Good luck getting your hands on any Kobe Bryant gear.
The late NBA All-Star’s Lakers jerseys, Nike sneakers and similar paraphernalia have been flying off of virtual and actual shelves ever since the fatal helicopter crash that killed Bryant and eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna on Sunday.
ESPN had reported on Monday that Nike NKE, +0.31% was pulling Bryant-related merch off Nike.com to “limit resellers’ ability to stockpile an inventory of existing products, only to sell them on the secondary market at elevated prices.”
But the athletic apparel giant confirmed to MarketWatch over email on Tuesday that, to the contrary, Nike’s website completely sold out of Kobe Bryant sneakers and merchandise,
“I’m not surprised his products sold out, as Nike would not have stocked a huge amount,” Matt Powell, the NPD Group’s sports business analyst, told MarketWatch via email, as Bryant’s sneaker sales were “well behind” active players like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
But then again, he added, “We’ve never had such a high profile product endorser pass at such a young age.”
Many grieving sports fans reported that local and online stores were cleared out of Mamba merch, although the NBA’s online store still has the iconic purple and gold jerseys for $300, as well as commemorative plaques starting at $29.99, and a life-size removable wall decal for $99.99.
The Los Angeles Times’ special Kobe Bryant edition dedicated to its hometown star also sold out on Monday. It’s available on backorder for $15, and will ship in the next two to four weeks.
Searching for Bryant’s products on Nike’s website now directs potential shoppers to a purple and yellow Nike gift card with the Los Angeles Lakers logo, or the company’s statement in response to Bryant’s untimely death:
The pair have had a long and lucrative partnership. Nike signed a four-year, $40 million contract with Bryant in 2003, when he was 24. Bryant teamed up with Nike to establish the Mamba League kids basketball program after retiring from the NBA in 2016. And his sneaker line with Nike is one of the top-selling in basketball history, Sports Illustrated noted, with many active NBA players like Lakers forward Anthony Davis and Houston Rockets forward PJ Tucker wearing his designs.
While Nike shot down the claim that it stopped selling Kobe gear to prevent profiteering, other stores have openly taken steps to prevent it. The Denver-based Vices sneaker boutique has taken all Bryant merchandise off of its sales floor, and Vegas-based sneaker reseller Urban Necessities is also taking action to prevent people from cashing in on Bryant’s death, Complex reported.
Indeed, pairs of Bryant sneakers that were being resold for $200 on consignment platforms like StockX skyrocketed overnight to upwards of $1,200 after his death. The Observer reported that by 10 a.m. Monday, there were 65,147 pieces of Bryant memorabilia listed on eBay EBAY, +2.14%, or about 14,000 more items from 12 hours before. A search at 2 p.m. on Tuesday showed more than 63,000 pieces, including an autographed 1996 Topps Chrome Kobe Bryant rookie card for $1 million.
This autographed Kobe Bryant rookie card is being auctioned on eBay for $1 million.
So Urban Necessities owner Jaysse Lopez sent a letter to his consignors stating that “we will not allow price changes on Kobe items that are consigned. If you have increased prices on Kobe items, we will be reverting the price back to the original listing price.”
And in a comment on an Instagram post, which is owned by Facebook FB, +1.51%, Lopez wrote that this kind of price gouging in the wake of a tragedy is “not how I built my brand or how I need to make a dollar.”