Nike Was Unwilling to Give Kobe Bryant Signature Line the Same Treatment as LeBron James and Michael Jordan

Published 04/20/2021, 10:31 PM EDT
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant #24 before taking the court for the third quarter of play in the Lakers 1105-103 win over the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals best of seven series Tuesday May, 19, 2009 at the Staples Center. Tim Rasmussen, The Denver Post (Photo By Tim Rasmussen/The Denver Post via Getty Images)


Nike has always been quick at pursuing NBA prodigies and getting them to sign deals as rookies. They’re like the scouts who want top players with a lot of promise to represent them from the very beginning. Michael Jordan and LeBron James are a fitting example of this. But what about the unique case of Kobe Bryant and his deal with the company? 

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

The Black Mamba started his career as an Adidas athlete with a six-year deal with the brand. Then in 2003, after winning three NBA titles, he came on board with Nike and rejected potential offers from Reebok. Ever since then, he had remained a Nike athlete, but that tie-up has come to an end now. 

The end of the Kobe Bryant + Nike swoosh

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

At the last extension of Kobe Bryant’s deal with Nike, the two parties had signed a five-year post-retirement clause which ended on April 13, 2021. Now, as per fresh reports, the estate of Kobe has no plans of agreeing with Nike for another extension. 

In an interview, Vanessa Bryant expressed, “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.”

According to sources, there were expectations of a “lifetime” partnership, but since that couldn’t take shape, both sides decided against the extension.

ESPN’s Nick DePaula wrote, “According to a source, Bryant and the estate had grown frustrated with Nike limiting the availability of Kobe product during his retirement and after his January 2020 death in a helicopter crash. There was also frustration with the lack of availability of Kobe footwear in kids sizes, according to sources.”

Read also – ‘Love Her Tremendously’: Vanessa Bryant Shares a Clip of Kobe Bryant to Celebrate Their 20th Anniversary

The history of KB sneakers and what’s next for the Black Mamba brand’s legacy?

The Lakers great signed his first shoe deal with Adidas, a six-year $48 million contract. He reportedly opted out of it in 2002, paying $8 million as an exiting fee, and later signed a $40 million 4-year deal with Nike. His Zoom Kobe 1 was a success, and that launch led to a dozen other launches in the next 18 years.

Kobe Bryant was a visionary, a gifted storyteller, a keen businessman, and a man of details. His character traits reflected in his signature shoe line, and the Nike Kobe 5 Proto “Lakers” is the latest proof of that innovation. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

Rachel Banham greets Kobe Bryant at a game between the Clippers and the Lakers at Staples Center on April 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Noel Vasquez/GC Images)

Now, the KB estate is free to negotiate contracts and call for bids from other big brands, mainly Nike competitors. While the estate will benefit on the monetary front, the selling of the signature line will depend on how the new company handles Kobe’s vision. Interestingly, there were reports last year that had claimed that Kobe was in favor of leaving Nike to form his own brand.

Now, his estate has several options on the table. Either they sign with brands like Adidas, Under Armour, Puma, or New Balance, or they can go back to Nike, or even create a standalone Black Mamba brand.

ADVERTISEMENT

Article continues below this ad

Which way do you think they will go? 

SHARE THIS ARTICLE :

Sourabh Singh

1449 articles

Sourabh Singh is an NBA sports analyst for EssentiallySports, who has been working with the site since May 2020. Prior to this, he functioned as Managing Editor at WittyFeed, followed by a stint at Decathlon. The Sports Management graduate leads an active lifestyle, veering to the mountains for off-trail adventures.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT