Kobe Bryant Once Let Go of a 9-Figure Deal That Helped an NBA Legend Become $100 Million Richer

Published 11/24/2022, 8:50 AM EST

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Kobe Bryant was arguably the most popular scorer in the early 2000s. However, one man was arguably trailing right behind him. His name was Tracy McGrady. T-Mac and Bryant had some legendary battles over their careers. From being childhood friends to their epic on-court rivalry, the pair set the stage on fire each time they faced off. The two were kindred spirits and laughed off their journey years later. For the most part, they were hellbent on killing each other on the floor. However, the Black Mamba might be responsible for the most life-altering assist in McGrady’s career.

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Bryant is known for his iconic sneaker line with Nike. However, before being a part of the iconic swoosh brand, the Los Angeles Lakers legend had a deal with Adidas. The three stripes were with the five-time champion throughout his three-peat with Shaquille O’Neal. However, in 2002, Kobe Bryant was not interested to continue his partnership, despite Adidas having a vision. Bryant even paid $8 million to escape the remainder of his contract.

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It’s safe to say his decision changed sneaker history forever. But it also changed the life of his arch-rival and good friend, Tracy McGrady. Notably, he became the face of the German brand after Bryant abandoned their vision.

How Kobe Bryant made Tracy Mcgrady $100 million richer

Bryant soon became one of the faces of the league. His iconic partnership with Shaq put him amongst the most marketable superstars. During this time, Adidas had the luxury of representing Kobe Bryant. The three stripes wanted to bring their vision to life. A sneaker and clothing line along with $200 million was on the table. However, the Black Mamba refused. His decision paved the way for T-Mac’s biggest pay cheque.

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While Kobe Bryant was winning NBA championships, McGrady had evolved into a lethal scorer with the Orlando Magic. He was the scoring champ in 2003, averaging 32.1 points per game. Likewise, as the next box office star behind Kobe Bryant, McGrady received a $100 million boost from Adidas.

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Bryant walking away from Adidas made him the biggest sneaker free agent. However, he couldn’t sign a deal right away. Hence, the 2002-2003 season became a chance for him to experiment. The Black Mamba wore a variety of sneakers from Jordans to even Reeboks. His time as a free agent made for some iconic pictures of Bryant. Notably, it was a spectacle watching the Black Mamba take on his idol, Michael Jordan in a pair of Air Jordans.

via Getty

While Nike served as a perfect place for Bryant, fans can’t help but wonder what a deal with Adidas could have meant. Adidas was looking to make him a brand. However, it seems it simply wasn’t meant to be. And Tracy McGrady arguably benefitted the most from it.

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Watch This Story: Serena Williams’ husband Alexis Ohanian looks back at an inspiring Kobe Bryant message to pursue excellence 

Which sneaker line by Kobe Bryant do you prefer, Nike or Adidas? Let us know your views in the comments below.

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Written by:

Anuj Talwalkar

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Anuj Talwalkar is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He is a student studying at NM College in Mumbai, aspiring to pursue sports management to follow his love for sports. Anuj started following the NBA last year, and he loves to combine his passion for writing with his understanding of basketball.
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Edited by:

Veer Badani

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