Vanessa Bryant and the estate of her late husband, Kobe Bryant, won’t renew a contract with Nike. Bryant told ESPN Monday night she was hoping for a lifelong partnership with the shoe giant. Kobe’s shoes were groundbreaking—low-top sneakers were not common in the NBA—and releases sell out quickly. That limited availability may have been a pain point in negotiating a new contract. Vanessa Bryant was troubled by fans, especially kids, not being able to buy the shoes, GQ reports. Lifetime sneaker contracts are rare, too. LeBron James and Michael Jordan are the only other NBA retirees to have such agreements with Nike. Kobe Bryant "Protro" sneakers that pair retro styling with pro-level tech are essential equipment to some NBA players. Talen Horton-Tucker of the Lakers used a postgame press conference to ask for more. "Whoever can get me any Kobes, I need them," he said.
Statements from Vanessa Bryant and Nike both sound like the breakup might not be permanent. It’s possible Bryant could take up with another shoe designer—the estate owns the Mamba logo. But Nike clearly misses the late NBA star. "He pushed us and made everyone around him better," the company said. "Though our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a deeply loved member of the Nike family." Kobe started his shoe career with Adidas but moved to Nike in 2003, per CBS Sports. He left the NBA on a high note, scoring 60 points in his final game on April 13, 2016. That’s also the start date of his final five-year contract. He died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26 2020. (Read more Kobe Bryant stories.)