When Kobe Bryant was Chosen to Save Adidas Straight Out of High School

Published 10/16/2021, 2:30 PM EDT


Before the rise of the Black Mamba with five NBA championships, a 17-YO Kobe Bryant was recognized as a potential high school basketballer by Adidas. Yes, you heard it right. The Lakers legend, having successfully collaborated for years with a competitive shoe brand, Nike, initially signed a deal with Adidas.

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Bryant’s switch from Adidas to Nike is a famous incident in the sneaker world. Coming from Lower Merion High School, young Kobe was a sensation early in his basketball days. Having said that, former Adidas executive, Sonny Vacarro, walked up to the rising legend and made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

(Denver, Colorado – Friday, May 29, 2009) Lakers guard Kobe Bryant yells out in frustration after just missing a circus shot against the Nuggets defense late in the first half in game 6 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at the Pepsi Center. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The Kobe Bryant and Adidas deal in 1996

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In 1996, Kobe signed a shoe deal with Adidas brand when he was drafted into the league by the Lakers. Getting a deal from Adidas at that age was a high-potential job done by Bryant. Straight from high school, he landed in a big brand contract that didn’t end that well.

However, the events took a surprising turn when Kobe wished to exit the Adidas deal in 2002. The first Kobe sneakers that got released in collaboration with Adidas were the KB 8s. But, the ones that came next proved to be a deal-breaker for Mamba.

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From Adidas to Nike: one of the biggest deal shifts in sneaker brand history

In 2000, Adidas Kobe 2 sneakers hit the market, but they dropped in sales with its non-assuring design. Bryant wanted to get out of his contract with Adidas seeing the situation. He had reportedly paid $8 million to make a move from the contract in 2002. One twist in the tale was that the buyout clause stated that he couldn’t sign with another brand till 2003.

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And that is how Kobe Bryant eventually signed with Adidas’ biggest competitor – Nike.

The closest replica of Michael Jordan Bryant proved to be an inspirational player in NBA history. A 5-time NBA champion, 2-time NBA Finals MVP, and onetime season MVP, the iconic Mamba created his own piece of legacy. Not many would have known that the young high school kid would do wonders on the NBA level. Well, Adidas surely didn’t know that.

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Had they not let Kobe leave, what could have Adidas been in collaboration with the great Mamba?

WATCH THIS STORY: On-Screen Appearances by Kobe Bryant

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Pavni Ahuja

536 articles

Pavni Ahuja is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Housing a keen interest in sports journalism, she is pursuing an undergraduate Journalism degree from Christ University. Pavni is an ardent fan of the NBA, with prior district-level playing experience in basketball.

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