Vanessa Bryant and the estate of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had to make a difficult decision earlier this month. Kobe has been partnered with Nike since 2003, and it was there that his signature shoes exploded onto the scene, becoming perhaps the most popular sneaker brand of any athlete at the time.
Since Kobe’s tragic death in January of 2020, current NBA players from Devin Booker to P.J. Tucker to Buddy Hield — and current Lakers players Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Talen Horton-Tucker — continue to wear the Black Mamba’s legendary shoes as tribute.
Now, Vanessa has announced that she and Nike could not come to an agreement on a contract extension, meaning their estate will now become a sneaker free agent for the first time in nearly 20 years, according to Nick DePaula of ESPN:
“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.”
This is not the end for one of the all-time great basketball shoe brands. Vanessa has vowed that she will continue to seek out ways to get her husband’s shoes on the market for real fans to buy Kobe’s shoes:
“My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products,” Vanessa Bryant 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.”
According to the story, the reason for the lack of a contract renewal was that Vanessa was seeking a lifetime contract similar to that of LeBron James and Michael Jordan, given the success of Kobe’s shoes before and after his death.
Now, other brands will have a chance to sign one of the most legendary players in NBA history to a deal and give fans another chance to get their hands on his shoes.
Nike releases statement about Kobe’s expired shoe contract
Nike released a statement shortly after the news broke that Kobe would no longer be one of their athletes. In it, they said that Kobe was an important part of the company’s connection to consumers and that he will always be a part of the Nike family even if their contractual agreement has come to an end.
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