After Kobe merchandise sells out, Nike is evaluating how to handle future sales

Nike’s decision to not restock Bryant’s products at this time is a show of respect, one consumer analyst said.
Kobe Bryant hosts a Kobe A.D. event at MAMA Gallery in Los Angeles
Kobe Bryant hosts a Kobe A.D. event at MAMA Gallery on Nov. 1, 2016 in Los Angeles.Allen Berezovsky / Getty Images file

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By Alyssa Newcomb and Stephanie Ruhle

Kobe Bryant’s Nike collection sold out after the basketball star died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, and now the athletic company is figuring out its strategy for future new releases.

The site where fans could buy Kobe Bryant’s shoes, jerseys, shirts and gear has now been turned into a memorial page for the Los Angeles Lakers star. A Nike spokesperson told NBC News that reports that it pulled Bryant’s products in the wake of the tragedy are incorrect, and that the company is assessing how to handle future releases.

"We extend our deepest sympathies to those closest to Kobe, especially his family and friends," Nike said in a statement. "He was one of the greatest athletes of his generation and has had an immeasurable impact on the world of sports and the community of basketball. He was a beloved member of the Nike family. We will miss him greatly. Mamba forever."

A search for Bryant on the site now yields one result: a purple and gold Lakers gift card.

Matt Powell, senior industry adviser for sports at The NPD Group, a market research company, said Nike’s decision to not restock Bryant’s products at this time is a show of respect.

“I think Nike did not want to appear to be profiting from this tragic accident,” Powell told NBC News.

The Nike Kobe signature series was worn by more than 100 NBA players this season. Bryant was a hands-on collaborator with Nike designers, who raved about his “inspiration and input” in various news releases over the years announcing the latest design from the Kobe collection.

In 2009, Bryant decided he wanted a lower and lighter shoe to wear on the court, and so the Zoom Kobe V was born.

"I watch a lot of soccer and have seen how the best footballers in the world make sharp cuts at top speed in lightweight, low-cut footwear," Bryant said in a news release. "The demands they make on their feet and ankles aren't that different from what I'm doing on the court, yet nobody assumes they should play in high tops."

Some sneaker resale shops are reportedly not allowing price increases on Bryant’s sneakers, making sure no one profits off his death. However, on sites that haven’t committed to this, Powell said he expects “the remaining shoes in the market will likely go up as supply is limited.”

“If Nike decides to release future styles, those prices will drop like a stone,” he added.

One sneaker reselling site said it would donate all proceeds this week from Bryant-related merchandise to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.

Jaysse Lopez, founder of consignment company Urban Necessities, said he won't allow anyone to raise prices on Bryant's merchandise.

"Not how I built my brand or how I need to make a dollar," he wrote on Instagram.

Prices for Bryant's sneakers have surged on resale marketplace StockX, where a search for “Kobe” returned 553 pairs of shoes for sale. All of the sneakers are listed for hundreds of dollars, with some nearing the $1,000 mark.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a pair of Kobe 5 Big Stage Home sneakers had a high bid of $924. StockX said it would donate all proceeds this week from Bryant-related merchandise to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.

“As is the case for any live marketplace, real-life events have ramifications on what people chose to buy and sell, and for how much. In the wake of Kobe’s passing, there was a surge in interest in products related to the basketball legend, including some of his most noted sneaker collaborations. The increased interest is a testament to his impact both on and off the court. Alongside Jordan, he was one of the most influential basketball players in the sneaker world,” the company said on its website.

The NBA store continued to sell Bryant’s jerseys for the list price of $300.