Nike Inc. says its online store sold out of Kobe Bryant shoes and apparel in the two days after the NBA icon’s tragic death, contradicting a report that the company pulled the merchandise to thwart profiteers.
The website no longer shows Bryant products available for purchase. A spokeswoman for the company confirmed the sell-out, but declined to comment on the volume or revenue.
Citing unidentified sources, ESPN reported on Monday that the company removed all of its Kobe Bryant products to prevent stockpiling by fans who hoped to sell the merchandise for more later on secondary markets.
Searches for “Kobe,” “Bryant” or his nickname “Mamba” on the Nike website all redirected to the company’s statement about his death. Searches for individual shoes return a message that says, “The product you are looking for is no longer available.”
Bryant jerseys on sites like Fanatics, however, are still available.
Bryant, a Nike athlete since 2003, was one of the company’s most important endorsers. Over the 17-year relationship, Nike released more than 10 Bryant shoes, and lots of other apparel. It was one of the few companies to stick with the athlete after he was accused of rape. The case was dropped after his accuser decided not to testify at trial.
Bryant has frequently cited former Nike Chief Executive Officer Mark Parker as a mentor and friend. The star forward appeared alongside Parker at the company’s investor day in 2017.
Nike, based in Beaverton, Oregon, is the official jersey provider for the NBA.