Kobe Bryant may not be quite ready to face the Sacremento Kings on Friday, but fans have been given a preview of the footwear the LA Lakers superstar will strap on when he makes his long-awaited return to the court.
The 35-year-old has been out of action since April having sustained a ruptured Achilles tendon against Golden State Warriors, but is expected to play again within the next week or so.
Bryant was recently given clearance by Lakers medical staff to return to full training, while he has been dunking this week. It had been hoped he would face the Kings, but that scenario has since been dismissed.
Mike D'Antoni has been taking things slowly with his star man, who signed a contract extension last Monday, and a meeting with Toronto at the weekend could be the moment when Bryant finally pulls on that Lakers jersey.
When he does so, Bryant will be wearing his ninth signature range of Nike trainers, which have been designed with prominent red-stitching above the heel to represent the injury troubles that have kept him out for eight months.
"It's a symbol of the story we're trying to tell," Bryant told ESPN.com about his new Kobe 9 Elite sneakers.
"It's a constant reminder of where I came from. From that night after I hurt myself and I expressed my anger in my Facebook rant to the state I'm in now.
"I wanted something I could draw inspiration from. Everyone doubts I can't come back and do it again and here I am."