Earlier this week, word emerged that the Kobe Bryant estate and Nike had been unable to reach an agreement on a contract renewal to keep Kobe’s beloved sneaker line with Nike going, and there is significant uncertainty about what comes next. It’s possible that the estate looks to another company, like adidas where Bryant first began his career, but they could go into creating their own sneakers as well.
Whatever the case, it’s big news not just for Nike and fans of the Kobe line, but for NBA players as Kobe’s sneakers are the most worn signature among all NBA players. Last year, per BallerShoesDB, 53 players wore the Kobe Protro 4s, the most of any sneaker in the league, with two other Kobe sneakers cracking the top 15 for a combined 31 more players. That’s a significant portion of the league that is now looking at needing to make a change or needing to stock up on pairs to keep for the future.
NBA players are, unsurprisingly, very particular about what they put on their feet. Most players stick to the same line for years on end, although some Kobe sneaker acolytes shifted to Giannis’ Zoom Freaks (which were modeled after Kobe’s low-top design). The Kobes are, by far, the most worn low-top on the market and if Nike can’t produce them anymore, players are concerned for what they’ll do for the future. Among those are Lakers players Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Talen Horton-Tucker, who both spoke on Monday night about how they plan to stock up and were shocked by the news breaking that Nike and Kobe were splitting, via Silver Screen and Roll.
“It was very surprising for me,” Horton-Tucker said on Monday. “You know, I play in Kobes, I’ve played in Kobes all year, and I’m going to continue playing in them, but it’s just crazy — it’s a crazy thing. With everything that’s going on, it’s kind of unfortunate, but I guess I’ve got to figure something out now. I’m putting a call out to everybody right now: whoever can get me any Kobes, I need them.”
“First of all, I’m going to try and get a couple more pairs before they stop selling them,” Caldwell-Pope said. “The reaction that I had was I was shocked, I didn’t think that would happen, I thought they would continue to make shoes but I don’t know anything behind that, so when I saw it, I was just a little shocked.”
Anthony Davis likewise said it “hurt” to see Kobe and Nike split, as he’s a Nike athlete and wears the Kobes.
Anthony Davis on Kobe's deal with Nike expiring: “It was tough to see. … Just to see that definitely hurts.”
— Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA) April 21, 2021
The Lakers players aren’t alone, and it’ll be interesting how Nike moves forward. What seems most likely is that they continue putting out shoes with the same performance specs and silhouette as the Kobes, but under a different name — as adidas did with the Crazy 8s and others after Bryant left for Nike — and have players test out their other low-top options — whether the Zoom Freaks, Zoom BB NXTs, or their new GT series. Still, for now, expect players to load up on as many pairs as possible before they’re forced to look elsewhere, because changing shoes is a very big deal for players who have grown comfortable in a line over their entire career.