Prior to his tragic death in January of 2020, there were rumors that Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had every intention of severing his long-standing relationship with Nike. How do I know this? Because psssst...I reported on it in December.
And now four months later, ESPN and CBS Sports report that it could be a wrap for one of the longest-tenured sneaker lines in the industry after Kobe’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, and the Kobe Bryant estate declined to renew their partnership. Word on the street is that Kobe’s five-year, post-retirement endorsement extension expired on April 13, and Vanessa confirmed the news on her Instagram stories.
“Kobe’s Nike contract expired on 4/13/21,” Vanessa wrote. “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.”
She continued, “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.”
There’s also this juicy tidbit of information, courtesy of ESPN:
According to a source, Bryant and the estate had grown frustrated with Nike limiting the availability of Kobe products 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.
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.
Kobe joined Nike in 2003, after originally signing with Adidas in 1996 as a rookie, and signed a five-year extension in April 2016. Nike addressed the company’s long-standing relationship with the five-time NBA champion in its own statement on Monday.
“Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers,” Nike said in a 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.”
Yet “deeply loved” or not, Vanessa made it clear that at least for the time being, that relationship will no longer continue.
“I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy,” she wrote. “We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi’s legacies. That will never change.”
Back in December, venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar revealed Kobe’s desire to disrupt the sneaker industry by creating his own sneaker company. He was sadly unable to bring that dream into fruition, but considering Vanessa’s commitment to preserving the 18-time All-Star’s legacy, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if she made that dream a reality herself.