On December 24, 2020, Nike (and I presume the Kobe Bryant estate, headed up by his wife Vanessa Bryant) decided to re-release the Nike Kobe Zoom 6 Protro in the green apple/black/volt-crimson colorway. The shoes, affectionately referred to as the “Kobe Grinches” (because of their super green color and the additional red laces that come with them and because Kobe wore the original version on Christmas Day in 2010), hadn’t seen a re-release since that original drop in 2010. The anticipation for the shoes was off the charts for a few reasons, but chief among them was that Kobe Bryant passed away on January 26, 2020, and everything related to Kobe—from shoes to jerseys—was immediately in high demand. For sneakerheads, though, along with his passing and everybody wanting a piece of Kobe, the “Grinch” shoe is considered a grail—a highly coveted shoe by individuals and sneakerheads at large—for many.
So you can imagine that everybody had their trigger fingers ready on the SNKRS’ app and some were willing to wait days outside every retailer that was selling the Grinches in December 2020. And as you can also imagine if you’ve attempted to buy the coveted shoes online in recent months that many, many Ls were taken at retail prices. Same with all of the Kobe re-releases that have happened over the course of 2020 and 2021. Nike re-released several Kobe 4s, 5s and 6s (the most sough after models); you could see a plethora of NBA players rocking Kobes while in the bubble last year, and this 2021 NBA season is the same. After the Grinches dropped, players all over the league were rocking them (and still do). As a point of note, the shoes retailed for $190. Put a pin in this.
Before Kobe passed away, there was news of trouble in paradise. Even though Kobe had joined Nike and became one of their premier athletes, Kobe had become somewhat disillusioned with the company. He was even in talks to create his own shoe line; apparently he didn’t love the way Nike marketed and promoted his shoes. You see, before Kobe passed away, Kobe’s shoes weren’t exactly everybody’s shoes of choice. Jordan will always reign supreme in the shoe space, at least among casual wearers, but you could look across college games and see Kyrie Irvings shoes and Paul George’s shoes on athletes across the nation, even NBA players were wearing them. And it’s not to say that nobody wore Kobes but apparently the sales weren’t very good.
Well, after he passed—as I said—Kobe’s shoes, especially, went up in demand. You could go on any of the sneaker resale sites and expect to pay upwards of $300 to $400 for shoes that a week prior weren’t moving. So Nike, being a business, decided to re-release several of the more popular colorways and those shoes sold out in minutes every time out. Which gets us back to the Grinch release in December 2020. Nike did what it always does with coveted shoes: limits the stock numbers. You’d think that considering one of the greatest basketball players of all time just passed and that everybody, including the entirety of the NBA, was paying homage to him, that the company might release a significant amount of shoes each time; it seems the Bryant estate wanted everybody who wanted a pair of Kobes to be able to get a pair of Kobes, to include kids sizes. That didn’t happen and the frustration was evident.
Vanessa Bryant took to social media shortly after the Grinches sold out in December to let everybody know that if you wanted a pair of Grinches, she was going to try to make that possible. It was a nice gesture; I had no belief that it was actually going to happen. (It didn’t. If you wanted a pair of Grinches, you had to then, and have to now, pay at least three times the retail price for them.) Well, I suppose that frustration and inability to get Nike to make sure enough shoes were on the market at retail finally boiled over as news that Nike and the Kobe Bryant estate were severing ties. Understandably, Vanessa wanted a lifetime deal with Nike (akin to the deals Michael Jordan, Lebron James and soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo have) but I guess negotiations broke down and they were unable to come to an agreement, or Nike wasn’t offering what the Bryant estate thought they should be entitled to. Either way, Kobe’s contract retirement extension with Nike ended on April 13, 2021.
These things happen in business and it’s unfortunate because that means that presumably, Nike is going to stop production of all Kobe-branded footwear and apparel, etc. Which means that unless you already have a pair of Kobe’s (and if you want some) you’re about to pay stupid prices for them, from resalers. For instance, I own a pair of 2020 Kobe Grinches. I did not get them at the retail price of $190; I really wanted them so I talked myself into paying $400 for them, which is insane but I really, really wanted a pair. Before the news of the estate moving on from Nike, the price was almost $500 on resale sites like StockX and GOAT.
I’m currently looking at StockX and the prices for a size 10 in the Grinch colorway is at $680. I don’t see how it doesn’t keep going up. Go take a look at any Kobes. The Kobe 5 Lakers colorway? A size 10 is going for $500. The Kobe 5 Protro “Bruce Lee” is also going for $500. And that’s not to say that the shoes were going for retail before this announcement—they weren’t—but the resale price is definitely going up. So basically, if you don’t have any already, and you hate paying crazy resale prices, you’re not buying any Kobe’s any time soon.
Which sucks. When Kobe passed away it really impacted and affected a lot of people. And while I know that shoes are just shoes, they are a way of connecting with your favorite player. They’re a way of showing support, and sometimes they’re fly as hell and work wonders with various outfits you might own. So the fact that Nike, who has its own problems with the resale market. kept up the same practice of limiting pairs of shoes of a recently passed icon is an interesting business strategy in and of itself, but now, because presumably they weren’t coming to the table with reasonable offer considering who Kobe was to the company, it is going to be really hard for folks to get Kobe’s shoes. And that’s a loss for many since his shoes were both good on the basketball court (as the NBA clearly proves) and more recently popular for the casual wearer. They left a lot of money on the table which is their prerogative, but the culture loses out more.
I’m glad I have a pair of shoes I wanted and that I guess, if I need to put a kid through college I can sell them. I hope you have yours too. Otherwise, you’re about to have to back up a Brinks trunk to a resaler; make sure you order half a size up....Kobe’s run small.