Kobe has specially made Nike shoes, Air Zoom Huarache 2K5 in purple and gold, that will be unwrapped for the Christmas Day game. Starting in March, you will be able to buy and wear them yourself.
Just donâ€™t expect Nike to advertise that fact.
Though still on the hook for a five-year, $40 million endorsement deal with Kobe Bryant, Nike has no plans to aggressively market the embattled Lakers guard, despite plans for Bryant to debut a new shoe on Christmas, according to multiple industry sources contacted by ESPN.com.
More than Mitch Kupchak regrets that two-year, $3 million a year deal with Slava right about now, Nike regrets its deal with Kobe. He was arrested when the ink was barely dry on the deal, forcing Nike to backpedal. The lack of a conviction meant Nike was locked into a deal, but they had no idea what to do with Kobe.
The PR issues surrounding his arrest could have been overcome if Kobe were an endearing figure playing on a title contender. But heâ€™s not. Kobe is an aloof personality who often comes off as cold and practiced in interviews, and with the recent changes in the team has gained the reputation as a manipulator. Personally I like his interview style, he seems cerebral, but that doesnâ€™t play that well for many in this country. Maybe heâ€™s different if youâ€™re sitting having a beer with him, but on camera heâ€™s not warm (in the same way Shaq can be) and that hurts his cause.
Time may change all this for Kobe. Three years from now, if his legal problems are far in the rear-view mirror and the Lakers are winning, Kobe may be very marketable. America is a very forgiving country (unless you are Bill Buckner in Boston). But for now, Kobe is collecting easy checks from Nike.
By the way, if you arenâ€™t familiar with him, let me say up front that Darren Rovell is one of the best things on the ESPN site. The â€œglobal leaderâ€™sâ€ news about the Lakers, Dodgers and other pro and college teams is good, but you can find better elsewhere. What is hard to find are good specialty writers, such as sports business writers, and Rovell is as good as is currently going.