THROWBACK: Kobe Bryant’s Footwear Inspired Serena Williams’ Wimbledon Shoes

Published 12/25/2020, 11:00 AM EST
AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND: Serena Williams of the USA thanks the crowd after winning her quarter final match against Laura Siegemund of Germany during day five of the 2020 Women’s ASB Classic at ASB Tennis Centre in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

What ties Serena Williams to her NBA friends? Footwear.


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Two of the biggest basketball stars that the 23-time Grand Slam winning American has been friends with – she lost one of them to a fatal air crash earlier this year – had footwear history with her.

Kobe Bryant’s footwear philosophy inspired Serena’s choice


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NBA great Michael Jordan sent the American a box of Air Jordan sneakers after her 23rd Grand Slam win at the Australian Open in 2017.

As for another slam-dunk legend, the dear departed, Kobe Bryant, had a lot to do with the design of her special on-court footwear for the 2015 Wimbledon championship.

Though custom-made by Nike, her footwear partner, the special sneakers were designed on Bryant’s footwear philosophy of being low-profile, yet effective.


Serena was having trouble rolling her ankle before Wimbledon 2015

The special footwear line for Serena, called ‘NikeCourt Flare’, had snatches of Bryant’s ideas and the Kung Fu philosophy.

Serena, in her own words, was having trouble ‘rolling her ankle’ at the time and turned to Nike’s Aaron Cooper to design a special line to enhance her mobility on the tennis lawns at the All-England Club.

An interview quoted Serena as saying, “At the time, I was having issues rolling my ankle. So I wanted to create a shoe that would give me a lot of stability and make me a better player.”

Opening up on the thinking behind the designer footwear, Cooper said, “At first, she (Serena) was looking to achieve this stability through a bigger and more built-up shoe.

“But what she actually needed was the opposite. Stability can be achieved through a more minimal, low-profile shoe without sacrificing the protection you still need.”

How Serena responded to Kobe’s story

Cooper wanted to make Serena understand the thought behind the design, he cited Bryant’s footwear lines and how they evolved towards a more flexible and lesser- profile.


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“Serena is friends with Kobe and she obviously respects his capabilities on the court. So she really responded to his story and was able to envision that translating to her performance.


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She embraced the idea and trusted the process,” Cooper was quoted as saying at the time.

The new custom-made footwear worked wonders for her, as she clinched the 2015 Wimbledon title, her sixth, beating Spain’s Garbine Muguruza in straight sets.



Priyabrata Chowdhury

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Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.