Over his life, Kobe Bryant is often remembered as someone who was famously cutthroat and petty against competition. You were either with him or against him, there was no in between. After his divorce with Shaquille O’Neal, it was not until 11 years after on Shaq’s podcast that they made up and cleared the air. This mentality helped drive him to achieve the accolades he managed to accomplish over his career.
Bryant signed with the Adidas brand from 1996—when he was drafted—until 2002. At the time, his divorce with Adidas was a huge deal as it got acrimonious to the point he wanted nothing to do with the brand.
ESPN writer Marc J. Spears recently shared an anecdote with Kris Johnson about the time Bryant would not grant Spears an interview because Spears was wearing Adidas attire. He allowed Spears to interview him on the condition that Spears made a video of himself trashing his Adidas sweatsuit and shoes after the interview.
Talk about next level pettiness. Once something was dead to the Black Mamba, he wanted nothing to do with it.
After the Kobe 2’s came out in 2000, it bombed in sales and Bryant wanted out of his contract. Bryant reportedly paid eight million dollars himself to get out of his Adidas Contract after the summer of 2002. The buyout had a condition that he could not sign with another brand until 2003.
According to GQ Magazine:
It’s not fair to say that the Kobe Two caused Kobe Bryant to jump ship at Adidas in favor of the [Nike] Swoosh, but in 2001 it as rumored that even he thought they were ugly and horrible, which caused him to switch back to the slightly better Kobe One during the NBA Finals that year.
After 2003, he signed a four year, $40 million dollar deal with Nike at age 24. Nike and Bryant retained a business relationship until earlier this year, when Bryant’s estate and Nike agreed to not renew their contract.