I have to admit. I don’t follow the NBA all that much. However, I do know that this is Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant’s last season and tonight he plays in his final NBA game.
Kobe has been with the Lakers for all 20 of his years in the league (the only player in the history of the NBA to play for the same team that long) and has been all-NBA 15 times, tying him with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan. ESPN ranks him at number 12 in the top 100 players of all time, sandwiched between Oscar Robinson and Jerry West. Court-side tickets for tonight’s final game are in the $25K range and the nosebleeds are going for $1,000. The NBA is saying goodbye to a great player tonight.
Where the brand of Kobe Bryant stands now.
As storied of a career as Bryant has had, will he enjoy the same success as Michael Jordan post-basketball? I think the answer is a little complicated.
You see, Kobe has done little throughout his career to fully develop his brand off the court. Where current players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, for example, have done a lot throughout their careers to develop and protect their off-the-court brand, Bryant has not. Playing in the shadow of Michael Jordan and his still today hugely popular Air Jordan shoe line, Kobe could never get either of his Adidas KB8 or Nike Zoom shoes to take off. In fact, the Nike Zoom was an unmitigated flop.
Further, in 2003, Kobe was accused of sexual assault. He settled out of court but his appeal to endorsers took a major hit that still impacts his marketability today. He never took his off-the-court brand as seriously as he took his on-the-court performance.
Businesses operate in this way too. I’ve seen a great many organizations who have great market performance for a period of time and then just fizzle out because either they never cared about what their brand meant or failed to live up to its brand. Just think about once iconic brands like BlackBerry, RadioShack, Border’s Books, and Blockbuster. Much like Kobe, these companies were all too short sighted to see their next chapter and evolve their brands for the future. They were more concerned with the present than the future.
While I have little doubt that Kobe will be successful in the future (with his investments), I don’t think that success will come as a result of his personal brand. But I wish him luck, nonetheless. He has given his all for the game of basketball and for that he will always be remembered.