This Day In Lakers History: Kobe Bryant Debuts Nike Zoom Kobe IV ‘MLK’

The NBA annually does their part to pay their respects on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and they’re often joined by branding partners Nike and Adidas, among others. On Jan. 19, 2009, Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers faced the Cleveland Cavaliers in a highly-anticipated matchup.

The Lakers were coming a season that ended in a disappointing loss to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers themselves were title contenders, and both teams entered the night with 31 wins and single-digit losses.

At the time, Bryant and James represented two of Nike’s standout pillars. As such, Bryant was outfitted with what became one of his most recognizable sneakers in a long-running signature shoe line with Nike — the Zoom Kobe IV ‘MLK’ colorway.

A white-based model featured a purple toe box, gold swoosh, gold color and snakeskin detailing. The shoe was later released in limited quantities on May 8, 2009.

As for matters on the court, Bryant dislocated the ring finger on his right hand while diving for a loose ball a mere two minutes into the game. He of course returned, and proceeded to score
20 points, to go along with six rebounds and 12 assists in 41 minutes.

Bryant scored nine points as part of a Lakers 16-7 run to open the fourth quarter. James finished with 23 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

While Bryant helped drive the engine, it was Pau Gasol (22 points and 12 rebounds) and the rest of the supporting cast that led the way in a Lakers 105-88 win. The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and prevented the Lakers from suffering their first stretch of three consecutive losses that season.

LeBron James reflects on first matchup against Kobe Bryant

This wasn’t the first time that James and Bryant squared off as that came all the way back in 2004. Years after their playing careers were over, James reflected on that first matchup with Bryant.

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