Looking to buy a Kobe Bryant jersey on Nike’s website? Good luck, because the Nike online store’s entire inventory of Kobe Bryant merchandise has sold out in the aftermath of the retired NBA star’s weekend death.
Searches for “Kobe” on the Nike.com store less than 48 hours after his death returned a result only for a Los Angeles Lakers-branded gift card, and Nike reportedly has also seen an increase of sales related to the former Los Angeles Lakers great at its stores.
Confusion over availability of Kobe Bryant shoes
A day after the fatal crash, ESPN reported that Nike had stopped selling Kobe Bryant sneakers and other merchandise online to prevent profiteering by individuals or companies trying to hoard the items and then resell them at higher prices. Shoes in the Kobe 5 Protro line were already being listed with prices approaching $1,000 on eBay.
However, the Nike spokesperson clarified that the company did not pull products, but instead sold out of them. Given that Bryant had retired after the 2015-16 season, it’s likely that the Nike was not carrying a large inventory of merchandise directly related to Bryant.
The effect on sales through secondary channels and internationally could also be significant in the short term. Bryant traveled frequently to China, where basketball has a substantial following, to promote Nike products.
Los Angeles Lakers star’s death creates dilemma for Nike
Nike, an industry giant valued at more than $150 billion, may now find itself in a difficult position since the sporting goods and apparel giant had previously planned a new Bryant-related launch for next month.
Bryant endorsed Nike products for much of his pro basketball career beginning with a four-year deal worth $40 million in 2003, and the company had scheduled the release of a new Kobe 5 Protro model for Feb. 7.
That decision that is now being reconsidered out of respect for the player’s family and the potential backlash against Nike. As edgy as the company can be with controversial ad campaigns such as the one with Colin Kaepernick, it’s understandable that executives might be concerned about upsetting people not aware that the promotion had been scheduled prior to the helicopter crash that claimed Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven other lives outside of Los Angeles.
Several apparel stores across the country announced a temporary halt of Bryant shoe sales so as to not exploit a tragedy. Shoes reseller StockX is taking a different approach and will donate proceeds from sales of Bryant merchandise this week to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.
A living tribute to Kobe Bryant
Even as the availability of his shoes to the general public dwindles for the time being, active players favor the Kobe Bryant line. ESPN reported that more than 100 current NBA players wear those shoes in games.
That likely will contribute to continued interest in the brand by fans looking both to mimic their favorite current stars and pay tribute to the future Hall of Fame inductee, who was known to take a personal interest in the development of Nike styles carrying his name.