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A day after the tragic death of NBA great Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, several news outlets reported that Nike had pulled Bryant’s signature sneakers and related products from its site. However, that was not the case. The reason why Kobe products could not be found on in stores or online has a much simpler explanation, Nike told Yahoo Finance: It sold out.
On a recent visit to a Nike store in Brooklyn, Bryant’s sneakers were nowhere to be seen, and stores around the country have sold out of most of their Kobe stock.
Just hours after the 18-time NBA All-Star’s death, sales of Bryant’s shoes skyrocketed on the secondary market, with a pair of Kobe 9 Elite “Black History Month” going for $550 on StockX — a 28% jump in price prior to the star’s death.
During his two decades on the court, the man who would become known as “The Black Mamba” would don some of the most imaginative sneakers of the era.
The Adidas era
In 1997, Adidas KB8 was later rebranded as the “Crazy 8” and would be the Mamba’s first signature shoe, and it would live up to the “crazy” moniker. The shoe featured bold colors and zig-zag patterns that were emblematic of the ‘90s.
From there, the Kobe Adidas line continued to push the envelope for style and design. Bryant’s Adidas line came to a peak with “The Kobe” and “The Kobe Two,” released in 2000 and 2001, respectively. The two shoes were said to resemble spaceships, and some even likened the sneakers to a toaster.
The Kobe era at Adidas came to an end in 2003 when the Lakers All-Star bought out his contract for a reported $8 million and took his talents to Nike as part of a $40 million deal.
The Swoosh brand
Kobe’s first three signature shoes with Nike had a pretty simple design and were leather high-tops, but the line changed significantly with the Kobe IV, which brought a low-top style to the feet of the Olympic Gold medalist. The cut continued to be a mainstay for the Kobe shoe series.
By the end of his career in 2016, Bryant would have 11 signature models in total with Nike.
‘Kobe’s legacy lives forever’
To sneaker YouTuber Flight Academy Kickz, Bryant’s sneaker legacy looms large. “We lost a true legend. Kobe meant so much to everyone, and the phrase ‘Kobe’ will forever be used on the basketball court. ... His shoes were always produced with meaning, especially my favorite pair of Kobe’s, the Kobe 11 Elite Low Achilles Heel. The shoe speaks on one of the defining moments in Kobe’s career that displays having the Mamba Mentality. The shoes will continue to carry the legacy and tell the story of one of the greatest basketball players ever to walk this planet. Kobe’s legacy lives forever.”
For Jaysse Lopez, founder of sneaker consignment shop Urban Necessities, the impact of Kobe and his sneaker line is immense.
“I think the line has had some very meaningful colorways over the years. When I think of Kobe, there’s a handful of shoes that always come to mind. He paved the way for a lot of people.”
However, Lopez takes exception to the fact that the resale value of Bryant’s sneakers has soared since his death.
“Seeing so many within the first hour of his passing inflating prices 2-3 times what market value was very disappointing. Shoes that haven’t moved very efficiently over the last few years [are] selling for prices I don’t see reasonable at all. I hope the community as a whole can find a way to stop taking advantage of people’s emotional attachment to these items or players involved. It’s not right.”
Susquehanna analyst Sam Poser notes that Nike will have to be “extremely delicate” about how it handles new releases of the Kobe series after the Laker-great’s death.
“Nike has to handle this in a way that is respectful. And we don’t know what’s the agreement between Kobe and Nike and how the franchise transfers after his passing,” he said.
Despite the sell-out, Kobe fans and sneakerheads will still be able to get their hands (and feet) on a pair of Kobe’s shoes. Sources say that Nike still plans to go ahead with the release of the Kobe 5 Pronto “Championship Trophy” model on February 7.
Kobe 5 Protro "White/Metallic Gold/Black" official images
February 7th pic.twitter.com/vv2hLsV93O
— J23 iPhone App (@J23app) January 26, 2020
I will pay anything for these now
— Mr. Bank (@MrBank99) January 26, 2020
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.