Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s widow, and the company that controls the former Lakers player’s estate and assets, have decided to end their relationship with Nike when it comes to making the NBA’s most popular sneakers.
“Kobe’s Nike contract expired on 4/13/21,” Vanessa Bryant, widow of the Lakers legend, told ESPN. “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,” explained Vanessa Bryant in a statement.
For its part, Nike, whose role proved key in the athlete’s rise as an international icon, said “Kobe Bryant was an important part of the deep connection” the company had with its consumers.
“He pushed us and made everyone around him better. Although our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a deeply beloved member of the Nike family,” noted the company, which stood by the athlete even when he was accused of sexual assault.
With this decision, all production related to Kobe Bryant by Nike is expected to stop soon.
From the U.S. specialized press it is claimed that Nike presented a renewal offer that was not the expected one in economic terms and duration, since Bryant intended a “lifetime” contractual relationship, similar to the one signed by the company with Michael Jordan or LeBron James.
“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.” said Vanessa Bryant.
According to sources consulted by ESPN, Bryant and the company dedicated to looking after the late NBA star’s interests were “frustrated” by the limited availability of Bryant’s products – especially for young children – since the player’s retirement and especially after his death in January 2020 in a helicopter crash.
In that regard, The New York Times explains that the Kobe sneakers worn by NBA players are often limited editions that the average consumer can’t afford to buy, a strategy that Vanessa Bryant disagreed with.
Meanwhile, Bryant’s circle, which owns the rights to the famous logo of the “Mamba” (the nickname by which the player was known), could already be negotiating with other brands to form a new partnership, or may even opt to create its own firm, as the player himself had been thinking before his death, according to CNBC.
According to intellectual property attorney Josh Gerben, more than 13 trademark proposals have been filed in Kobe Bryant’s name since May 2020.
“The proposals would suggest that Vanessa (Bryant) is building an intellectual property portfolio for the launch of a new brand,” Gerben told CNBC.
Some of the most recent proposals include trademark applications under the terms “Play Gigi’s Way,” “Mamba and Mambacita,” “Baby Mambas” and “Mamba League.” Gianna, or “Gigi,” was the name of Bryant’s daughter who died alongside her father in the tragic helicopter crash. Her nickname was Mambacita.
The proposals show that the trademarks are intended to be used for all kinds of products, such as sportswear, streetwear or footwear. Gerben said these proposals were submitted as “intent to use,” which generally means that an underlying business could be planning.
The partnership between Nike and Bryant began in 2003 and resulted in some of the most popular sneakers on the market, such as the Zoom Huarache 2K4 and 2K5, in addition to the celebrated Hyperdunk and the 11 models in the Nike Kobe series. The latest contract renewal came after his retirement in 2016, for five more years.
The longevity of Kobe’s products in the NBA is unappealable.
According to the website Baller Shoes DB, during the last NBA season, a total of 103 players, around 20% of the league, wore Kobe Bryant sneaker models. More than LeBron James. Even more than Michael Jordan.
Now, Vanessa Bryant wants that love for her husband’s products on the court to find the same echo on the streets.