NBA Players Are Facing a Nike Kobe Shortage
Kobe Bryant's signature Nike shoes have been enormously popular with NBA players over the last few seasons – so much so that the league's brightest stars are struggling to find pairs, per a report from ESPN's Brian Windhorst. The deal between Bryant's estate and Nike expired on April 13, 2021, and although Bryant's wife Vanessa expressed interest in keeping the partnership going via a statement posted to her ,Instagram, nothing materialised.
Since then, models ranging from the Kobe 4 to the Kobe 5 and Kobe 8 have become like catnip to NBA players, driving the price of large sizes into the stratosphere. In his article, Windhorst reported that many Kobes size 14 and up now go for over $800, even colourways that aren't immensely popular. To the players, shelling out this amount of cash on shoes – granted, it's more of a drop in the bucket for a millionaire athlete than it would be for an average Joe – is a necessity. After all, the Kobe 4 Protro was worn by more than 100 players in the 2019-20 NBA season, and the Kobe 5 Protro and Kobe 6 Protro were seen on-court thousands of times (literally) in the 2020-21 season.
'I'm not going into a store and finding a [size 17] Kobe. No way', Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis told ESPN. 'I mean, [Kobes] are a lot of guys' favourite shoes... a lot of people are inspired by him and the shoes feel amazing.' Other players echoed Davis' sentiment, with Washington Wizards guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope indicating that he'd be 'stocking up' on Kobes. An anonymous source also informed ESPN that some players have already shelled out five figures to make sure they have a healthy backlog of their beloved game shoes.
Will Nike's partnership with Kobe's estate ever be rekindled? There's no way to tell, but Vanessa Bryant has attempted to trademark 'KB24', though her trademark application does not include shoes or sporting goods. Before the partnership ended, Vanessa Bryant also expressed her frustration with unauthorised leaks of the Kobe 6 'Mambacita'.
For more on the impact of Bryant and his shoes, check out SF's feature on how the Kobe 4 epitomises the 'Mamba Mentality' here.