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How Kobe Bryant's endorsements helped him bring in money off the court

Bryant’s endorsement career was nearly derailed by a sexual assault case, but once he was found not guilty, he quickly regained many of his endorsement deals that he had lost

Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in NBA history. Throughout his 20-year career, which he spent entirely with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant achieved things many people can only dream of achieving. Whether it be his five NBA championships, two Finals MVP awards, 18 All-Star selections, 11 First-Team All-NBA selections, or his 2008 MVP award, Bryant has a laundry list of accolades that few in NBA history can rival.

Everyone in the Lakers franchise quickly realized Bryant's potential, and they locked him up to a six-year, $70 million extension midway through his third season with the team. By the time his career was over, Bryant had made $323 million from his playing career with the Lakers alone. Of course, Kobe wasn't just a basketball player, and he was renowned for being a savvy businessman throughout his career as well. Bryant's business acumen helped him double his career earnings with the Lakers through his various business ventures off the court.

Kobe Bryant's early endorsements helped his business career get started

Kobe's business ventures took off in 2014 when he launched his brand development firm, Kobe Inc. But to get the full story, you have to go back to earlier in Bryant's career when he successfully used endorsement deals to help him bring in a steady income off the court as well as on the court.

Bryant's first major endorsement deal came with Adidas during his rookie year, in which he inked a six-year, $48 million deal. As part of this deal, Bryant got his own signature shoe, with the Equipment KB 8 being the first in a long line of the Bryant shoe collection. Bryant would go on to have endorsement deals with other big-name companies, such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Spalding, and Nintendo.

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Kobe Bryant's sexual assault case nearly derailed his business career

Kobe seemed to be on a path that few take regarding endorsement deals, but his progress was halted due to a sexual assault allegation in 2003. This severely damaged Bryant's reputation and led to many of his endorsement deals getting scrapped. Bryant's public image would eventually recover, as the prosecutors did not end up testifying in the case. He ended up renegotiating endorsement deals with some companies that dropped him in the previous years.

While most companies dumped Bryant during his sexual assault allegation, Nike ended up signing Bryant to a five-year contract worth $40-45 million right before the reports came out. They ended up not terminating their relationship with Kobe, and Bryant would eventually continue his signature sneaker line with Nike. 

This partnership has remained to this day, even after Bryant's untimely death, as Nike and Bryant's estate were able to negotiate a long-term deal to bring Bryant's signature shoes back in March of 2022.

As previously mentioned, Bryant regained his prestigious public standing over time and earned most of his endorsement deals back. Bryant would eventually look to make more of a global presence for himself, and he signed a two-year deal with Turkish Airlines to help accomplish that. Bryant would be in a promotional film for the company that aired in 80 different countries, and he starred in a commercial alongside soccer star Lionel Messi which helped him develop a persona outside just the game of basketball. 

Without these endorsements early in his career, Bryant may not have had the incentive to get involved in business later on in his career.

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