Kobe Bryant has the best Christmas Day sneaker. We can argue sneakers until the end of time, but this is not even up for debate — the Kobe 6 Grinch is the greatest Christmas sneaker of all time.
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Even though players have been wearing special edition sneakers or Player Edition sneakers in Christmas Day games going back to the ’90s, it wasn’t really until the NBA made the Christmas Day slate of games a showcase event in 2008 that the Christmas Day sneaker reveal became a thing.
The sneaker companies ran with it, using it as an opportunity to market their latest on-court models on the feet of their biggest names.
While we could have included many notable sneakers worn on Christmas Day we decided to keep this list from 2008 to the present, and only shoes that were signature models designed specifically with a Christmas theme, or signature models debuted on Christmas Day.
10) 2008 LeBron James – Nike LeBron James 6 ‘Chalk’
This is not a Christmas-themed sneaker – its inspiration comes from LeBron’s pre-game chalk ritual (sidebar: who else misses the Cleveland version of that?), the LeBron 6 ‘Chalk’ was debuted when the Cavs beat the Wizards 93-89 on Christmas Day in 2008.
The LeBron models didn’t really shift the culture until the seventh iteration the following season, but the 6 remains an underrated LeBron sneaker.
9) 2010 Kevin Durant – Nike KD III ‘Christmas’
This was the year that a ‘Christmas’ theme was incorporated in all three signature models, and Nike released a bunch of signature Christmas sneakers in 2010, but the only pair that wasn’t red or green was Kevin Durant’s bright yellow KD III’s.
The III doesn’t get the love that the IV gets, but it’s definitely one of Durant’s most underrated sneakers.
8) 2012 Dwyane Wade – Li Ning Way of Wade (two pairs in one game)
People were shocked when Dwyane Wade left Jordan Brand for Chinese company Li-Ning in September 2012. Why would Wade leave the biggest brand in basketball for an unknown commodity? The truth was Wade was looking to build his own empire (almost ten years later he has a lifetime deal with them).
For his Christmas Day debut with Li-Ning, the company decided to showcase two colorways of his new Way of Wade signature series. Wade wore one pair in each half.
Two is always better than one, right?
7) 2015 Stephen Curry – Under Armour Curry 2 ‘Northern Lights’
The 2014-15 NBA season will undoubtedly go down as Steph Curry’s best-ever individual season.
After a record-setting regular season performance, he was at the height of his powers – and popularity. He led the league in jersey sales, received the highest amount of All-Star Game votes, and became the NBA’s first unanimous MVP that May. The Warriors would go on to win their first ‘chip and a dynasty was born.
This timeframe was when the Under Armour Curry 2 craze swept the United States, too. At one stage Chef Curry’s sneaker was outselling LeBron’s and even had His Airness in sight (not really, but kind of).
Steph got to unveil the Northern Lights for the Warriors’ Christmas Day clash with the Cavaliers.
6) 2008 Kobe Bryant – Nike iD Zoom Kobe IV
You might say this was the year that started the whole sneaker reveal on Christmas wave in the NBA. Prior to 2008, there were only a couple of games scheduled each year, but in 2008 the NBA experimented with a full five-game slate.
Nike gave the 2007 NBA MVP a special Nike iD Player Exclusive makeup of the Zoom Kobe IV decked out in Lakers colors. Nike continued their hardline approach to marketing the sneaker by giving 100 lucky fans in attendance a pair of Nike iD Zoom Kobe IVs in a special Red Nike gym bag.
Oh, and the Lakers beat the Celtics 92-83 just to top the day off.
5) 2011 Kobe Bryant – Nike Kobe VII ‘Cheetah’
The NBA came back from a prolonged lockout and started a modified season with the Christmas Day slate of games. This gave Nike Basketball an opportunity to debut Kobe’s signature line and make a specific Christmas shoe for him at the same time.
Using Kobe’s love for the predatory spirit of alpha hunters like the cheetah, great white shark, and of course, the black mamba snake, the VII was part of the Predator Pack released by Nike. Although, topping the Kobe 6 Grinch from the previous Christmas with the Kobe VII Cheetah is like Michael Jackson following up Thriller with Bad – still awesome, but not quite as impactful.
4) 2011 Kevin Durant – Nike KD IV ‘Copper’
Kevin Durant and Nike absolutely owned the early part of the 2011 NBA season. Hot off the heels of the release of the Weatherman and the Nerf edition of his new sneaker, Durant debuted the Christmas version of his shoe, decked out in all copper on Christmas Day 2011.
Much like the previous season’s bright yellow colorway, the copper didn’t have any direct correlation to Yuletide celebrations, but it was inspired by Durant’s mother’s holiday baking.
The IV is widely regarded as Durant’s best sneaker of his line, and the Copper joints are one of the most coveted by enthusiasts.
3) 2009 – Nike LeBron 7 ‘Christmas’
This would end up being LeBron’s last Christmas sneaker from his first tenure with the Cavaliers, and to this point, it was his best. The VII rejuvenated the LeBron line, and Nike went with a full-length Air Max unit for the first time on James’ signature model.
The shoe even featured Christmas-themed insoles, with one featuring a wrapped present, and the other displaying LeBron James as a child.
What helped make these shoes – and Kobe’s – memorable, was the puppet-themed commercials.
2) 2010 LeBron James – Nike LeBron 8 V2 ‘Christmas’
These get the number two spot simply because of the cultural impact of the LeBron 8. While the VII rejuvenated the line, this was James’ first signature sneaker as a member of the Miami Heat. The South Beach colorway had already become one of the most coveted colorways, and when the NBA scheduled the Heatles and the Lakers on Christmas Day, you already knew Nike would bring the heat – pardon the pun.
LeBron unveiled the V2 trim on the 8 for the first time, while Kobe rocked what is deemed one of his best shoes ever.
Dressed in red with a mostly solid upper and a sprinkling of speckles on the midsole, the V2 Christmas was just very aesthetically pleasing.
The Heat won the game 96-80, and King James notched a triple-double, but what has endured most is the quality of the sneakers on display that day.
1) 2010 Kobe Bryant – Nike Kobe 6 ‘Grinch’
Undoubtedly the number one on any Christmas Day sneaker list.
When the late great Kobe Bryant debuted this shoe on Christmas Day in 2010 it did more than just shake up sneaker culture. It signaled the apex of the Christmas Day sneaker reveal.
Kobe rocked a number of different colorways of the Kobe 6 throughout the 2010-11 season, but on Christmas Day, the stage was perfectly set — the defending champion Lakers were facing the recently formed Miami Heat super team featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
Every person sitting courtside received a special gift bag that included the bright-green Kobes as well.
Nike’s marketing for this shoe was elite. The nickname ‘Grinch’ originated from the sneaker blogs and forums that dubbed it so for its resemblance to the infamous Dr. Seuss character who tried to ruin the holiday. Nike’s official name was the ‘Green Mamba’ due to the shoe’s inspiration being from the animal of the same name, and the upper which mimicked snakeskin. Designed by Eric Avar, the Kobe 6 Grinch was the perfect combination of design and storytelling.
The shoe was given the retro — or Protro, as Kobe called it – treatment in 2020, and instantly sold out on Nike’s website. The original 2010 pair is fetching north of $1,400 on StockX, while the more recent retro is selling with a starting price of $399.
Even though the Heat came away with a 96-80 win that night, and Bryant shot just 6-of-16 from the field, the enduring images are of Kobe’s bright green shoes.
Ten Christmases have passed since then, and the impact is tangible throughout the NBA players are still wearing the Kobe Grinch 6 on court.
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