While nothing will ever be as iconic as the Air Jordan sneakers, for the modern era and current generation of NBA players and fans, Kobes have become their version of that. In his heyday and even into his retirement, Kobe Bryant oversaw the development of his signature shoe and helped it become one of the most popular in the world.
His untimely and unfortunate passing, though, changed many things about the market surrounding his sneakers, most notable being the end of the Bryant family’s partnership with Nike to produce the sneaker in the spring of 2021, a split that got messy as well. That marked the end of an era for the two sides, but there is still hope that the partnership could be revived.
In a piece on ESPN this week, Brian Windhorst reported that both the Bryant family and Nike were in discussions in hopes of reuniting and that a deal is still possible.
Last spring, Nike and Vanessa Bryant announced they were parting ways after the shoe giant’s deal with the late Kobe Bryant ended. The sides are still talking with the hope they can eventually come to terms, sources told ESPN, but currently the partnership is off. There had already been production delays that prevented players from getting their normal supply during the 2020-21 season, and for now, there are no more Kobes being produced.
The end of the partnership meant the end of production of Kobes. The most popular shoe in the league even while it was being produced, the halt has led to a wild increase in demand with no supply, as Larry Nance Jr. noted in Windhorst’s piece.
“If you don’t already have them,” says Portland Trail Blazers forward Larry Nance, “you’re not getting them.”
Windhorst detailed some of the lengths NBA players, who often have shoe sizes larger than that of a non-NBA player, have gone to just to find Kobes, which includes spending at least $10,000 on a pair.
NBA players who wear size 14 or larger are looking at spending at least $800 for the most basic models of Kobes, and that’s not what they typically wear. But the players are paying, with several telling ESPN they’ve spent more than five figures buying supplies of Kobes on the secondary market since last spring and summer.
“I’m not going into a store and finding a [size] 17 in a Kobe. No way,” says Anthony Davis, who switched to the Kobes when he joined the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019. “I mean, it’s guys’ favorite shoes. ... A lot of people are inspired by him, and the shoe feels amazing. All of them feel amazing.”
The sneaker secondary market has long been one of the more...treacherous places to traverse and attempt to find shoes. Prices already were sky-high for more common sneakers and ones that were in production.
The circumstances surrounding Kobes, both due to his passing and the stop in production, has thus sky-rocketed the price. While it’s made the shoes remarkably difficult to acquire for NBA players, it’s also made it downright impossible for regular folks to buy the shoes, too.
The potential revival of the partnership between the Bryant family and Nike won’t fix the sneaker secondary market by any means, but it would make the shoes more accessible, which is a win for everybody from NBA players to Joe Schmo. Here’s to hoping Nike makes the right call here and restarts production on this generation's Jordans.