Did Kobe Bryant Estate End Nike Partnership After Not Receiving Same Treatment as LeBron James and Michael Jordan?

Published 04/20/2021, 8:36 AM EDT
14 August 2008, Beijing, China — NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James of the U.S. looks on from the bench during the Beijing 2008 Olympics Games. Photo by Victor Fraile — Image by © Victor Fraile/Corbis (Photo by Victor Fraile/Corbis via Getty Images)


What is common between LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and Dwyane Wade? Aside from their on-court accolades, their status as an all-time NBA great has earned them lifetime deals with shoe companies. However, despite being of similar stature, late legend Kobe Bryant wasn’t deemed worthy of one.

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After wearing Adidas since the start of his career, a 24-year-old Bryant signed with Nike. His deal went on till 2016, the year of his retirement. He signed a five-year extension back then, that has come to an end recently. And Nike chose not to honor his legacy with a lifetime contract, which is why his wife Vanessa Bryant pulled out of talks for another extension.

“My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products,” Vanessa said. “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.”

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Boston, Massachusettes–June 17, 2008 Lakers Kobe Bryant walks off the court as the Celtics celebrate the championship in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the TD Banknorth Center Tuesday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

According to ESPN’s Nick DePaula, Vanessa was keen on getting a similar deal like LeBron and Jordan for Kobe. But sadly it didn’t pan out. “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,” DePaula wrote.

Looking back at some of the most iconic Kobe Bryant shoes

With the partnership coming to an end, let’s look back at some of the most iconic shoes Nike made in collaboration with Kobe. The first shoe they made was the Nike Zoom Kobe 1. This came out a year after Kobe signed with Nike. And it was worth the wait. He donned these shoes during his historic 81-point game against the Raptors.

The Nike Kobe 3 was the shoes he wore for his MVP campaign in 2007-08. His first Finals MVP triumph came in 2009 when he wore the Kobe IV. Fast forward to Christmas 2010, Kobe wore arguably his most iconic shoes, the Grinch Kobe XI. Since its release, many new editions of that pair have been worn by young NBA stars like Luka Doncic and Anthony Davis.

Dec 25, 2020; Los Angeles, California, USA; Detailed view of the basketball sneakers worn by Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis (3) during the game against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Finally, the Nike Kobe A.D. is the last shoe on the list. This is the first pair Nike made for him post his retirement, and it is currently one of the most popular shoes among NBA players.

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After 18 years of selling some of the most iconic shoes, sadly this partnership has come to an end.

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Aaron Mathew

1552 articles

Aaron Mathew is a sports analyst at EssentiallySports. A graduate in Mass Media from Xavier’s College, Aaron has been a part of EssentiallySports since May 2020 where he covers both NBA and NCAA basketball news, and has also covered NBA 2K. In the past, Aaron has worked at the Sports Desk of Mumbai Mirror.

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