Nike Kobe 1 Protro Performance Review

The Nike Kobe 1 Protro is a retro done right.



Traction was good to start, but it did have a few hiccups here and there. However, the outsole broke in with each wear and by the end of testing I really don’t want to play in anything else.

Sounds weird, I know. But I’m just telling you how I feel. It’s the tackiest of tractions, like the Air Jordan XX8 or Nike Kobe 9, and it grips the court — any court — like nobody’s business.

Reliable would be the one word I’d use to describe the traction on the Kobe 1 Protro. It’s also been very durable. Every once in a while I see someone at a gym or park wearing a pair of the original Kobe 1s and I’m always surprised that they’ve held up. Well, not anymore. I can see why people love this shoe. It’s simple and it works.

The cushion used on the original Kobe 1 was a large volume heel Zoom Air unit along with a large volume met bag in the forefoot (Zoom Air). While I never experienced the original myself, I don’t feel like I’m missing much.

The full-length Zoom Air here is incredible. This is the type of Zoom Air experience I fell in love with some 25 odd years ago.

It’s low to the ground, even lower than the original (the designers shaved the midsole thickness down a bit), ultra responsive, and has some feedback. It rests directly under your foot so what you feel is nothing but full length springy goodness.

I’ve compared the setup used in the Kobe 1 Protro to that of the Air Jordan 12 once it has been broken in. I’ll say this: the Kobe 1 Protro feels better than the Air Jordan 12 after it’s been broken in. This is a shoe that makes you smile a little after you’re done lacing it up and you walk onto the court — it feels that good.

If you’re comparing this full-length Zoom Air setup to something more current, like the Jordan Why Not Zer0.1, then I’d say these win by a very slim margin — only because the Why Not is a bottom-loaded setup, even though it doesn’t really feel like it. Honestly, it’s hard to pick between the two based on cushion alone because they’re so similar in feel. However, overall, I have to with the Kobe 1 Protro.

I have been so used to wearing textiles and knits that I had forgotten just how nice leather is to play in.

Yes, it’s a little heavier than newer age materials, but it’s nothing drastic. I mean, we’re talking ounces here, not pounds. If a basketball shoe is too heavy for you then stop skipping leg day. All jokes aside, it’s less about weight and more about construction. The Kobe 1 Protro was not constructed in a way that makes the shoe feel heavy or clunky. Can it for some? Of course. Not everyone has the same tastes and preferences. For me, this shoe just felt solid.

After a quick break-in period, the leather build felt like it was hand-made around a last of my foot — like that old mitt you had as a kid that you hated at first and then loved once you put enough time in it. The Kobe 1 Protro just feels right.

True to size is what I’d recommend. Some wide footers might be able to go either way. If you don’t have a drastically wide foot then the leather should break in around your foot as it would anyone else’s (it just might take a few extra wears). Those with a very wide foot might want to go up a 1/2 size.

Lacing is basic but the lockdown felt great. I never even felt the need to lace them to the top plastic clip at the foam/mesh collar. For whatever reason, the rear section of the shoe just wrapped around my heel and ankle perfectly. I did want to try lacing up at least one shoe all the way but when I play basketball I usually just go with feels comfortable to me, so I never ended up giving it a go.

The collar area that originally bothered me upon try-on felt wonderful after a few hours of play. You almost receive the mobility of a low top with the fit and security of a high top. This must’ve been the beginning stages of introducing proprioception into the mix. We all know where Kobe’s ended up in terms of collar height, but it almost feels like the designers were aiming for that low cut feel right from the start. The Nike Kobe 2 may not be in line with that theory, but the Kobe 3 sure is. Which then led into the 4 — and the rest is history.

You start off on a wide stable platform and then move into a midsole that hugs the hell out of your forefoot on the lateral side. Couple those aspects with the outrigger and the forefoot stability is some of the best around — maybe even of all-time.

You have the standard internal heel counter while the midfoot features a carbon fiber shank. This was another area that was slimmed down a bit from the original version of the shoe. Removing much of the forefoot’s carbon shank resulted in a much more flexible forefoot. Again, I don’t own a pair of the originals, but I’d assume that this change is a noticeable once on-foot. I know the Wade Brand used to use a carbon shank that rode into the forefoot of the shoe and that resulted in a stiffer ride. Since the brand removed it on the later models the line feels much more fluid while in motion.

I’m still not sure what the heel carbon fiber wrap is for. I didn’t really notice it at all while playing. It may be due to the fact that I rarely use my heels, but for what it’s worth it never bothered me.

I love the Kobe 1 Protro, and there’s really no other way to put it. While I was pretty excited to play in the shoe to start, I didn’t realize I’d never want to take it off.

I miss shoes that are built like this. And the fact that Nike did what it could to reduce a bit of bulk and weight here and there only made the experience that much more enjoyable. The brand trimmed the fat and left the meat of the product. The aspects that work work really well. Removing the waste only makes those areas shine that much brighter.

I can tell I love this shoe because I feel like I can keep writing — some reviews force me to finish a sentence. My point is that this is a shoe. A really well built basketball shoe. Man, I miss this s**t.

I’ve been getting “heckled” on socials when I talk about the Kobe 1 Protro — “the shoe sucks” or “it’s crap” — but I’ve got nothing to say in response. If people feel the shoe sucks, or that it’s heavy, clunky, etc., then that’s just how they feel. It’s unfortunate, as that’s clearly not how I feel, because the shoe is great.

My real complaint is that the Kobe 1 Protro is not readily available. Everyone should be able to try this shoe out on-court if they wish because it’s so much fun to play in.

14 Comments

  1. Cool review. The description of the shoe reminds me of the Nike BB Zoom II. Full length zoom (I think) with leather. Nike doesn’t make shoes like that anymore.

    1. I don’t think the II had full length Zoom. I believe it was forefoot and heel. The first Zoom BB was full length, though, and it was greatness.

  2. I liked the OG and I know I’d like these, but not for $175. What sucks for us is they mass release shoes like the AD and NXT, but keep retros of shoes like the I, V and VI limited.

  3. Great review bro! The shoe seems amazing, but if you were to choose this shoe between the d rose 7, which one would you wear and why?

  4. I do feel the same about these shoes and the current situation of newer sneakers. I don’t mind the tech or new materials on newer shoes but I must say that there should be a balance and not leaving us old schools out as there is a large market for us still as much as italian shoes or any other shoes are still made. the rarity or limited quantities of some old school shoes is really annoying whether done on purpose to create hype or Nike’s hesitation to mass produced outdated shoes. what is more annoying is that we can’t get these and only are able to get them thru damn scalpers (resellers) who are not even interested in the shoes other than profit, I dunno how they manage to get them sooner than us real consumers.

  5. The Kobe 1 is in my top 3 all-time, so this would be a no-brainer…if it was actually available. I ain’t gonna play the game of using bots to try to get em’ on release, and I sure as hell ain’t gonna pay no reseller.

  6. I love the way real leather creases and crinkles as you break them in. No two pair will ever look alike. It’s your own footprint on the shoe, so to speak.

  7. as far as the comparison between the Westbrook 0.1 versus Kobe Protro is concerned, it’s not even a tight contest, I’d go for the Protro. other than cushion, it’s a runaway win for the Protro. materials, workmanship, comfort and aesthetics is a clear win for the Protro.

    as far as weight is concerned, I think people should start measuring shoes in pounds rather than ounces as it gives people a false sense of security that an ounce would impact or would make a lot of difference to their game, well unless they have extremely thin stick legs. goodness, if people feel that 12 oz and over are heavy, might as well they need to hit the gym and develop their legs, knees and ankles. I doubt those people have ever used ankle weights in their lives.

    when it comes to availability, I feel these would end up on outlets before year-end, so no rush. just waiting for the hype to die down. I could get them but not the PEs which I’m after.

  8. great review, can’t wait to hoop in them. don’t worry about the haters, that’s their job, to hate. keep up the great work!!!

  9. I want to play in a pair of protros but that price tag is going to steer me away. My OGs will have to do. I don’t know how protros feel as far as cushion but I can say that the ZK1 is still pretty heavenly. That unit in the heel was gigantic and the met bag was no slouch either even though it was such a small unit. I think they play different, albeit a little, but I won’t be trying the protros anytime soon.

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