Kobe Bryant and Nike unveiled their newest collaboration, the Kobe 9 Elite ‘Masterpiece,’ a high top basketball shoe inspired by boxing shoes.

Kobe Bryant Designs Nike High-Top

The shoe was designed by Eric Avar with Bryant, and will not be available for purchase until February 2014 and marks a sudden departure from Bryant’s known favorite style: the low-top models he has designed for Nike in the last four years.

Many are speculating that Bryant is now leaning towards a high-top shoe due to his Achilles tendon injury, but Bryant and Avar deny the claim, saying that they began working on the shoe before Bryant’s injury over two years ago.

That said, the shoe does feature nine red lines sown into the design on the back of the ankle, which appear to represent the scars from Bryant’s Achillies surgery.

Bryant says he was inspired to return to the high-top by boxer Manny Pacquiao and his desire to surprise his audience.

“I draw inspiration from where I am as a player, as a person, and where my career is at this moment. I’m trying to do something that the majority of people think is impossible to do,” Bryant says.

What sets this shoe apart, Bryant claims, is that it has the support of a high-top with the flexibility of a low-top shoe. During his Twitter Q&A, designer, Avar said that the high-top should provide wearers with a better awareness of “where your foot and ankle are in space."

“The innovative design enhances the foot’s natural movements while providing Kobe with strength, durability and speed, plus all the benefits of natural motion where he needs it most,” reads the press release.

The ‘Masterpiece’ Kobe 9 Elite will be available for purchase on Feb. 8, with a price tag of $225.

– Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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