Kobe Bryant's Nike Deal is Over — What Happens Next?

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Friends,

With Nike representing almost 70% of the signature shoes that NBA players wear on any given night, you might assume LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or Kyrie Irving control the market.

The reality?

Just like he did on the court during his 20-year NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant still dominates the shoe game.

Here’s what I mean…

During the 2019-2020 season, more than 100 NBA players wore Kobe Bryant’s signature shoes on a consistent basis. That’s almost 2x more than Kyrie Irving, the second-most represented player.

Top 10 signature shoes and # of NBA players wearing them:

  1. Kobe Bryant (Nike): 103 players

  2. Kyrie Irving (Nike): 57 players

  3. Michael Jordan (Jordan): 38 players

  4. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Nike): 36 players

  5. Kevin Durant (Nike): 32 players

  6. Paul George (Nike): 28 players

  7. LeBron James (Nike): 11 players

  8. James Harden (Adidas): 10 players

  9. Damian Lillard (Adidas): 9 players

  10. Steph Curry (Under Armour): 8 players

Even more interesting?

With Kobe Bryant’s five-year, post-retirement contract with Nike expiring earlier this month, Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, and the Kobe Bryant estate have elected not to sign a new deal with Nike.

That officially ends an 18-year partnership between Kobe and Nike, which produced nearly 20 signature sneakers and made each of them hundreds of millions of dollars respectively.

After news broke that Kobe Bryant’s estate and Nike were officially not renewing their contract, Vanessa Bryant issued a statement.

Here’s what she said:

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 products than any other signature shoe.

My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear and his products. I will continue to fight for that.

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.

While most people, including myself, typically tend to gloss over statements like these, one line stuck out to me:

My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear and his products. I will continue to fight for that.”

Why?

Two reasons…

  1. Vanessa Bryant was rumored to be frustrated with how Nike limited the availability of Kobe products during his retirement and after his January 2020 death.

  2. Vanessa Bryant has spent the last year acquiring a war-chest of new trademarks, perhaps “building an IP portfolio for a new brand launch.”

To be fair, this very well could just be Vanessa Bryant taking preemptive steps to protect her family’s intellectual property, but it could also be something much more.

Remember, late last year, Shervin Pishevar, a successful entrepreneur and investor, tweeted that he and Kobe Bryant had met and discussed potentially starting his own sneaker company — which he planned to call “Mamba.”

No one knows what will happen next. Will the Bryant estate sign with another company? Will they start their own company? Maybe they take a few years off and eventually work it out with Nike?

The point being, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.

Starting a shoe company is hard. There’s a reason three brands control over 75% of the basketball sneaker market. But if we know one thing for certain, it’s that Vanessa Bryant doesn’t care about the money. She has made her intentions clear: “to honor Kobe and Gigi's legacies.”

Now that’s something we can all appreciate and respect.

Have a great day, and we’ll talk tomorrow.


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