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In Wake of Kobe Bryant’s Death, Sneaker Resellers Are Choosing Purpose Over Profits

In the aftermath of NBA legend Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing, sneaker resellers are paying their respects — in some cases, at the expense of profits.

After news broke on Sunday of Bryant’s death, interest in his signature Nike shoes soared. Google searches for Kobe sneaker-related terms grew exponentially, and fans also looked to buy, leading to a sellout on Nike’s website. Sneaker re-commerce sites also saw a tremendous spike in sales and searches — and individual consignors accordingly raised their prices.

On the resale market, there’s an A+B=C formula: More interest in a product means increased prices. But in the wake of a tragedy, bumping up prices on Bryant product, for many, toes an uncomfortable line between profiting and profiteering.

“I understand the nature of business. But in this case, it’s not right,” sneakerhead Cid “The Kicks” Merisier told FN. “People selling Kobe products aren’t there to pay their respects.”

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Indeed, in light of the unhappy circumstances, some resellers are departing from their normal business protocol. For one, billion-dollar marketplace StockX has made the decision to donate all proceeds from Bryant-related sales, including sneakers and merch as well as trading cards to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.

“As is the case for any live marketplace, real-life events have ramifications on market performance. Following the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing, there was a surge of interest in products related to the basketball legend, including some of his most noted sneaker collaborations,” a StockX statement said. “The increased interest is a testament to his impact both on and off the court.”

Meanwhile, Jaysse Lopez, founder of consignment and resale company Urban Necessities, said on Instagram that he will not allow those who consign with him to raise prices on Bryant product in light of Sunday’s event.

“Consignors are in charge of pricing, not us,” Lopez wrote. “But I have instructed staff [that] we are not upping the price of any Kobe products at all. Not how I built my brand or how I need to make a dollar.”

In consideration of the Bryant family, Denver-based sneaker and consignment store Vices has chosen to pull all Bryant-related products from its shelves, both literal and virtual.

While several retailers have made the decision to donate or halt sales, online marketplaces like eBay chose to take a business-as-usual approach, a tack that has drawn criticism from some — although there are those who point out the challenges of recalibrating a business model amid such unforeseen circumstances.

“The mission of the platforms is to sell limited and highly desirable products at multiples of their suggested price. So in that sense, they are fulfilling their mission,” Matt Powell, VP and senior industry adviser for sports at The NPD Group said, adding: “I would have liked to see a suspension of reselling on Kobe products out of respect for the Bryant family.”

Similarly, sneakerhead Henry Francois pointed out that it could be difficult for major resale platforms to halt sales in order to prevent people from profiting from tragedy.

“It’s unfortunate that people will be capitalizing off the untimely passing of Kobe, however, it does not surprise me,” said  Francois. “At the end of the day, resellers are resellers, and their business is based on capitalizing off the moment. … I’m not really sure how this situation should be handled. “

Meanwhile, insiders suggest many of those within the sneakerhead community, are engaging in self-policing:  “I’m part of a couple of sneaker groups on Facebook and if you try to resell any Kobe sneaker right now, you’ll get banned,” Merisier noted. “I feel the message from Kobe and the tragedy is what needs to catch our attention: Take a moment, because life is uncertain.”

In the future, Francois said he’s interested in seeing whether the Swoosh will honor the star-athlete’s legacy through product releases.

“Hopefully, [Nike will] come up with a plan to rerelease some of his popular [styles] with a wider release, so real Kobe fans, as well as those who appreciated his Mamba Mentality and contribution to the game, can commemorate his legacy,” he said.

Bryant, 41, died in a nine-fatality helicopter crash on Sunday morning, Jan. 26, alongside 13-year-old daughter Gianna. Widely considered one of the greatest NBA stars of all time, Bryant made 18 All-Star teams during his two decade-long career and won five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVPs and the 2008 league MVP honor, all in an L.A. Lakers uniform.

His passing generated waves of shock and sadness that went far beyond the basketball community. Celebrities, world leaders, athletes and fans took to social media to pay homage. Across the NBA, teams took penalty violations in honor of the star, with multiple players inscribing messages to him on their sneakers. In his home city of Los Angeles, hoops fans assembled a makeshift memorial outside the Staples Center Sunday night as musicians inside paid tribute at the 2020 Grammy Awards.

Stadium Goods and eBay declined to comment for this story.

With contributions from Peter Verry

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