With Kobe Bryant’s five-year contract extension set to expire this month following his retirement, Vanessa Bryant and the estate of Kobe Bryant have decided not to renew the partnership, she confirmed to ESPN in a statement Monday night.
Kobe’s Nike contract expired from April 13-21, Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the Lakers legend, told ESPN. Kobe and Nike have produced some of the best basketball shoes of all time, worn and loved by fans and athletes of all sports around the world. It seems that more NBA players wear my husband’s products than any other shoe brand.
According to the source, Bryant and the estate were frustrated that Nike restricted the availability of Kobe’s products during his retirement and after his death in a helicopter accident in January 2020. There was also frustration over the lack of Kobe shoes in children’s sizes, sources said.
Nike, she said, submitted a renewal proposal that did not meet expectations of a structure similar to Michael Jordan and LeBron James’ current contracts at Nike Inc.
I hope Kobe fans can still get and wear his products, Vanessa Bryant said. I will continue to fight for this. Kobe products sell out in seconds. It means everything.
I was hoping for a lifelong partnership with Nike that would reflect my husband’s legacy. We will always do our best to honor the legacy of Kobe and Gigi. That will never change.
It is assumed that all future spending of shoes and apparel bearing the Kobe Bryant brand name produced by Nike will be discontinued. Kobe Bryant Manor could be in talks with outside brands to form a new partnership.
Vanessa Bryant also confirmed to ESPN that Kobe Bryant’s estate owns the rights to the Mamba logo and his signature. Sheath’s logo, which often appears on the tongue of Nike’s Kobe sneakers, is from both parties, according to a source.
Kobe Bryant has been an important part of Nike’s deep connection with consumers, Nike said in a statement to ESPN. He pushed us and made everyone around him better. Even though our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a valued member of the Nike family.
In a statement released Monday, Nike said of Kobe Bryant: He pushed us and made everyone around him better. Even though our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a valued member of the Nike family. PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images
After playing his last NBA game at 13. April 2016 had scored 60 points – in a Nike farewell extravaganza called Mamba Day – Bryant received a five-year contract extension that continued his partnership until his retirement.
Prior to his death, Bryant explored the idea of launching his own Mamba brand after his current contract with Nike expires, and even met with a creative agency in December 2019 that could potentially help design and implement future product lines.
After signing with Nike in 2003, Bryant began a successful partnership with the brand that lasted until the end of his Hall of Fame career. He has worn sneakers like the Zoom Huarache 2K4 and 2K5, the industrial Hyperdunk during the 2008 Olympics, and 11 signature models from the Nike Kobe series.
With the introduction of the Kobe 4, during Bryant’s 2008-09 championship season with the Los Angeles Lakers, the basketball design ushered in a new era of low-profile in the league. After initially being worn by only a handful of playmakers on all 30 teams, low tops were soon seen on players at all positions, on all teams. Nearly half of the league now wears low sneakers to games.
Since he left the NBA, a number of retro or newly created sneakers have been released in the past five years. Bryant coined the term Protro because he wanted to modernize his old shoes with modern designs and technologies – an updated retro edition of his first sneakers at the professional level.
Some of the best athletes not signed by Nike have worn Kobe sneakers, both out of love for the performance features and as a lasting gift. In recent seasons, Devin Booker, P.J. Tucker, DeMar DeRozan, Buddy Heald, Isaiah Thomas and many others have created their own exclusive colorways of the Kobe Protro models to continue the basketball legacy.
In recent years all Kobe 1, 4, 5 and 6 have been re-released by this protro lens. In the NBA’s bubble revival in the 2019-20 season, 102 players wore Kobe brand sneakers, the most of any player in the league.
Two Lakers guards – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Talen Horton-Tucker – wore Bryant’s sneakers Monday night against the Utah Jazz and have vowed to continue doing so.
I’m going to try to get a few more before they stop selling, said Caldwell-Pope, who added that he was shocked by the news.
Horton Tucker, who wears Bryant’s athletic shoes exclusively during games, used his post-game press conference to make a call to action.
It’s kind of sad, but I guess I have to figure it out now, he said. I’m calling everyone now. Whoever can get me Kobes, I need him.
ESPN’s Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.
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