With Kobe Bryant announcing his retirement yesterday, this week’s edition of Sneaker Grails take a look back at a Kobe shoe that maybe isn’t rare enough to be a grail per se, but it was definitely a shoe that was a pain to get.

Mark Terrill/Associated Press
Mark Terrill/Associated Press

June 17, 2010 will always be an unforgettable day. Years before I started writing about sneakers and annoyed Jordan stans all around the world, I was a part-time video game journalist with a media badge for E3, the biggest video game convention in the world. For three days in June, I freed myself from the crappiness of a horrible 9-5 job to live out a childhood dream of playing video games before they drop, picking the brains of those who made them, partying with fellow journos after the day was done and podcasting about those games at 3am only to do it again in a few hours. And because E3 took place at the Los Angeles Convention Center in June, anytime the NBA Finals or NHL Stanley Cup Finals had L.A. representation it was an even bigger party. But in the years that I’ve been going to E3, nothing has topped the day when Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals – between the Lakers and Celtics, no less – took place at the same time E3 was wrapping up.

The scene outside of Staples Center and the Convention Center prior to the game was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It was a mad house of gamers, already inebriated Lakers and Celtics fans, rich old guys with trophy wives/girlfriends, D-list celebrities that weren’t cool enough to get through the VIP entrance, ticket scalpers and homeless people because gentrification hadn’t fully kicked in yet. I was on my way to the Hotel Figueroa to meet up with some friends after the convention but I just had to take in the atmosphere for a few minutes. It was also there that I realized that I needed to wrap up whatever I’m doing and get the hell out of Los Angeles before the game ends or else I might get caught in the middle of another championship tradition

During the 2010 NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant wore home and away versions of the Nike Zoom Kobe 5 Big Stage. Before Nike Basketball decided to make Elite versions of their top kicks for the playoffs, it was all about special colorways. The Big Stage kicks featured white (home) or black (away) uppers with hits of gold on the swoosh, heel, tongue and lace tips while special Kobe graphics were found on the upper that blended in with the upper making them hard to see unless they were up-close. It was subtle yet effective in the giving the shoe a truly special look.

I had zero investment or rooting interest in the game other than seeing a hard-fought battle between the NBA’s two greatest franchises and that ended up being the case as Kobe won his fifth career championship in spite of an infamous 6-24 shooting night.

Now I really wanted the home version of the Big Stage – Kobe’s Game 7 shoe – as a sort keepsake from that momentous day. It would be nearly two months before we got solid word on the shoe’s availability and it came courtesy of Foot Locker, who announced only the House of Hoops at the Beverly Center would be stocking the shoe. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get, but I figured if I showed up early enough and got the shoes, I could still make it back to my job to clock in on time. Sadly, that was not the case because when I got there, the line looked similar to a Jordan retro line like the one pictured below.


For over a year, I searched for a good price on the Big Stage 5 Home colorway. Consignment shops, eBay, people that know people were selling them for double or more the retail price and it was just a major annoyance. Eventually I would find a legit seller that sold the shoe in brand new condition to me for a little over $250, marking one of the rare times I’ve paid over retail for a shoe.

Yellowed sole, dirty white upper. Yeah, I wore them...
Yellowed sole, dirty white upper. Yeah, I wore them…

Someday, I would like to get a fresh pair again just to have or maybe even chase the black colorway for completionist reasons. Crazy that it’s been over five years since that happened and now we’re on to the Nike Kobe 11 and talking about Mamba’s career in retrospect, huh?