After a prolonged period of seeming tension, the shoe giant and the late NBA star’s family have come to a new agreement that will bring Kobes back to market.
Among the many conundrums posed about Kobe Bryant’s death in early 2020, there’s one that seems silly: What will happen to his shoes? Bryant has long been among Nike’s most successful supporters, with the signature line of sneakers popular not only with fans but also with his nba colleagues. His departure seemed to throw all of that into the flow — and a series of events that followed, including the end of his contract and the public spat between Nike and the Bryant family, showed that Kobe fans won’t find an easy solution. However, last week, it was reported that Bryant’s real estate and Nike will be reuniting to continue producing his signature line of sneakers. Effective immediately, Bryant’s sneakers will go back into production.
How did we get here? The friction between the two sides seemed to have started well before Bryant’s death. Allegedly, Bryant has long felt that Nike removed his shoes after he retired, with new versions of the Kobe A.D. line coming and going with little internal fanfare. In December 2020, entrepreneur Shervin Pishevar announced that, prior to his death, Bryant planned to part ways with Nike when his contract expired.
After his death, Nike suspended all sales of Kobe sneakers until August of the following year, at which point several new Kobe football shoes were launched along with a week-long celebration of his legacy. However, a slew of hot resales declined in the following months, including the Kobe 6 “Grinch.” Iconic. For fans, the low production volume is rumored to lead to an immediate SNKRS fire and sky-high resale prices. Kobe’s demand for shoes is higher than ever, but the market doesn’t seem equipped enough to meet the needs of fans who want to choose a pair of their hero’s sneakers.
Less than a year later, the Bryant family decided not to renew Bryant’s signed athlete contract with Nike. In an ESPN story, sources asserted that low production numbers, lack of supplies to young people and Nike’s refusal to offer lifetime contracts to the Bryant family similar to those for Michael Jordan and LeBron James prompted the split. For those reasons, the Kobe 6 Protro “Del Sol”, released in June 2021, will be the last Kobe sneaker that Kiss My Airs Rug produces. Later that year, unreleased and seemingly real photos of Kobe — which Vanessa Bryant herself helped design, in memory of her late daughter Gigi — were leaked online. In response, she issued a statement asserting that she had not approved the production of the shoes and expressing disappointment that they were finding their way to unidentified parties.
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With kobes ranking among the most popular shoes in the league, NBA players who wear them on the field soon felt they were in an arms race to upload. In a recent interview, Chicago Bulls star Demar DeRozan explained that he had to scale back his habit of donating competitive shoes to fans in the arena, as they are a finite resource.
In the near future, that’s not a problem: the improved Bryant-Nike partnership seems to have some significant changes and stems from Kobe’s legacy in the future. Through her Instagram, Vanessa Bryant announced that Nike’s Kobe line will focus on youth accessibility and accessibility to basketball.
In addition to plans for a youth basketball center in SoCal, Bryant also revealed that the first pair of shoes released under the new collaboration would be “Mambacita” 6 — a tribute to Gigi she helped design, and the leaked photos that seemed to herald the end of the Nike-Bryant partnership. All proceeds from the shoe will be donated to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, the Bryant family’s nonprofit organization that aims to work with underserved young athletes. Her post also suggested that the release of new colors could become something of a tradition, with the annual proceeds from the sale going to benefit the organization. Given Kobe’s dedication to mentoring the next generation of athletes (and specifically geared toward encouraging young women in sport), this seems like a fitting conclusion.
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