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Kobe’s Estate Ends Nike Deal, Widow Files Trademarks for Footwear

Kobe Bryant’s nearly two-decade partnership with Nike Inc. came to an end last week. Trademark filings by his widow, however, indicate his footwear legacy might not be finished yet.

The Bryant estate let the basketball icon’s contract expire on April 13, more than a year after the Los Angeles Laker’s sudden death last year. Bryant first signed with the Swoosh in 2003 following a six-year stint with Adidas.

Brant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, confirmed the news on her Instagram story soon after reports of the split emerged on Monday.

“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,” Bryant wrote. “It seems fitting that more NBA players wear my husband’s product than any other signature shoe.”

Nike also confirmed that its relationship with the basketball player had ended.

Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers,” Nike said in a statement. “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.”

Vanessa Bryant’s statement seems to indicate the split with Nike was not necessarily a done deal and perhaps there had been talks to continue the partnership. “I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy,” she wrote.

ESPN, citing unnamed sources, claimed the Bryant estate had grown frustrated with Nike over the limited availability of Kobe products and the lack of availability of Kobe footwear in kids’ sizes. It also said Nike had presented an extension offer, but that it was not in line with expectations.

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“My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products,” Bryant wrote on Instagram. “I will continue to fight for that…. We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and [his daughter] Gigi’s legacies. That will never change.”

Kobe Bryant’s Estate Ends Nike Deal,
Los Angeles Lakers Chicago Bulls during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 21, 2009, in Chicago. The Lakers won 117-109. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

In late December, Shervin Pishevar took to Twitter to suggest Kobe Bryant had been considering ending his relationship with Nike before he died. The angel investor and Hyperloop One co-founder said he had met with Bryant before his death to discuss a potential new, player-owned footwear company called Mamba—an allusion to the shooting guard’s “Black Mamba” nickname.

The venture capitalist claimed Bryant was planning on leaving Nike last year. Pishevar said the basketball star wasn’t happy with Nike’s marketing and promotion commitment and that he blamed the company for “anemic” sales.

Bryant’s wife may be looking to making Mamba a reality. Vanessa Bryant filed to form Kobe Bryant, LLC in March last year. As far back as last May, Kobe Bryant, LLC has been applying for a host of trademarks, including one for “Mamba.” Filed in October, the trademark’s list of goods and services—largely a laundry list of clothing items—includes footwear. “Arranging and conducting youth sports programs” is also listed as a service, so it does not seem this interpretation of the Mamba brand would necessarily follow that of the player-owned footwear company suggested by Pishevar.

Kobe Bryant, LLC has continued applying for trademarks since October. Just last month, it filed trademarks for “Play Gigi’s Way” and “Mamba and Mambacita.” Both list clothing and footwear as goods and services. The company has also trademarked logos.