Kobe Bryant Calls Timeout on his Basketball Career, but his Brand Goes on

December 2, 2015

By Tariq Saleh

“This season is all I have left to give. My heart can take the pounding. My mind can handle the grind. But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”

This was the moment Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant officially called time on a glittering 20-year NBA career.

Bryant confirmed his retirement at the end of the 2015/16 season in an open letter on the Players’ Tribune on Sunday night.

The 37-year-old has enjoyed a hugely successful career on the court, which included five NBA championships, one MVP trophy and 17 All-Star appearances. He also became the all-time leading scorer for the Lakers.

Kobe had as much success off the court as he had on it. According to Forbes, he had record career earnings of $680 million, making him one of the best-paid athletes in the world.

That total is the most ever made by a team athlete and the only athletes to have earned more are those in individual sports such as Floyd Mayweather, Tiger Woods and Michael Schumacher.

Per Forbes, Bryant has been the highest paid player in the NBA for the past six seasons and is the only player in NBA history besides Michael Jordan, to have a salary that topped $30m in a single season.

Of the $680m Bryant has made, more than $280m has come from endorsements. Over the course of his career, he’s had deals with major brands such as Mercedes-Benz, McDonalds, Sprite, Nintendo, Sony, Hublot and more.

His biggest backer has been sportswear giant Nike, who signed him to a $10m-per-year contract in 2003.

Speaking on Monday, Nike spokesman Brian Strong said: “Kobe epitomizes ‘there is no finish line.

“He’s a legend of the game, and his legacy will live on.”

Through his affiliation with Nike and his performances in a Lakers jersey, Bryant became a global star, especially in China where he was revered.


The country thus became a huge market for Bryant, which he duly took advantage of.

His jersey has been the best-seller in China for a number of years and he embraced his status with frequent trips to China in the NBA off-season.

Several injuries have seen Kobe Bryant play just 41 games over the past two seasons and it was always anticipated that his career was slowly coming to an end.

Bryant admitted after suffering an Achilles injury in the 2014/2015 season that he spent time thinking about life after basketball and what he’d like to do.

In an exclusive interview with ESPN in 2014, Bryant revealed he had formed his own company, Kobe Inc., which is focused on business and investment.

“I have always had ideas and always had a vision of where I wanted to go going back to 2000, but they are just ideas,” Bryant told ESPN.

“I want to be a part of something and if you want to be a true entrepreneur you have to put skin in the game,” Bryant said.

“At this stage in my life, I don’t have the interest in taking on any more endorsements.”

Shortly after announcing the launch of his own company, Bryant confirmed its first investment into sports drink, BODYARMOR. The investment was between $4-6m, making him the company’s third largest shareholder.

His popularity in China enabled his company to sign further deals with Alibaba and Sina.com.


Above all, his importance to the Lakers can never be underestimated. With Kobe as its franchise player for over a decade, the team’s revenue was always on the rise. Already one of the biggest franchises in American sports, Kobe Bryant helped to elevate the Lakers as one of the most valuable sports teams on the planet.

According to Forbes, the franchise was worth an estimated $200m in 1996 when Bryant was drafted, but was valued at $2 billion in Forbes’ 2015 List of NBA’s Most Valuable Teams.

Make no mistake about it, Kobe Bryant is a brand.

He may not be gracing the court after this current season, but you can expect him to have a major impact in the sport business industry off the court in the next chapter of his career.