Kobe Bryant and Bruce Lee Outkick the Competition

At first glance, it wouldn’t seem like NBA legend Kobe Bryant and Bruce Lee would have had that much in common.

In Los Angeles, California, Bryant was singularly focused on leading the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships. His array of fadeaway jumpers, rim-rattling dunks, and lockdown defense made him one of the best players the game had ever seen. The superstar guard would raise the level of his teammates’ play by being more determined than his peers to taste success.

Before Bryant was even born, Bruce Lee lived a life that brought the power, grace and precision of martial arts to the mainstream. He was redefining the craft, and even created his own specific type of martial art called Jeet Kune Do. Lee would appear in memorable content in the 1960’s and 1970’s such as The Green Hornet, Batman, Longstreet and Enter The Dragon.

Perhaps one common denominator between the two giants was that both their lives ended prematurely. Bryant died in a helicopter accident in January 2020 at the age of 42. Lee passed away at the age of 33 in 1973 after an adverse reaction to medication he was taking to combat headaches.

As it turns out, Bryant was one of Lee’s biggest fans, and incorporated a lot of the martial arts master’s philosophy into his own approach to self-improvement. He wouldn’t be able to thank him in person for the inspirational material, so Bryant decided to honor Lee in a very modern way.

He dedicated his Nike Kobe 5 sneaker to the global icon, which was initially released in 2010. Drawing upon distinctive color themes from Lee’s movies, Bryant and the Nike team put together a sneaker that combined a black and yellow hue along with a red claw icon.

Variations of the initial shoe would continue to be released over the years, and other players started to buy into the link between one of the greatest basketball players of all time and a timeless martial artist. Kyrie Irving received Bryant’s permission to build on the template by releasing “Kyrie 3 ‘Mamba Mentality Bruce Lee’” sneakers.

Before Bryant’s shocking death, plans had already been made to release new Kobe sneakers in 2020 that continued a lineage of footwear designed as an ode to Lee. Their release was ultimately delayed due to Bryant’s passing, but was made available to the public later in 2020. The “Bruce Lee Kobe 5 Protro” was resptfully reminiscent of the original version released a decade earlier, and complimented the yellow and gold Los Angeles Lakers jersey scheme perfectly.

In hindsight, maybe it shouldn’t be too surprising that Bryant would choose to immerse himself in Lee’s calculated and strategic methodology. Even though he had amazing natural athleticism, the Lakers star was also extremely cerebral in his attitude towards his profession. Lee’s ability to prepare for the task at hand mentally with out of the box techniques was unique. Their emotional connection will forever be immortalized in the shoes Bryant helped design.