After nearly 2 decades ... Kobe Bryant and Nike are breaking up.
Technically, Kobe's estate -- lead by Vanessa Bryant -- has decided not to renew the previous 5-year "post-retirement endorsement extension" Mamba signed in 2016 ... but in layman's terms, Team Kobe is leaving the Swoosh.
"Kobe's Nike contract expired on 4/13/21," Vanessa told ESPN ... "Kobe and Nike have made some of the most beautiful basketball shoes of all time, worn and adored by fans and athletes in all sports across the globe. It seems fitting that more NBA players wear my husband's product than any other signature shoe."
Kobe originally signed with Nike back in 2003 -- and later inked his "post-retirement" deal following his final NBA game on April 13, 2016.
So, why would Vanessa pull Kobe from Nike? It boils down to two main reasons, according to ESPN -- 1, long-term money and 2, Vanessa wasn't happy with Kobe shoe availability, particularly when it came to kids.
Regarding the money ... ESPN says Vanessa was unhappy with the financial aspects of the new deal Nike was offering.
She was hoping for a deal that was more akin to the lucrative "lifetime" deals that Michael Jordan and LeBron James have signed with the company.
As for availability ... Vanessa felt the Nike strategy of limiting the number of Kobe shoes to increase demand and collectability was hurting the ability of the common fan to cop a Kobe sneaker.
In other words, she wanted the shoes to be more widely available -- especially when it came to kids' sizes, according to ESPN, and ultimately she and Nike just weren't on the same page about the distribution strategy.
Vanessa told ESPN, "My hope will always be to allow Kobe's fans to get and wear his products ... I will continue to fight for that. Kobe's products sell out in seconds. That says everything."
"I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband's legacy. We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi's legacies. That will never change."
So, what happens now?
Nike will likely stop making Kobe products (unless they come to terms on another deal with the estate) ... and Vanessa will likely look for a new partnership with a different shoe company.
Nike issued a statement on the situation ... saying. "Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike's deep connection to consumers. He pushed us and made everyone around him better."
"Though our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a deeply loved member of the Nike family."