What's Going On With Nike's Kobe Bryant Merch?
Thanks to his ability to make defenders have many off-games—to the tune of 33,643 points—Kobe Bryant also proved an admirable mover of merch. Two days after a helicopter crash claimed the life of the NBA’s fourth all-time leading scorer, tributes to his stamp on the game are continuing to roll in, and it has been a natural reaction among stunned fans to want to possess goods affiliated with the fallen 41-year-old. However, various sources have reported that Nike has pulled items related to Bryant from its online store in the name of carefully considering his branding and the integrity of the footwear market. Other sources are reporting that Nike simply sold out of the merchandise.
Nike & Kobe shared a truly special partnership.
“It was like when Harry Potter landed in Hogwarts,” Kobe once told me. “He was home.”
In the aftermath of his passing, the brand has pulled all of Bryant’s products from its webstore for now: https://t.co/8Jzo7zXNRz
— Nick DePaula (@NickDePaula) January 28, 2020
While social media posts have served as a common balm for those who are grieving his death, merch stands as a more tangible way to reflect on the influence that Bryant had on the global basketball scene. That desire to show allegiance to him, particularly through sneakers, cannot, however, be the primary way to engage in mourning since, among others, ESPN announced that Nike “is re-evaluating its ongoing strategy for releasing Bryant’s beloved signature shoe series, and in the interim, would prefer to limit resellers stockpiling an inventory of existing products, only to sell them on the secondary market at an elevated price.”
Those points certainly make sense, given the sensitivity of the matter because of the tragedy that also claimed Gianna Bryant—the superstar’s 13-year-old daughter—and seven other passengers, and the likelihood that some individuals would strive to saturate the market with exorbitantly priced products. However, The Action Network’s Darren Rovell tweeted this morning that Nike did not suspend sales of Kobe merchandise, and that it actually sold out of it because of the commercial response to the California-situated crash.
Told that Nike has not intentionally pulled any Kobe product off its website. Kobe product has actually sold out.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) January 28, 2020
Nearly four hours after his tweet, Forbes issued support for that conclusion, further contradicting ESPN’s take. If the original reports end up being true, we could say that Nike, whose relationship with Bryant originated in 2003, made a thoughtful and business-savvy choice. If the Rovell tweet and Forbes analysis contain the truth, we would hope that those who secured the goods in abundance would not stoop to look to profit from the death of nine individuals. It is hard to believe, though, that everyone will play by the rules, leading us to wonder what Nike will do with further releases of Bryant items.
Death tends to give those left behind a deeper appreciation of a person’s mark on the world, so, the loss of Bryant will likely yield a massive influx of cash for Nike. While it is certainly sad that such an upsetting loss could make Nike way more profitable, we need to consider what the company will do as demand for all-things Kobe increases.