Kobe Bryant’s estate has ended its long-standing partnership with Nike, widow of the Lakers legend Vanessa Bryant has said. The estate decided after growing frustrated with Nike limiting the availability of Kobe products during his retirement and after his death.
Vanessa told ESPN: “Kobe’s Nike contract expired on 4/13/21. 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.”
ESPN sources said Nike had presented an extension offer that was not similar to the Nike Inc. contracts both Michael Jordan and LeBron James hold. However, Vanesa said she was hoping for a lifelong partnership that reflected her husband’s legacy.
“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.
“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.”
Meanwhile, Nike has also confirmed that it has ended its partnership with the Bryant estate, which means the estate is free to pursue any deal of its choice. “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.”
Bryant first signed a deal with Nike in 2003 after leaving Adidas when he entered the league in 1996. It was one of the biggest basketball deals Nike has signed. The company produced multiple lines of Kobe shoes and gear. He signed an endorsement extension in April 2016.
The NBA Hall of Famer and one of the world’s most celebrated basketball icons died in a helicopter crash in January. Bryant was flying along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and John Altobelli, head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, who was also with his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa.
In a career that spanned two decades, the Black Mamba’s face became synonymous with the LA Lakers, where he won five Championship titles playing with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash.