Since 2003, Kobe Bryant has been one of the biggest names in the Nike basketball shoe universe (the first part of his career he played in Adidas, something a lot of people forget). Nike released 11 signature Kobe’s during his playing days and more after his retirement — more players wear Kobes now than ever before.
However, the relationship between Nike and Kobe Bryant — and his estate — is over. Kobe had signed a five-year extension with the company in 2016, and as it was set to expire Nike and the Bryant estate, led by his widow Vanessa, could not reach agreement a new deal. Complex broke the news and both sides confirmed it with statements.
“Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers,” Nike said in its statement. “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.”
Vanessa Bryant released this statement to 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. My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products. 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.”
The two sides appear pretty far apart on terms for a contract extension. The Bryant estate was frustrated both with the limited releases of Kobe shoes after his retirement and the lack of availability of children’s sizes, according to Nick DePaula at ESPN. The report added that the Kobe estate had been looking for the kind of lifetime contract that LeBron James had with Nike, but the company did not put that on the table.
What is next is unclear, but Vanessa and the Bryant estate could negotiate a new deal with a different shoe brand.
Nike is expected to no longer release any Kobe shoes or apparel. That had at least one current Laker — Talen Horton-Tucker — looking to stock up.
"I'm putting the call out right now. Whoever can get me any Kobes, I need 'em." – Talen Horton-Tucker on the pending Nike/Kobe shortage today's news could create
— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) April 20, 2021