Kobe Bryant’s estate ends NIke deal, marking end of 18-year endorsement pact
The hoops legend and sportswear giant collaborated in some of the most high-profile sports ads of the last two decades.
Kobe Bryant’s estate could be in the market for a new shoe deal. Nike’s 18-year relationship with the basketball legend—which was accompanied by years of iconic advertising—has come to an end after his estate and the company failed to reach terms on an extension, according to a report late Monday night from ESPN.
Complex, which first reported the news, stated that Nike has more Bryant shoes scheduled for release this year, but those “will be the last of his Nikes to release for the time being.”
ESPN.com cited unnamed sources suggesting his wife Vanessa Bryant and estate grew “frustrated with Nike limiting the availability of Kobe products during his retirement and after his January 2020 death in a helicopter crash. There was also frustration with the lack of availability of Kobe footwear in kids' sizes.” The current deal expired earlier this month, according to multiple reports. ESPN in its report suggests Bryant’s estate was dissatisfied that Nike’s extension offer did not include language in line with pacts the sportswear giant has with Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
"I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband's legacy.,” Vanessa Bryant told ESPN. “We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi's legacies. That will never change."
Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Ad Age. The company told ESPN that "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."
Bryant and Nike created some of the most high-profile advertising in the sports world since the deal began in 2003, including many from Wieden+Kennedy Portland. Often, the ads embraced Bryant’s “Black Mamba” nickname, including a six-minute film in 2011 directed by action director Robert Rodriguez with cameos from Bruce Willis, Danny Trejo and Kanye West. When Bryant retired in 2016, Nike’s tributes included an ad showing the Lakers legend as a conductor turning his haters' spite into a delightful symphony.
After he died in a 2020 helicopter crash, Nike was among the brands that rushed out memorials, including this tweet.
Nike last August marked “Mamba Week,” on what would have been his 42nd birthday, with a 90-second ad narrated by Kendrick Lamar that urged people to be “better” and included footage of Black Lives Matter protests.