Why NBA players are hoarding Kobe Bryant's Nike sneaker line

ON A QUIET evening a few weeks before the start of the regular season, Wilson Taylor was deep inside Paycom Center's laundry room, which doubles as the Oklahoma City Thunder equipment manager's deep storage facility. At a rack pushed up against the wall, he ran his hands over a layer of dust on a cluster of black and gold Nike shoe boxes. Kobe 8 System TB, size 13.5.

He smiled, knowing the score he'd just uncovered. He pulled out his phone, took a picture and texted it to Thunder rookie guard Josh Giddey.

"No way!" Giddey wrote back. "Can I come right now?"

Fifteen minutes later Giddey was in the building, cracking open the five pairs of orange-and-white Thunder-color Kobes that had originally been sent for Derek Fisher, who finished his playing career with the Thunder in the 2013-14 season and had previously been a longtime teammate of Kobe Bryant. Giddey, cradling the boxes like a child on Christmas, looked at Taylor and said: "Can I have them all?"

For years, this might've seemed like an unusual request. In the world of excess and fashion celebrity that is the NBA, shoes are usually ubiquitous. They're always fresh, always everywhere and typically gratis.

Until now.