Kobe Bryant may have started his NBA career as an Adidas endorser, but he spent the bulk of his career with Nike. He originally signed with the sneaker giant in 2003 and remained with them for the rest of his life. A week ago, however, Nike's contract with Bryant officially expired and his wife, Vanessa Bryant, revealed that the two sides had not come to a new agreement. That effectively made Bryant a posthumous sneaker free agent.
While it is not fully clear what Bryant's estate's next steps are, a strong indication came on Tuesday. The Bryant family has filed for trademarks on footwear and apparel for a number of logos and terms associated with the Laker legend, his career and his family.
The full list of trademarks is as follows:
- "Play Gigi's Way."
- The number "2" with a heart around it. That was Gianna Bryant's number.
- "Mamba and Mambacita."
- "Baby Mambas."
- The Mamba logo, an "M" encircled by a snake.
- "Lady Mambas."
- "Mamba League."
- Lil' Mambas."
- Bryant's signature.
- "Kobe Bryant."
- A black and gold alternative Mamba logo in honor of his Hall of Fame induction.
All of this would suggest that the Bryant family is planning to launch its own brand of merchandise using Kobe's name, image and likeness. Doing so would allow them to reach more of Bryant's fans. Nike drew significant criticism for its handling of Bryant's merchandise after his death. They repeatedly released very small quantities of his shoes or jerseys available only through their SNKRS app. What was available was typically swallowed up by resellers that used bots and then placed on the secondary market with exorbitant price markups.
The Bryant family seemingly recognized that and grew frustrated with it. In her statement Monday, Vanessa Bryant wrote "my 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." If the Bryant family themselves are the ones creating the merchandise, they would be able to control how much of it can reach fans.
But such ventures are exceedingly rare in the footwear and apparel business. Established brands have the infrastructure to produce merchandise consistently and at reasonable costs, which proved problematic for the most recent attempt by an NBA family to build a competitor, Big Baller Brand. The Bryant name holds significantly more industry sway, though. If the family does indeed put out its own product, there will be no shortage of Lakers fans eager to buy it.