Kobe Bryant Once Refused to Interview With a Reporter Unless They Took off Their Adidas Sweatsuit First: ‘I’m Serious Because I’m Not Doing It’

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Kobe Bryant, who had a sponsorship with Adidas before switching to Nike in 2003.

Similar to his mentor, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant didn’t appreciate getting slighted. He often used any extra motivation he could find to help him dominate for the Los Angeles Lakers

However, some beefs went beyond the basketball court.

After his well-documented breakup with Adidas, Bryant seemingly wanted nothing to do with the athletic apparel company; he essentially signed with Nike and never looked back. One time, though, he actually (half-jokingly but also somewhat seriously) told a reporter he wouldn’t do an interview with them until they changed their clothes.

They were wearing Adidas.

Kobe Bryant broke up with Adidas and went to Nike

According to The Undefeated, Kobe Bryant signed with Adidas in 1996, and after repping the brand during his rookie season, he received his first signature shoe, the Adidas KB8, in his second year. It wasn’t until the 2000 NBA playoffs, though, that the first sneaker in his signature line debuted, The Kobe.

But something must have happened between Bryant and Adidas in the years that followed, as The Undefeated reported that he “paid $8 million to get out of his contract,” which led to him spending the the 2002-03 season as a free agent in the sneaker world.

Bryant played in various types of shoes that year, as he tried out Nike, Reebok, AND1, and Converse. But in June 2003, the now Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer signed a four-year, $40 million contract with Nike, and he had a relationship with the organization until after his 2020 death.

Despite spending his first six years with Adidas, Bryant must have had some sort of falling out with the apparel giant along the way, and it appears that led to his memorable interaction with a reporter.

Kobe told a reporter to change his clothes

Lakers star Kobe Bryant speaks to the media in 2016 while wearing a black zip-up. | Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant speaks to the media in 2016. | Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

Marc J. Spears is a writer for ESPN’s The Undefeated, and several times over the years, he has retold the story of Kobe Bryant refusing to interview with him just because he was wearing Adidas.

“One time with his Nike right-hand man Nico Harrison by his side, he playfully objected to doing an interview with me after a Lakers practice unless I changed my wardrobe that day: an Adidas sweatsuit and shoes,” Spears wrote in The Undefeated in 2020. “Keep in mind that Kobe was then a Nike endorser who had a bad breakup with Adidas.”

Spears also recalled the moment on an NBC Sports podcast in 2021: “It was half-joking, half-serious was like, ‘Nah dog, I’m serious because I’m not doing it. You can’t disrespect me like that.’”

So, did Bryant ever do the interview?

“After some good-natured ribbing, he did the interview,” Spears wrote.

We may never know everything that happened between Bryant and Adidas, and why he chose to leave the company. But maybe more information will eventually come out sometime down the line.

Kobe Bryant’s estate has since ended its relationship with Nike

Kobe Bryant went on to have a long relationship with Nike that lasted nearly two decades. As his wife Vanessa Bryant put it in a statement to ESPN, the two sides “made some of the most beautiful basketball shoes of all time.”

But his contract ran up in April 2021, and the company couldn’t reach a new agreement with his estate.

According to ESPN, the estate had reportedly gotten frustrated with the limited availability of Kobe’s products after he retired and following his death. It also didn’t like the lack of availability in kids’ sizes.

Nike reportedly offered the estate an extension, but it “was not in line with expectations of an ongoing ‘lifetime’ structure similar to the Nike Inc. contracts held by both Michael Jordan and LeBron James,” per ESPN.

“My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products,” Vanessa said, per ESPN. “I will continue to fight for that. Kobe’s products sell out in seconds. That says everything.”

It’s unclear whether the Bryant estate will try to negotiate with Nike again, but for now, it is a free agent in the sneaker world, just like he was in 2002-03.

All in all, though, no matter what athletic apparel company Bryant’s name is connected to, his legacy still lives on through stories like the one with Spears. His personality and accomplishments on the court made him an NBA legend and icon; it didn’t matter what shoes he wore.

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