James Harden impressed sneakerheads and Kobe Bryant fans everywhere Thursday night when he warmed up before the Houston Rockets game against the Los Angeles Lakers in a pair of Kobe Bryant's Reebok Question PEs. Harden gained praise for the shoe statement after the official NBA Kicks Twitter account shared a few photos.
The shoe initially made waves during the 2003 to 2003 NBA season when Bryant broke his shoe contract with Adidas and became a sneaker free agent. Legally bound to rotate brands game to game, he wore all kinds of different brands and styles, with most major labels lacing #8 with his own PEs (Player Exclusives) in hopes of signing him to a contract the next season. One shoe that stood out that year was the Reebok Question Kobe Bryant PE.
The white, yellow and purple pair was first seen by Allen Iverson, who wore the similar Hexalite shoe his entire first season in 1996 with the Philadelphia 76ers, where he beat out Bryant for Rookie of the Year. Over the course of his sneaker free agency, Bryant wore the Question PE as a sign of respect.
The Reebok Questions that Harden wore Thursday night featured Bryant's first number for the Lakers, No. 8, on the back of the heel. Some fans were confused by Harden's sudden switch to Reebok shoes, as he has a signed contract with Adidas, but quickly realized that Adidas owns Reebok.
After Bryant's sudden death on Sunday, Jan. 26, Harden cried before the Rockets game against the Utah Jazz the following day, with The Athletic's Kelly Iko writing that Bryant's death "cut Harden deeply."
"[Harden] cried before that Jazz game, as did other players. Everyone grieves differently, so listening to Harden summarize the week and the ones to come, it was clear to see the pain still on his face, his sarcastic grin non-existent," Iko wrote.
Bryant and Harden faced off on the basketball court 30 times from 2010-16, with Harden holding a 17-13 edge in the all-time series, according to Sports Illustrated. Harden, a Los Angeles native, has noted his admiration for Bryant growing up, with Iko describing Harden as "Kobe's protege before Kyrie [Irving]."
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash nearly two weeks ago in Calabasas, California. The group was reportedly traveling to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy facility. The crash has been officially ruled an accident by the LA County Coroner, although investigators are still attempting to determine the cause of the crash, which occurred on a particularly foggy morning.0comments
A memorial for Bryant and Gianna will be held on Monday, Feb. 24 at the Staples Center.
Photo credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / Staff / Getty