Bryant quickly became the face of Nike's newest creation, wearing the 2K4 during his first season with the company, most notably at the 2004 NBA Finals and the 2004 All-Star Game in Los Angeles. He also wore them in pre-season games that year.
Nike released a special edition version of the shoe called the "Infrared 4" to celebrate Bryant's debut season. The shoe was colored in infrared white, black, and gold and included a holographic swoosh and midsole for added visibility during play.
This is what Kobe wore on the court during his first season with the Lakers:
He created history by becoming the first player in NBA history to win the Rookie of the Year Award while leading his team to the best record in the Western Conference (57-25).
Kobe used a mix of power dunks, drop steps, and spin moves to get into the paint against defenders who were often caught flat-footed because they didn't know how to deal with him. He also showed an ability to shoot from deep (41.1 percent) and finish at the basket (82.6 percent).
His stats are even more impressive when you consider he played nearly 30 minutes a game during his first season.
From the 1996-97 season to 2005-06, he wore the No. 8 jersey, and then No. 24 from 2006-07 through the 2015-16 season. In that final season, the Lakers were already considering Bryant's retirement before the season ended.
He was voted out of the Lakers' organization in a blockbuster trade in which they sent him to the Philadelphia 76ers for All-Stars Moses Malone, Robert Horry and Jamaal Tinsley as well as draft picks Chris Mihm and Sasha Vujacic. The Lakers received two future first-round picks in return.
On January 26, 2016, just over a month after announcing his retirement from basketball, Bryant returned to the court for a game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. He made an appearance during halftime in what was his last game played in Los Angeles. He finished with 23 points, five rebounds and four assists in about 25 minutes. The Lakers lost the game 123-110.
Bryant had said prior to the game that he was not retiring again, only closing the book on his career.
The eight-year period that Bryant spent wearing #8 with the Lakers is the longest any player has worn that number with one team.
Bryant's contract with Nike expired on April 13, exactly five years after his legendary NBA career ended with a 60-point performance. When the contract was inked, it felt only natural that it marked the start of a new chapter in the brand's post-basketball life. But now, it appears that future generations will be able to enjoy Nike's collaboration with Bryant as well.
Nike released a statement last week saying that it has plans to honor Kobe with a signature shoe release sometime in 2018 or 2019. The brand did not specify when or where these shoes will be available to the public, but it does offer a glimpse at what they might look like based on previous collaborations with other athletes. For example, Karl-Anthony Towns and Kevin Durant both had roles in designing their own pairs of sneakers featuring some of their favorite things about basketball.
Kobe's family announced in a statement Thursday that he will not be participating in any more commercial activities during his hiatus from basketball. This includes appearances involving his signature shoe line. His children are expected to carry on his legacy as leaders of their own brands within the community that Kobe helped build over his 20-year career.
Kobe's announcement comes just three days after he dropped 60 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in an eventual loss. During his retirement speech, Bryant said that he planned to spend more time with his family and less time promoting his namesake apparel line.