By I. Moregola
Before Kobe retired in 2016, the basketball legend had a 5-year deal with Nike. The deal would extend his “Mamba” shoe line well into his retirement days. This may have shocked many, as Nike’s sneaker deals are usually prioritized for active players in the league. Bryant was one of the most influential players on the court and he helped revolutionize the shoe industry by creating what resulted in being the most worn basketball shoes - the famous low top. However, Kobe’s tragic death in 2020, along with the expiration of his deal has changed their vision. Here is what happened behind the scenes.
There have been a couple of factors that led the deal to fall through. The uttermost known was when Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s widow, told ESPN that she “was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy”. Shockingly, Nike wasn’t prepared to make this deal as it stated that it only accepts these deals on rare occasions. Currently, only Lebron James, Michael Jordan, and Cristiano Ronaldo hold these lifelong ties with Nike.
Another cause of this rupture was because of the way Nike managed the Lakers legend release after his death. The Bryant camp was not happy with Nike limiting the new releases that were wished upon worldwide especially after the passing of Kobe. This wasn't the first time that the Bryant camp had a problem with the availability of the products. At the end of 2020, Vanessa Bryant also reported that fans were having difficulties trying to purchase Kobe’s shoes and products.
You may be wondering, what does this mean for Nike x Kobe shoes? For the time being, the company has announced that it will put a stop to the fabrication of the shoes partnered with Kobe. This will allow Nike to produce and sell their own releases.
The news reached the NBA late on Monday the 19th of April. Former Lakers player, Horton-Tucker, mentioned in the postgame press conference, “Whoever can get me, Kobe’s I need them.” But this announcement may come as a shock even for those that do not rely on Kobe's sneakers. His legacy with Nike is massive and will forever be remembered, Vanessa Bryant said in a statement to ESPN “We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi’s legacy. That will never change.”
The future of the “Mamba” shoe line is still undefined however, before Kobe’s death he mentioned that he was working on his own shoe brand for the future. Speculations have been made as to whether this future venture would go on without him being able to provide direct input in it.