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Now that he’s retired, Kobe Bryant can do whatever the heck he wants

And that includes waving off the purple and gold

As much love as he has for the Los Angeles Lakers — the team he played 20 seasons for before retiring from the NBA in April — Kobe Bryant isn’t obligated to don the purple and gold at all times anymore. Especially not on his feet.




Tuesday marked Bryant’s 38th birthday, and as a special present, Nike unveiled a new pair of the future Hall of Famer’s signature shoes. The colorway of the sneakers? Not purple and gold. All-black? I mean, he is the Black Mamba, but no, not quite.

Bryant’s new sneakers — the Kobe 11 Mambacurial, which drops Sept. 8 on Nike.com — are blue, gold and red, paying homage to perhaps his favorite team in the world — FC Barcelona.

“This sweet colorway is inspired by Kobe’s love for global football, soccer, specifically FC Barcelona as you will notice,” reads a Nike press release. “It’s no coincidence we shared the Mambacurial on Kobe’s 38th birthday.” And what if I told you Bryant loves soccer more than basketball? Or, he can tell you. “I grew up in Italy. From the age from 6 to 14, I played soccer every day,” Bryant told FIFA.com in 2014. “It’s actually my favorite sport.”

For the past few years, Bryant has been planting seeds of his love for soccer in his signature basketball sneakers.

For the past few years, Bryant has been planting seeds of his love for soccer in his signature basketball sneakers. In 2013, he released both the Kobe 8 System “Barcelona” colorway, his first sneaker tribute to the Spanish club, as well as the Kobe 8 Mambacurial colorway, which was modeled after the Nike Mercurial Vapor IX soccer cleats.

Now, it’s hard not to picture Bryant spending his newfound free time juggling a soccer ball in the Kobe 11 Mambacurials. Or firing off some penalty kicks like he did at a Manchester United-FC Barcelona game in 2011.

On Wednesday, the city of Los Angeles will celebrate Kobe Bryant Day. But if it were up to Bryant, there’d probably also be a celebration in Barcelona, Spain.

Aaron Dodson is a sports and culture writer at Andscape. He primarily writes on sneakers/apparel and hosts the platform’s Sneaker Box video series. During Michael Jordan’s two seasons playing for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s, the “Flint” Air Jordan 9s sparked his passion for kicks.