First reported on Monday night, Kobe Bryant’s estate and Nike failed to come to an agreement to renew the NBA great’s last 5-year extension, which was signed in April 2016.
Nike confirmed the news shortly after reports surfaced online, issuing a statement that reads: “Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike's deep connection to consumers. 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.”
Kobe signed with Nike in 2003 after beginning his NBA career signed to sportswear rivals adidas. From 2003 onwards, Nike released 11 signature shoes bearing Kobe’s name and Mamba logo. Nike continued to release signature models after Kobe’s retirement in 2016, though reports suggest that his line was not a high priority for the Swoosh anymore, as emerging stars Kyrie Irving and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s signature shoes were gaining in popularity.
Still, Kobe’s sneakers were worn by a wide range of active players, including DeMar DeRozan, Devin Booker, and Giannis Antetokounmpo prior to his getting a signature shoe (which was heavily inspired by Kobe’s line). They were also considered one of the best performance basketball shoes Nike had on its roster, even after Kobe’s retirement.
Following the legend’s tragic death in early 2020, interest in Nike Kobe’s spiked. The last post-mortem Nike Kobe release was on April 13, when Nike dropped an exclusive-access restock of the “Grinch” Kobe 6. The day marked the five-year anniversary of Kobe’s final game in the NBA when the Los Angeles Laker scored 60 points to bow out after a 20-year career. It was also apparently the last day of Kobe’s Nike deal.
Late last year, venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar revealed that he had met with Kobe a few months prior to his death to discuss starting an independent, player-owned sneaker brand called Mamba. According to Pishevar, Kobe was considering leaving Nike and establishing his own brand. Ultimately, however, Kobe was tragically killed in a helicopter crash before this venture could be taken on.
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