Kobe Bryant’s Nike deal is no longer, as the late basketball player’s wife has allowed the contract to expire and declined to sign an extension. Sources told ESPN that Bryant and the estate were frustrated with the lack of Kobe releases both after his retirement and after his death in January 2020, as well as the limited-run of product that made it hard for his fans to buy his sneakers, jerseys, and other goods.
All Kobe Bryant-branded footwear releases will reportedly be on halt — although Adidas, where Kobe was signed for the first six years of his career, did re-issue some of his signature sneakers without his name attached prior to his death.
“My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products,” Vanessa Bryant told ESPN. “I will continue to fight for that. Kobe’s products sell out in seconds. That says everything.”
An indefinite contract hasn’t come to fruition — Vanessa Bryant also said she had been hoping to enter into a lifelong contract with Nike, but sources say Nike’s offer wasn’t on par with the deals given to Michael Jordan and LeBron James. James’ contract is reportedly worth more than $1 billion in total, while Jordan has already made an estimated $1.3 billion from Nike as of May 2020.
“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.”
Going forward, the Bryant estate still holds the rights to the “Mamba” logo and Bryant’s signature — which could appear on new non-Nike merchandise, if not other sneakers. The “Sheath” logo, the most well-known iconography from their partnership, is co-owned by Nike and Bryant’s estate, however.
Kobe may have been looking to leave — Kobe had signed a five-year extension with Nike in 2016, and a prominent venture capitalist said Bryant was unhappy and looking to move on prior to his death.
“I met with Kobe Bryant in late December 2019,” Shervin Pishevar said on Twitter. “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.”