“My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products,” Vanessa Bryant wrote. “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 [daughter] Gigi’s legacies. That will never change.”
In the nearly 15 months since Kobe Bryant, daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash, the Bryant estate has grown frustrated over the availability of Bryant’s Nike products, according to an ESPN story, a discontent that included questions about a lack of shoe models for children. The story also reported Nike had sought to extend the relationship, which began in 2003, but that it was not comparable to the lifetime structure of contracts given to Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
Complex reported that, in the period after Bryant retired and before his death, sales of Bryant’s shoes were down and he was not as high of a priority for the company as active players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James, who have signature lines.
“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,” Vanessa Bryant said in her message. “It seems fitting that more NBA players wear my husband’s product than any other signature shoe.”
Bryant himself may have been planning to set off in a new direction. A month before his death, venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar tweeted that he had met with Bryant to discuss a plan to create Mamba, a player-owned, independent sneaker company that played on Bryant’s self-assumed “Black Mamba” nickname. “What he was about to do in business was going to eclipse his sports career,” he predicted, including images of possible shoe designs. On Monday, Pishevar tweeted, “I feel like Kobe is smiling in heaven today.”
Although the “Sheath” logo that often appears on the tongue of Nike’s Kobe sneakers is owned by both sides, Vanessa Bryant confirmed to ESPN that her husband’s estate owns the rights to the “Mamba” logo and his signature.
Bryant’s plans for his post-athletic career were only beginning to come into focus when he died in January 2020. He was expanding his interests in storytelling, whether in books or film, in women’s sports and other areas, imaging a fictional world in which his ideas could take shape and calling it “Granity.”
“You have things within you that are festering,” he told The Post’s Kent Babb in 2018. “We all do.”
Going forward, Nike is not a part of that. Its most recent Kobe shoe was an exclusive-access restock of the “Grinch” Kobe 6, a 2010 shoe that returned in December. A limited number were available only via Nike’s SNKRS app April 13, the fifth anniversary of Bryant’s final NBA game and the last day of his Nike contract.
“Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers,” Nike said in a statement to ESPN. “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.”
Read more from The Post: