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Nike suspends sale of Kobe-related products
9:22 PM ET
  • Nick DePaulaESPN

In the wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, Nike has decided to pull all Kobe-related items from its Nike.com webstore, company sources confirmed to ESPN. For now, searches for Bryant’s products provide one result: a purple and yellow Nike gift card bearing the Los Angeles Lakers’ logo.

The company is reevaluating its ongoing strategy for releasing Bryant’s signature shoe series, and in the interim, it would prefer to limit resellers’ ability to stockpile an inventory of existing products, only to sell them on the secondary market at elevated prices.

Throughout the company, Bryant’s imprint is being reflected on, with the gravity of his death weighing heavily across Nike’s global office spaces. Bryant was more than an endorsing athlete at Nike; he was a true partner working in tandem with executives, designers, developers and employees throughout the Swoosh’s corporate structure since he joined the company in 2003.

The Nike Kobe signature series has long been heralded in the industry for its advancements in design and innovation. Bryant’s sneakers have already been worn by more than 100 NBA players — nearly a quarter of the league — this season. Nike designers raved about Bryant’s attention to detail and meticulous approach to improving each shoe from year to year.

“I’m telling you, it was like when Harry Potter landed in Hogwarts,” Bryant said of Nike several years ago, with a laugh. “He was home. I’m always around a bunch of people who are competitive and just as competitive as I am or just as passionate about the sport as I am.”

On Monday at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, thousands gathered throughout the day around a 35-foot poster of Bryant that overlooks the south bank of the campus’ Lake Nike. Clad in a variety of Kobe sneakers from his 11-model run during his playing career and the six-model post-career portion of the series that was named “Kobe AD,” employees left flowers and memorabilia at a makeshift vigil.

“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.”

At the brand’s Nike West office in Los Angeles, visibly overwhelmed employees came in for work Monday morning before gathering in the on-site auditorium, the only meeting space big enough to accommodate everyone. Nike has long been known for naming its many corporate buildings, parking spaces and conference rooms after its partner athletes.

The L.A. office’s auditorium is simply called “Kobe.”

Hugs were exchanged, stories of Bryant were shared, and tears were shed among the close group. The Lakers icon was a fixture in working with the Nike West team throughout the L.A. area, not only for his many Nike product activations and brand events but also at community givebacks in attending Drew League games and in promoting access to the sport for people of all backgrounds.

Nike planned to launch a new celebratory colorway of the Kobe 5 Protro in the coming weeks, with the white, black and trophy gold edition slated for a Feb. 7 release. The colors combined the home white and away black versions of the Kobe 5 worn by Bryant in the 2010 NBA Finals, in which he collected his fifth and final championship ring, along with the graphics incorporated into the pair of Kobe 5s he wore during the Lakers’ championship parade.

The brand is discussing whether to go forward with the release as planned or postpone the launch, according to sources.

In addition to Nike’s reluctance to profit from Bryant’s likeness during the aftermath of his death, several sneaker consignment stores around the country have taken similar approaches.

“We will not be selling any Kobes till further notice,” RIF Los Angeles announced in a statement. “All Kobes have been pulled off the floor and all online orders have been refunded.”

Las Vegas-based Urban Necessities sent an email to sellers on Sunday evening, clarifying its approach to Kobe’s products and restricting sellers from hiking prices on existing listings. On some secondary marketplaces, prices for Bryant’s sneakers and memorabilia have seen a 200-300% spike over the past 24 hours.

“Due to the recent passing of Kobe Bryant and out of respect for his family and legacy, we will not allow price changes on Kobe items that are consigned,” the company wrote.

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