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Kelly Oubre Jr. on his Converse that pay homage to Kobe Bryant’s Grinches

The Phoenix Suns star’s ‘Nocturnal’ All-Star Pro BBs were directly inspired by the ‘Grinch’ Nike Kobe 6s

On Dec. 25, 2010, at Staples Centers in Los Angeles, Lakers star Kobe Bryant unveiled the greatest Christmas-themed basketball sneakers ever. Kelly Oubre Jr. still remembers the first time he saw them — the green apple and crimson kicks known as the “Grinch” Nike Kobe 6s.

“I could never afford those shoes back in the day,” recalled Oubre, whose family was forced to leave their native New Orleans in 2005 following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. By 2010, Oubre was a 6-foot-5-inch freshman hooper on the varsity basketball team at George Bush High School in Fort Bend, Texas. And two weeks after Oubre’s 15th birthday, Bryant debuted the Grinch Kobe 6s on Christmas Day during a game against the Miami Heat’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. “And I am sure if I could’ve afforded them,” Oubre continued. “They would’ve been sold out before I could purchase them. It was a historic release.”

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers warms up wearing green Nike Zoom Kobe VI shoes before taking on the Miami Heat at Staples Center on Dec. 25, 2010, in Los Angeles.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Nearly a decade later, the 25-year-old Oubre, playing in his sixth NBA season, now as a starting swingman for the Phoenix Suns, got a chance to pay homage to his childhood hero and the pair of Kobes he missed out on as a teenager. On the same court at Staples Center where Bryant first broke out the Grinches, Oubre debuted the “Nocturnal” Converse All Star Pro BBs — a bright green shoe with red laces and black accents — during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 17. At a glance, the Nocturnal All Star Pro BBs are the second coming of the Grinch Kobe 6s.

“When I first saw the Nocturnals, I was in awe because it brought back the nostalgia of my favorite Christmas basketball colorway,” Oubre — the only player in the NBA who has an endorsement deal with Converse — told The Undefeated. “The aesthetic from the ‘Grinch’ Kobe 6 — artistically one of the best Christmas hoop shoes to ever be assembled — is, of course, the main muse of this shoe.”

Yet the connection between the Nocturnals and the Grinches extend beyond the eye-catching, holiday-inspired colors, which bring the timeless character from Dr. Seuss’ 1957 children’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas! to life on basketball shoes. Both pairs actually share the same designer — Eric Avar, who helped craft the All Star Pro BB, Converse’s first silhouette as part of the brand’s reemergence in basketball footwear, after he spent several years working on Bryant’s signature line of sneakers, including 2010’s Kobe 6 and the model’s heralded “Grinch” colorway.

Before joining Converse (a subsidiary of Nike Inc. since 2003), Brandis Russell spent nearly a decade and a half working in footwear and apparel at Nike. And similar to Oubre, she also hasn’t forgotten the night Bryant rocked the Grinches.

“What I remember most was how bold and expressive that moment was,” Russell, now the vice president of global footwear at Converse, told The Undefeated. “The Air Jordan J1 set its own tone and story around breaking molds in basketball. And I think the Grinch Kobe 6 was another shoe, at the time it dropped, that was also mold-breaking. Today on the court, we see more and more players wanting to be expressive, wanting to wear their feelings and vibes through their sneakers in a way that’s irreverent. Back then, when the Grinches launched, it opened up a doorway, opened up a chapter for players to feel like they can be expressive and tie themselves to moments within culture.

“We recognized that sneakerheads and basketball enthusiasts were gonna obviously see the homage that we’re paying — that we’re drawing a connection point between both brands and both shoes.”

The Nocturnal All Star Pro BB, which glows in the dark, also draws inspiration from Converse’s deep history in footwear, dating to 1987, when the brand first incorporated a glow-in-the-dark design onto the Chuck Taylor All Star silhouette. More than 30 years later, Oubre signed with Converse in November 2018 as the face of the brand’s return to basketball. And throughout the first season of the partnership, while Converse and Avar worked on the All-Star Pro BB, Oubre rocked Chucks off the court and different models of Kobes on the hardwood.

“As a competitor, Kobe’s thought process and mind-set have been like a guideline for me to follow as I grow as a player,” Oubre told The Undefeated. “The focus, the attention to detail and his hunger for knowledge — I have formed my mind through studying him.”

Eventually, Oubre traded in his pairs of Kobes for pairs of All Star Pro BBs, which he officially debuted in the NBA in October. “It has been amazing repping Converse this season,” Oubre said. “To be able to perform in a shoe that you had input in is the best feeling ever. Plus, no one has been messing with our colorways so far. We’re doing it in style.”

Five days after the initial Dec. 12 launch of the Nocturnals in China (where Bryant and his sneakers are especially revered), Oubre took the court in the green and red sneakers in Los Angeles eight days before Christmas.

“Debuting the Nocturnals was superexciting because I got to play in the Staples Center where the lights are the brightest,” Oubre said. “But they weren’t brighter than my shoes that night, though. That gave me the extra energy to compete at a high level.”

At the beginning of the first quarter, Oubre caught the basketball in the post, took a drop step in the kicks and threw down a one-handed poster dunk on Clippers star Paul George. Oubre finished his first game wearing the Nocturnals with a team-high 19 points in a 120-99 Suns loss. On Christmas Day back in 2010, Bryant scored a team-high 17 points in a 96-80 Lakers loss to the Heat on the night he debuted the Grinch Nike Kobe 6s.

Oubre says he finally got his hands on a pair of Bryant’s beloved Grinches — “one … so far,” he joked. And when he laced up the Nocturnals for the first time, he couldn’t help but think about the player with the most celebrated Christmas sneaker of all time.

“All homage paid,” Oubre said, “to Kobe ‘Bean’ Bryant.”

Aaron Dodson is a sports and culture writer at The Undefeated. 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.