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Vanessa Bryant, Kobe's Estate Opt Not to Renew Lakers Legend's Nike Contract

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2021

Kobe Bryant present the Arthur Ashe award for courage at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

The estate of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant has declined to renew his endorsement deal with Nike.

Nike confirmed the relationship between the two sides ended:

B/R Kicks @brkicks

Statement from Nike: “Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers. 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.” https://t.co/zSOVAJfD6n

Complex's Brendan Dunne first reported the story, and ESPN's Nick DePaula spoke with Vanessa Bryant about the development.

"Kobe's Nike contract expired on 4/13/21," Vanessa said. "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."

Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January 2020 along with his daughter Gianna and seven others. Immediately after Bryant's death, interest in his Nike line surged.

According to DePaula, Bryant and his family "had grown frustrated with Nike limiting the availability of Kobe product during his retirement" and in the wake of his death.

Vanessa Bryant referenced how Kobe continues to be beloved by many fans.

"My hope will always be to allow Kobe's fans to get and wear his products," she said. "I will continue to fight for that. Kobe's products sell out in seconds. That says everything.

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"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."

Dunne reported that prior to Bryant's death the sales of his signature Nike shoes were "flagging," while DePaula reported Nike failed to present an offer to Bryant that mirrored "lifetime" deals Michael Jordan and LeBron James have received from the company.

"Bryant, they say, was a low priority at Nike's basketball division at the time, his shoes not warranting the marketing attention the brand was giving to its active NBA stars with signature lines like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and LeBron James," Dunne wrote.

Dunne also pointed to a tweet from venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, who said the 18-time All-Star was planning to leave Nike:

Shervin Pishevar @shervin

I met with Kobe Bryant in late December 2019. Kobe wasn’t happy with Nike and was going to leave it in 2020. Kobe was going to start Mamba, a shoe company owned by players. He passed away weeks later. What he was about to do in business was going to eclipse his sports career.

As he was preparing to enter the NBA in 1996, Bryant signed an endorsement deal with Adidas. The sides went separate ways in July 2002, and nearly a year later he signed with Nike.

Last month, TMZ Sports reported the Bryant family had filed a trademark for "Mamba and Mambacita." An attorney representing Kobe Bryant LLC stated in the filing the trademark would be used for clothing.

Vanessa Bryant confirmed his estate carries the licensing rights for his signature and unique "Mamba" logo, but DePaula reported the "Sheath" logo that often adorns Bryant's Nike apparel "is mutually owned by both sides."

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