The Revolutionary Kobe Zoom Cut Shoe

I used to cover every major basketball shoe launch. But I stopped. Why? Because it just lost its buzz with the basketball shoe business on the decline. If you didn't know, the basketball shoe market is roughly half the size it was when Nike signed Cleveland Cavaliers rookie LeBron James to that seven-year, $90 million contract. That was just five and a half years ago.

But Nike has gradually started to get my attention again. For the Olympics, they used Kobe Bryant to pitch their hyperdunk shoe. Pitched as a technological advance, the quick takeaway was that it was lighter than any basketball shoe we'd ever seen before at 13 ounces per sneaker. It turned out to be Nike's fastest-selling basketball shoe, excluding the Jordan brand.


Lighter is the theme again. Though you're going to remember the Zoom Kobe Cut, also endorsed by Bryant, because it's a low top. Yep, the folks at Nike are telling us we no longer need anything bulky around our ankles anymore. They say, even though others have come out to the contrary that they've built a revolutionary shoe that is safe without the bulk. It weighs 11.6 ounces per shoe, which is roughly 2.4 ounces less than your average ketchup bottle.

The shoe itself isn't going to move Nike's stock up much. There are scheduled to more LeBron VI shoes on the market, in terms of total volume, than the Zoom Cuts, which are a Foot Locker exclusive that retails for $120 in February. But the change to producing more low tops, if it happens, will be worth noting. Why?

Because four of every five people buying basketball shoes aren't wearing them to pull up and hit a jumpshot. Let me say that again using harder numbers. According to analyst Matt Powell of SportsOneSource, fashion basketball is a $2 billion business, while performance basketball is a $500 million business.

It's also the reality that as more of the business has shifted to fashion, more of the fashion business has shifted away from high tops and into lower cut sneakers (think the euro look). It was only a matter of time before Nike had to make a shoe that would look good with jeans and at the same time feature it on the court. That's what this shoe is.

Nike, by the way, owns 98 percent of that fashion basketball space, according to SportsOneSource. The Jordan brand owns an astounding 87 percent, Nike is at 10 percent and Converse is at 1 percent. Bryant will begin wearing the shoe Dec. 19 against the Miami Heat.

Watch "CNBC Reports" tonight at 8 pm ET and "Squawk Box" tomorrow morning for my exclusive interview with the Los Angeles Lakers guard.

Questions? Comments?