Nike's longstanding partnership with Kobe Bryant, it seems, has ended.
The deal between the company and Bryant’s estate expired this month, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, meaning his estate can now pursue new deals with other brands.
“Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers," Nike said in a statement, via Charania. "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.”
Bryant initially signed a deal with Adidas when he entered the league in 1996, though jumped to Nike in 2003. He has been, by far, among the biggest basketball deals that Nike has ever landed — right up there with LeBron James and Michael Jordan. He had 11 signature shoes released during his playing days, and multiple that were dropped after he retired in 2016.
Bryant, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, was killed in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles last year. Reports initially said that the company had pulled all products in the wake of the crash, though the company later confirmed that all Bryant products sold out from its website after the accident almost instantly.
Nike said in August that it would drop special editions of shoes, jerseys and more — though it seems as if all Bryant products are gone from its website. A search on Monday night revealed that very limited sizes and only one colorway of the “Mamba Fury” shoes are all that the company is offering to customers.
"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," Kobe's widow, Vanessa Bryant, said told ESPN. "It seems fitting that more NBA players wear my husband's product than any other signature shoe."
Where will Kobe Bryant products land?
That all depends what Vanessa and his estate want to do.
The Bryant estate could reach another deal with Nike and resume their nearly two-decade-long partnership. With the current deal expiring this month, however, it would appear as if the two sides are on different pages with how they want to proceed and were unable to reach an extension in the first place. At least in the near future, this option seems unlikely.
The estate could instead go somewhere else, like back to Adidas or to another brand entirely. There are a vast array of options available depending on what the goal is.
Or, the estate could take a step back for a while. As his death happened just more than a year ago — something that rocked both the NBA and the sports world in general — it would make sense if Vanessa and the brand decide to be done putting out Bryant gear altogether.
For now, according to ESPN’s Nick DePaula, “there is no ongoing contract for future Kobe releases” anywhere. When, or if, that changes remains to be seen.
"My hope will always be to allow Kobe's fans to get and wear his products," Vanessa said, via ESPN. "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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