By Tim Newcomb
December 05, 2013

When Kobe Bryant returned to high-tops with his Kobe 9 Elite unveiling on Wednesday evening in L.A. he did it with a nod to his torn Achilles.

The new Kobe shoe has stitching that mimics sutures on the back sleeve of the super-high high-tops. The nine red embroidered marks on the heel offer a daily reminder of his pain and path to recovery.

The lead “colorway” of the Kobe 9 Elite, which Nike dubbed “Masterpiece,” uses yellow-, red-, and orange-shaded patterns woven into the black of the shoe to suggest a piece of fine art (Nike unveiled the shoe at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art to make the point as obvious as possible).

To get even a bit spiffier — and protect Kobe’s heel at the same time — Nike has put carbon fiber in the shoe’s heel counter, a trend becoming popular in basketball shoe construction.

The Kobe 9 Elite releases globally on Feb. 8, 2014.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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