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Vanessa Bryant hinted at a contentious breakup with Nike in a statement following news that Kobe Bryant’s estate chose not to renew its partnership with the brand.
“Kobe’s Nike contract expired on 4/13/21,” Vanessa, widow of the Lakers legend — who died in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, along with the couple’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant — told ESPN on Monday.
Later in her statement, Vanessa, who leads Kobe Bryant’s estate, added, “I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy. We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi’s legacies. That will never change.”
Sources told the outlet that Vanessa and the estate were discouraged with Nike for a lack of products after his retirement and death, including a lack of sneakers in kids sizes.
Vanessa had previously vented about the lack of the Kobe 6 Protro “Grinch” — which was released on Christmas Eve and immediately sold out — in an Instagram post last year.
On Dec. 23, she shared a message to her Instagram story, letting fans know that she had reached out to Nike to come up with a plan to make the shoes more widely available.
Sources told ESPN the contract renewal offered the estate was not up to the standards that were set with the lifetime deals that Michael Jordan and LeBron James received.
Kobe initially signed with Nike back in 2003, and later negotiated a five-year “post-retirement” deal following his final NBA game on April 13, 2016.
While it’s unclear what the Lakers legend’s estate will do next, it’s believed that all future releases of Kobe Bryant-branded footwear and apparel manufactured by Nike will be stopped with a partnership with a new brand likely.
“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,” Nike told ESPN in a statement.
Despite the end of an era between Kobe and Nike, Vanessa said her “hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products.
“I will continue to fight for that. Kobe’s products sell out in seconds. That says everything.”
Earlier this month, it was announced that Michael Jordan will induct Bryant into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which will take place on May 15 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Jordan, who referred to Bryant as his “little brother” in a tearful eulogy after his death, was close friends with Kobe on and off the court.
The ceremony is expecting an in-person attendance of 50 Hall of Famers, including all presenters. It’s unclear if Bryant’s widow and their kids, Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and Capri, who turns 2 in June, will attend.
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