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"I watched him spar and train" — How Filipino boxing legend Manny Pacquiao inspired one of Kobe Bryant's signature shoes

There were rumors that Kobe Bryant designed the sneakers in response to his Achilles tear. Nike dispelled such rumors.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and boxing champion Manny Pacquiao

Kobe Bryant and Manny Pacquiao

It’s not uncommon for basketball players to learn from fellow athletes from other fields. Some players, especially those who hail from Europe, have brought the quality footwork they learned from the football field to the hardcourt. Meanwhile, for Los Angeles Lakers icon Kobe Bryant, he learned a thing or two from boxing great Manny Pacquiao — and he used it to design a shoe.

Boxing boot

During the launch of Kobe 9 Elite in late 2013, Bryant shared the story behind the sneakers’ high-cut design. According to Kobe, he visited Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao during his training for his third bout with Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez. He was there to observe the pugilist’s footwork. But he left the boxing gym with an idea for a basketball shoe.

Manny was getting ready for the (Juan Manuel) Marquez fight two years ago, and I stopped by his training camp,” Bryant said, per the Philippine Star.

I watched him spar and train, watched him moving, looking at his footwork, trying to learn from him, how he uses his footwork,” he added. “I asked myself, I wonder if I could move like Manny in a basketball shoe that looks like his boxing boot.

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The basketball shoe had to be really like Manny’s boxing boot. I wanted the high-tops to be responsive to the movement of the ankles.

The shoe was a bit polarizing due to its unorthodox design. However, it was generally well-received by basketballers at the amateur and professional levels. Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant has been spotted sporting the Kobe Elite 9, which suggests he likes them.

When the shoe came out, people assumed that Bryant made the shoe in response to his Achilles injury in April 2013. Nike dispelled such rumors, noting that they had been working on the shoe for at least two years.

Pacquiao vs. Marquez

Kobe chose a perfect time to observe Pacquiao train. As noted, he was preparing for his third duel with Mexican fighter Juan Manuel Marquez. Their first fight ended up in a draw, while their second fight was a split decision in favor of Manny.

Kobe was aware that Pacquiao had a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to beat Marquez in convincing fashion. Bryant knew that when the greats have their back against the wall, something special comes out. He was not mistaken. 

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