The most popular shoes on the N.B.A. hardwood for the last several seasons were not the signature sneakers endorsed by the top active players, like Nike’s LeBron James or Adidas’s Damian Lillard. They were not the shoes endorsed by the man who practically invented the modern sneaker game, Michael Jordan.
Instead they were Nike’s line of Kobe Bryant’s signature sneakers, which were worn by 103 players last season — about 20 percent of the league’s players — according to the sneaker website Baller Shoes DB. Many W.N.B.A. players, like the Seattle Storm’s Jewell Loyd, also wear Bryant’s signature sneakers.
But soon those players will need to find new shoes, at least if they want to play in brand-new pairs. Nike confirmed Monday that its contract with the estate of Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash last year, expired last week.
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Before Bryant’s death, the market for his shoes was fairly niche, said Chad Jones, the co-founder of Another Lane, a marketplace for sneaker collectors. “Performance wise, a lot of performance athletes loved Kobe shoes, but fashion wise is really the predictor for how well it will sell to the masses,” Jones said.