While Kobe Bryant began his career with Adidas, the Los Angeles Lakers legend is best known for being one of the faces of Nike. According to ESPN’s Nick DePaula, Kobe’s contract with Nike ended on April 13, and his family made the decision not to re-sign with the company.
“Kobe’s Nike contract expired on 4/13/21,” Vanessa Bryant told ESPN. “Kobe and Nike have made some of the most beautiful basketball shoes of all time, worn and adored by fans and athletes in all sports across the globe. It seems fitting that more NBA players wear my husband’s product than any other signature shoe.”
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Kobe’s Family Was Unhappy With Nike’s Limited Shoe Releases Following His Death
Given Kobe’s tragic death in 2020, the decision about his future with Nike and other companies is made by his estate. ESPN detailed two key factors that led to Vanessa’s decision not to re-sign with Nike. The family was against Nike’s decision to have extremely limited releases of Kobe’s shoes following his death. Vanessa was also hoping Nike would give Kobe a lifetime deal similar to Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
“According to a source, Bryant and the estate had grown frustrated with Nike limiting the availability of Kobe products during his retirement and after his January 2020 death in a helicopter crash,” ESPN reported. “There was also frustration with the lack of availability of Kobe footwear in kids’ sizes, according to sources. Nike, sources said, had presented an extension offer that was not in line with expectations of an ongoing ‘lifetime’ structure similar to the Nike Inc. contracts held by both Michael Jordan and LeBron James.”
Will Nike Continue to Produce Kobe’s Shoes & Apparel?
It is unclear what will happen to Nike’s existing Kobe merchandise, but the company will “halt” all manufacturing of these products, per ESPN. The estate can now form a new partnership with another brand given the Nike deal has expired. Nike confirmed its agreement with Kobe has ended adding that the Lakers legend, “remains a deeply loved member of the Nike family.”
“Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers,” Nike said in a statement, per Complex. “He pushed us and made everyone around him better. Though our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a deeply loved member of the Nike family.”
Kobe Was Reportedly in Discussions to Launch His Own Shoe Company
2/ These were the designs my team did to show him that day for an independent Mamba shoe company. Here’s calendar details. There were witnesses to the meeting and Kobe’s plans like Gina Ford, who manages Usain Bolt. pic.twitter.com/PgsIDt0P0E
— Shervin Pishevar (@shervin) December 29, 2020
Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar tweeted in December that Kobe was not pleased with his relationship with Nike prior to his death. Shervin detailed discussions he had with Kobe to launch his own shoe company.
“I met with Kobe Bryant in late December 2019. Kobe wasn’t happy with Nike and was going to leave it in 2020,” Shervin tweeted. “Kobe was going to start Mamba, a shoe company owned by players. He passed away weeks later. What he was about to do in business was going to eclipse his sports career.”
Shervin also posted the above design prototypes for Kobe’s initial release of this new proposed Mamba shoe company. It will be interesting to see what happens to Kobe’s merchandise going forward.
“My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products,” Vanessa explained to ESPN. “I will continue to fight for that. Kobe’s products sell out in seconds. That says everything. I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy. We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi’s legacies. That will never change.”