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Nike Kobe 11 Elite Performance Review

UPDATE: If you are looking for a modern performance model with similar performance, check out the Serious Player Only Player 1.

Another one.

Buy Nike Kobe 11 Elite
Nike Kobe XI (11) Performance Review 1

Traction – Inconsistent. That is simply the best way that I can describe the Kobe 11’s traction. They gripped on courts I usually have issues with, and they didn’t grip on courts I normally don’t have issues with. Why? Man, I wish I knew.

Nike Kobe XI (11) Performance Review 2 copy

What I can tell you is that the flat little nubs along the outsole are dust collectors, and still would be dust collectors if the rubber were solid versus translucent due to the pattern itself, not the rubber. I can also tell you that the weird spine that travels down the middle of the outsole saves the shoe when traction is less than desirable. That section grips when the other section doesn’t. So, the more force that is applied the better that section will bite the floor.

But why exactly does the traction work well on some courts versus other courts…I really wish I had an answer for you. The only thing that I can guess is that the rubber compound used is just more compatible with certain floors/ finishes than others. How will you know which floors the shoes will be compatible with? There is only one way to find out, and you’ll have to buy the shoes in order to do so. Hopefully your local retailer(s) have a good return policy in place — even if the shoe is worn — because this is an unfortunate circumstance. It’s not the worst traction I’ve ever had, it’s just very inconsistent.

Cushion – Much improved from the Kobe 10, the Kobe 11 is very comfortable. This is probably the most comfortable drop-in midsole since the Kobe 7. Comfort as in cushion, let’s not talk about what the Kobe 7’s midsoles did to my feet. The Lunarlon protects against grounded impact while providing excellent court feel and mobility. Their large volume heel Zoom Air unit pretty much does the same thing, but utilizes Air instead of Foam. Now, I will nitpick a bit here. I’m not a fan of the setup that was provided with the shoe, and I haven’t been a fan of this bottom-loaded heel Zoom setup since the 7.

Will other midsole setups be available with coming releases? Not sure. As of now, the only place where you can get an additional midsole cushion setup is on NIKEiD. Hopefully they allow the midsoles to be sold separately, or even with other upcoming colorways. But for now…you can only get them on NIKEiD.

My personal choice would be a more consistent cushion setup in terms in fluidity and transition. I always feel as if my heel sinks into the rear of the shoe. For me, that isn’t the best feeling; I’d rather have full Lunarlon or full Zoom Air. Again, both of these setups are available…but at a very high price. Some may really enjoy the combo setup, but for me personally, I don’t enjoy how it feels while playing. Casually, I think it’s great — on-court is another story.

Materials – FlyKnit is used, and it’s almost executed perfectly this time around. It’s not raw FlyKnit. It’s not infused with glue either. They threaded TPU strands — or what I like to call fishing line — throughout the knit. This provides the flexibility that one expects from FlyKnit, but provides a lot of structure and support. There are pros and cons to doing things this way, and the pros outweigh the cons at this point.

The pros: less stretch, more structure thus providing more support, and durability. The cons: you lose the one-to-one fit that FlyKnit usually provides. At least you do in the toe. Midfoot was perfectly fine.

What I would have liked to have seen Nike do with the upper is utilize the TPU strands a bit more strategically. Instead of placing the TPU everywhere, it should have been implemented with more thought — high-wear areas, zones where you’d prefer the material to have less stretch, etc. In doing so, I feel the FlyKnit could have felt more like FlyKnit in certain areas — the toe box for example — yet still offer lateral support upon cuts and changes in direction.

Nike Kobe XI (11) Performance Review 5 copy

Fit – They fit true to size, but the toe has a bit of unwanted volume. Like I was saying previously in the materials section, the FlyKnit doesn’t fit like FlyKnit. Meaning, you still don’t quite achieve that one-to-one fit that you do in the runners that utilize the same material. I believe this is due to the TPU strands as they act almost like a flexible roll cage.

The strands create the frame of the upper, and if your foot doesn’t quite fill out that frame completely then you might not feel they have that perfect, Kobe 5 level, type of fit. You’d never really notice this issue in the midfoot, but it’s very noticeable in the toe.

Other than that one issue, I personally found the fit to be perfect. The midfoot fits perfectly, and the tongue feels amazing when laced up tightly. No pressure points or hot spots to speak of. And while the shoes are really low cut, they don’t feel like it on-foot. They feel more secure than some mids or highs that are currently on the market. Yeah, I’m looking at you Hyperdunk 2015.

Support – Due to the fit and structured Flyknit, they offer quite a bit of support along the upper. The internal heel counter works perfectly, and the shoes sit very low to the ground. So, you always have solid court feel, which aids in your natural ability to stabilize yourself. The outsole is flat and features two prominent outriggers to help keep you from tipping over if you were to lose your balance. If you didn’t know any better you’d never question if these were a low top shoe, or their support.

Nike Kobe XI (11) Performance Review 7 copy

Overall – I like so much of the Kobe 11, except one very key component. Their traction. It’s just a little too inconsistent for me. Some days it was good, other days…not so much. Kind of like my game. Just a few minor tweaks here and there and they could have been amazing.

I know the Air Jordan XXX has taken a lot of heat for their re-use of tooling — and rightfully so — but if there was one thing on a performance basketball shoe that I’d like to see return is the traction. The Kobe 9 was probably the best traction I’ve ever had. Why not move that over to the next shoe? And the next shoe. And the next shoe. You know? It’s not like they’d be re-using the entire midsole, or upper, or anything that would keep the line from looking the same as the previous models. Just keep the traction. What could be so wrong in doing that? At least until you’ve wear-tested the hell out of another pattern to the point where you absolutely know it’s going to outperform and excel.

Other than that, the shoe was really fun to play in and did everything else nearly perfect. Maybe I trust the FlyKnit a bit more. I mean, if adidas can do it…you know what I’m saying?

Buy Nike Kobe 11 Elite
Nike Kobe XI Performance Review Score
  1. Awesome review man. Sucks to hear the traction was inconsistent, as that is the top priority in a hoop shoe for me.

  2. The traction flat out sucks. I played on a really dusty court and was skating. I switched to my CP3.9s and I could feel the court much better. Kobe 9 is best traction IMO.

  3. Been loving these. If they had the traction the IXs had, they’d be bananas. I have a pair of BHMs on the way in hopes that solid rubber helps w/ traction but I’m not holding my breath since as you said it’s most likely the pattern.

  4. Hearing more about the traction woes makes me wonder about the rationale for the pattern. My best guess was to advance articulated feel, and I guess be entirely focused for clean courts with more reliance on the compound itself. Just crazy how much of a miss this was because you’d think Nike would put in rather expected testing in multiple conditions.

    The upper has been a curious matter. While “pure” knit feels best, I did like the mindset of reinforcement for longevity and support. I like the idea in the way you mentioned: strategic/segmented.

    Great review. Touched on more technical matters than the rest I’ve seen (not that the other reviews are bad, most were great). First time I heard about the tongue.

  5. Nightwing, why cant they just reuse the rubber compound? With that they can just reshape the pattern and they will still be great

  6. The heel “sinking in” means that the cushioning at the heel, isn’t doing it’s job and that should not happen. As you land from a jump, or come to a stop from a sprint, the heel should not collapse. This can over stress the Achilles tendon. Bigger players who play with their back to the basket, and I know that they are a rarity these days, I am going to miss Tim Duncan, need a bit more support. It is funny and strange, because Kobe’s older models coming from Adidas and even the Nike Kobe 1 and 2, were more complete basketball shoes, then not simply perimeter oriented fodder.

    Great review.

    1. i kinda get your point, and it makes sense because kobe himself has really had to develop his post game as he’s grown older, but the kobe line has marketed itself as being the premier guard line for a while now, kind of strange because i don’t think the minimalism of the shoes necessarily fit the evolution of his game…to be honest post players don’t have a lot of choices these days, besides the monstrous hyperposite line, a hyperdunk line that gets worse and worse every year, an overpriced lebron series, etc.

      1. but then again it’s as you said, the ‘big man’ game has really evolved, too, look at porzingis and towns this year, for example, anthony davis, pretty clear all those guys grew up playing on the perimeter before they hit a serious growth spurt

        1. The low post game isn’t pretty to some due to the guards dominating the ball. This makes the bigs want to go outside and display play making abilities on the perimeter in order to be seen. Shooting the three, which was unheard of for bigs like Moses Malone back in the day, who could get you twenty boards a game, also wore a low cut shoe. His shoes were built up and were all leather running around 16 to 17 ounces, while not being stripped down at the out sole nor interior.

          Those of us who play with power, or down low, know the value of having a good supportive shoe. These minimalist kicks featuring mushy cushioning, then being low cut to boot, are an accident waiting to happen if we wear them.

          That being said, Lillard’s Adidas shoe does sound promising though.

          I’d love to hear a comparison between the two.

  7. personally i don’t think there is much point at all buying the kobe line when the lillard 2 is almost half the price, ‘course if you’re a kobe fan or you want something fashionable to rock off court that’s something else, but the kobe hasn’t been the best shoe on the market for a long time now, even if it’s always been priced that way

  8. Being a larger individual, I can say something a bit different about this shoe. I enjoyed the heel. I feel like the sinking of my heel helps with impact protection, it really helps my knees. I do feel like the zoom unit could have been a higher PSI unit to help with the deflection of the impact. Also, I really didn’t like the toe box with the “fishing line” throughout, it gave it too much rigitity and not enough flex. Overall, a good looking shoe, but the performance isn’t the best.

    1. Nic, I don’t know what you consider large, everyone’s playing style is different and everyone’s basis of landing points are different also. Under technicality it’s better to land on forefoot than heel due to the amount of physical G-force impact your legs to take in. I do agree on the higher PSI injected into the Zoom heel, but by no means or circumstance should a Zoom unit do that for the fact that the midsole should be centralized in keeping a proper linear angle most of the time to provide proper balance and equilibrium of generated energy with every impact touch.

      1. Yea, I’m 6’4 285lbs, and not all of it is muscle (hahaha). I consider myself larger compared to people I play with. I feel as if my comment didn’t go into enough depth. When I come down from a jump, I do land on my forefoot, but as my heel comes down during the transition, my heel fell into the midsole. I was also considering my running stride/gate, I run very heel heavy so that’s lead to my observation. I’m not sure if I’m describing it correctly. Anyway, I get what you’re saying.

  9. I agree with the comments about it being confusing the type of shoe Nike continues to make for an aging player…At ages 39 and 40 Jordan played in the XVII and XVIII, both shoes designed for how Jordan’s game had changed.

  10. Couple of things.
    1 worst traction out of the whole Kobe line. Pretty much unacceptable at this point.

    2. They can’t even be bothered to stay consistent with their gimmicks…thats almost intelligence insulting.
    If lunarlon and a zoom heel get forefoot Flex grooves and then the full length lunar insert doesn’t have the grooves, they either got lazy or the grooves matter not.
    Which of course they don’t, as thin rubber and foam takes almost no pressure to bend anyway.

    This is a materials showcase and performance was clearly an afterthought

  11. For what it’s worth, Mike Muscala – Forward for the Atlanta Hawks tweeted that they are the best shoe he’s ever played in. Granted it’s an NBA court. Mine get here tomorrow. We shall see.

  12. Kobe 9 EMs were my favorite shoe up to date. Even though once you iD these you can customize the hell out of them, full-length zoom and XDR outdoor traction, the traction on the regular models are just flat out disappointing.

    [b]I’d just save my money, and look else where.[/b]

  13. I have experience used kobe 6,7,8,9,10 and finally got kobe 11, this’s the best shoes i ever wear, the traction is great and cushion very nice and i think it will be better if the full zoom inside.

  14. Just bought the Kobe xi and played for 2hrs on a moderate clean floor. So far, on the moderate clean floor I played on the traction on these shoes are decent but now where near what the Kobe ix’s are. The Kobe xi traction is a TAD better than the Kobe x traction. BUT…and there’s a big but. The middle part, where the weird spine traction pattern is, that part, when pressured like Nightwing said, griped the ground very well on the moderate clean floor I played on. In my opinion, nike should of just made the whole bottom traction of the shoe the same as the middle spine thing. The outer part of the traction is also pretty flat and when dust is collected it does get icy but the middle spine saves the traction like Nightwing said. Why nike didn’t extend the middle spine to the rest of the bottom of the shoe is beyond me. But after this first run on a somewhat clean floor, the traction on these aren’t BAD..but aren’t the greatest.

  15. Kobe slipped and injured his finger in these last night!
    When someone slips on an nba floor in these, you know the traction is trash.

  16. hey nightwing or anyone who wants to give an opinion. I need your thought on something. I decided to ask the best. I’m getting a shoe sometime next week. Maybe late this week. My choices are the curry 2 white all star. Reason cause it’s an amazing shoe. Not too expensive, but looks FIRE. My customed d lillards. They cost equivalent 105 us dollars here in canada. In CA they are 170. Nothing’s holding me back from buying d lillards, except that i don’t want to wait the worth it, 3-5 weeks before it gets to me. And the hardest one. The Kobe 11. I’ve asked a select few about their opinions on traction, and they said it’s amazing on a clean court(which i have the luxury of playing in), but inconsistent on dusty ones. That’s what’s stopping me from buying the shoe. But the fact that it’s kobe’s last shoe before retirement and cause i’m a big kobe fan,makes me want it so much. Now i currently own shoes that got my back when it comes to performance anyway. The Kyrie 2. My heart is currently leaning to the Kobe 11. Before it was the currys because it looks FIRE. The d lillards is just a backup option. D lillards don’t have my size of 7.5 here in CAN.Please let me know what you think. I need a legit answer. PLEASE Put yourself in my position. I’m looking for a shoe that performs amazingly on court, but is aesthetically FIRREEEEEEE. don’t say: pick what you want” without a reason. Now i have a few days, maybe a week before i buy a shoe, in stores or online. I want your opinion no matter what. PLS give me your opinion. Thanks for wasting your time for me. DAB 3 times while i leave.

    1. This is a pick what you want type of situation. You know what you need out of a shoe and you know what each shoe can do for you in terms of performance. All you need to do is make up your mind on what you feel is the best decision. The only thing to consider is the fact that Chery’s shoes tend to sell quickly, Kobe’s and Lillard’s tend to go on sale. So some of these choices you can always go back and grab. But which you choose is completely up to you, and it sounds like you’ve already made up your mind so all you need to do now is commit to what you want.

      1. Just a small note on all the different Kobe XI color ways. For whatever reason? The Mark Parker( black/ Royal blue Kobe XI fits, and wears better than the BHM, & Blue/Gray combo. The Mark Parker is the perfect fit as we opine on the fits to size performance. Perhaps others experienced the same? To be clear. The shoe color ways are very attractive in most cases. The White flyknit are tough, because white True Flyknit will not clean well, if at all. As for fit. The AD has been a great victory for Nike. Ask Andre Igaduola. At 6’6″ he has been using the AD for the entire 2016, 2017 season. Great, if not the best Low top shoe I have ever worn.

  17. Hi NW,

    Do you have a list/page of your top 5 in your rotation? Sorry if you have it up and I missed it. Would love to see your picks.

    I’m buying a new pair of kicks to play in. I’m in my early 30’s. Currently rocking the Kobe IX (China colorway). Best bball shoes I’ve ever worn. I’m a guard, traction is key for me. My decision is Kobe IX Elite (showtime or what the? colorway, feeling the high tops) or Kobe XI (new colorway paying homage to Tinker/AJIII).

    Which would be your preference to play in? I’ve read both reviews. Kobe IX win in traction category. Comfort seems like a toss-up. Any thoughts would be appreciated.


    P.S. – ping me if you ever come down south of LA. We’ll ball.

  18. Nightwing-

    I read what you said about the extra volume in the toe box, but I didn’t realize how big of an issue that could be when combined with the sub-par traction. Have you had those moments were you’re trying to stop on a dime in the 11’s and not only does the traction fail you but your toes come off the insoles like Fred Flinstone hitting the breaks, causing exaggerated slippage? I feel like these put unecessary stress on my feet. Almost like hooping in Benassi slides or something.

    This slippage happened to me all night while playing in these for the first time and it’s pretty unacceptable considering the price point. I would expect something like this on a hyper-rev, not a signature model. If it wasn’t for the solid heel lock down I would have hurt myself for sure…

    The lack of traction also caused a few ankle rolls while closing out on a shooter. Again completely unacceptable at this price point.

    If they’re going to continue the Kobe line post retirement, they need to revisit the excellent fit from the Kobe 8 (heel lockdown and fit on those was straight impeccable) and like you said, the traction from the 9’s.

    I wish I could return these suckers. I should have waited for the KD 9’s coming in June.

    Oh well. Back to my Lebron 11’s, Kobe 8’s and J Crossover 2’s.

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