’ll find yourself wiping a lot more than usual, particularly in the heel area. I found myself slipping directly on the heel due to the inconsistency of the traction pattern itself and the rubber compound utilized.
Cushion – The new Kobe A.D. features what we have previously seen in older models. While offering low-profile on-court feel, the shoe combines a Zoom Air unit in the heel, with midfoot-to-forefoot Lunarlon foam for so-called responsiveness, flexibility, and maximum court feel. This cushioning set-up is usually not my preference (because I’m spoiled with other cushion setups), and it felt like too much of a flashback to the Kobe 10 with the full-length cushioning embedded in the midsole. Not saying it was a bad thing, but it just didn’t seem too innovative in terms of improving upon a signature line. The responsiveness of cushioning upon impact was quite minimal, probably due to the fact that it’s more of a guard shoe. However, that shouldn’t matter if it’s a guard shoe because I still enjoy my Kobe 4, 5, 6, and 8.
Materials – Swoosh states that the upper material is a breathable mesh upper with incorporated Dynamic Flywire. While most of that statement is true, the mesh doesn’t feel as breathable as it should be. Worse yet, the materials felt extremely stiff on-foot. The Dynamic Flywire system is great for lockdown but on the Kobe A.D. the Flywire dug into the side of my feet, even though the area is covered by a thin layer of nylon.
The synthetic suede in the heel area gives the shoe a nice touch coupled with the large TPU counter. Whatever you see in this shoe, it is almost a mirror image of the Kobe 10 — which, again, isn’t a bad thing but I expected a lot more. I just wish the usage of materials on this shoe was better thought out and executed. It’s Kobe’s shoe after retirement and, in my opinion, to celebrate him properly there should have been more done than what was released.
Fit – This model actually fits pretty nicely. Even with a wider base, I have no particular gripes with the fit. The issue I did have was the how the Flywire dug into the side of my feet. After every game I made an effort to loosen up the laces a bit to help ease the pain but the main culprit was how the Flywire is placed. The thin layer of nylon that overlays the Flywire doesn’t prevent pinching and it pushing into the medial side of my foot, which caused discomfort and some pain. I undid the laces and ditched the Flywire lace loops completely. After many manual modifications to test out where the pinching pain hurt the most, I finally decided to ditch the usage of the secondary Flywire lace loops on both shoes, which helped mediate the pain. I shouldn’t have to try to re-lace my shoe through every single lace loop to ease this issue, but for our readers and my own sake, this required due diligence. Even without the second lace loop used, I still felt secure in the shoe going full speed without second guessing myself.
Support – The support comes mostly from the fit itself. The fit was adequate which might make you think that the support will be good. There are exceptions to this rule: the materials on the Kobe A.D. did not break in properly — actually, they didn’t seem to break in at all. The stiff upper mesh material really forced my foot to push down, flexing the shoe on sudden movements. This causes one to waste unnecessary energy. Materials should feel free-flowing on-foot and aid with fluidity in motion without so much pressure.
Some support would also come from the cushioning, which I’m not particularly a fan of. The cushioning on this model’s predecessor felt more fluid and forgiving with its drop-in midsole. For guards who prefer the low-to-ground feel and don’t want to worry too much about the super responsive cushioning, this might be for them (if you like a stiff shoe). However, big men who need that added support might want to look elsewhere.
Overall – The shoe is visually appealing — but looks aren’t everything. After my time with the Kobe A.D. I find that it was poorly executed and doesn’t do the Black Mamba mantra any justice. I’m disappointed that the Kobe AD fell short of my expectations. The stiffness of the shoe, the minor traction slippage at the heel, the lack of material break-in (due to the not-so-responsive cushioning), the shoe just doesn’t fit my needs. There is so much other great stuff going on in sneaker innovation that this shoe feels like an afterthought. And compared to what other brands are offering for $160, the shoe should have come with better materials and cushioning. Surprisingly, models with lower price-points in the Nike line actually perform better. My advice to Nike would be scrap whatever design you have for the next model and create something new (but use the Kobe 1 traction/rubber compound with full-length encapsulated top-loaded articulated Zoom Air because that would be beastly).
I might have been tough on this particular model, not only because I spent many hours in this shoe, but because having to configure the shoe in order to eliminate pain for me to play in them is just a let down. Of course, this is purely constructive criticism, not mindless bashing, because we want companies to create the best products they can. People always talk about innovation and design. Well, “show me.” Execute better, put more testing hours into the product, and let the creators create. Just Do It.
What was your experience int he Nike Kobe A.D. like? Let us know in the comments below.
If you’re a fan of the Kobe line, you can pick up a pair on Nike.com and all other Nike Retailers for $160.