Why you can’t buy Kobe Bryant’s signature sneakers on

The Nike Kobe Protro 5 Chaos
The most recent Kobe Bryant signature shoe to be released was the Nike Kobe Zoom Protro 5 Chaos colorway, which dropped Jan. 3.
(Nike Inc.)

When Kobe Bryant sneakers on Nike’s e-commerce site disappeared from the merchandise mix at some point in the 24 hours after Bryant’s death, some published reports claimed that it was part of Nike’s effort to limit secondary resellers’ ability to lay in a supply of sneakers that could later be sold at grief-inflated prices.

That’s not accurate, according to a Nike representative, who told The Times on Tuesday that the sneakers weren’t purposefully pulled from the company’s e-commerce site but that the existing stock had sold out. The Beaverton, Ore., athletic goods maker has been making Bryant’s signature shoe since 2003, and searches for the Black Mamba’s name on redirect to a message of condolences dated Jan. 26.

For many, though, a retail ritual — one last bid for a tangible reminder of a great one’s passing — is as much a part of the grieving process as openly weeping or waving clenched fists at the sky. (And for others, it’s an equally time-honored tradition of trying to turn a quick buck in the aftermath of tragedy by snapping up memorabilia as quickly as possible and jacking up the price before reselling the goods.)

Nike Kobe A.D.
From left: Kobe Bryant at the October 2016 release of his first post-career shoe, the Kobe A.D., in downtown Los Angeles. His 12th signature sneaker with Nike displayed against images of the previous 11 iterations.
(From left: Adam Tschorn / Los Angeles Times; Nike Inc. )

According to Nike’s official online news website, the most recent Kobe signature shoe to drop was the Kobe V Protro Chaos, which hit retail on Jan. 3. As recently as Monday, sneakerhead websites were reporting that a new colorway of the same silhouette was slated to drop Feb. 7, but the Nike rep declined to discuss the status of that release, citing the company’s longstanding policy of not commenting on future product releases.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t score a pair of the shoes elsewhere. If you truly need to fill the Kobe-shaped hole in your heart, the Kobe V Protro Chaos, originally priced at $175, is currently being offered through assorted online resellers for anywhere from $209 to $550.

In the aftermath of the helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Sunday, the global response to Bryant’s passing has been as wide-ranging as the fan base of the Black Mamba, one of Bryant’s nicknames.

Professional athletes on the field of play have scrawled messages of tribute on their shoes. Professional musicians on the Grammy stage have held Bryant’s Lakers jersey aloft. Some fans and out-of-town visitors have trekked to Calabasas to gaze up at the hillside crash site, while others have flocked to the house that Kobe built — Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles — wearing purple and gold Lakers jerseys to pay their respects.

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