Fade to Black

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers

As many of you know, last night was professional NBA star, Kobe Bryant’s, final game. At 17 years old Kobe was drafted to the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 as the 13th overall pick. He was quickly traded to the LA Lakers where he spent the next 20 years of his career, the longest any player has stayed with one team. Kobe ended his career with a bang, scoring 60 total points. Helping Kobe maximize his success and memorialize his finale game was mega-sponsor, Nike.

Kobe Bryant’s partnership with Nike actually had an interesting beginning. Originally, Kobe had a shoe line with Adidas. At the time, Adidas was known for outlandish designs. Unhappy with the KOBE TWO Kobe made the switch to Nike in 2003. Since then, Kobe Bryant has had a successful, annual shoe line through the company. However, when Nike attempted to produce their first commercial with Kobe, the athlete found himself facing rape charges, causing Nike to push back the debut of the commercial. Following this, Kobe began to be villainized and instead of denying it, he embraced it. In 2006, Nike’s first Kobe commercial premiered titled, “Love Me or Hate Me”. In it he lists all the reasons people hate him. Then, he turns it around to say all those reasons he is hated are also why people love him. The bold, unforgiving attitude displayed in this advertisement represented the catalyst in his career in which he altered his behavior on the court to display this new unforgiving confidence.


It’s fitting then that one of Nike’s final advertisements during Bryant’s career is titled, “Don’t Love Me. Hate Me.”

Released last week, he tells viewers to hate him for essentially raising the bar on greatness. He says to love him only when they achieve greatness. This is a layered message. Yes, it is an homage to his first Nike commercial 10 years prior and an acknowledgement of his talent and success, but in it he offers motivation. He wants admirers and NBA hopefuls to get mad, to be frustrated, and turn that into motivation for success, because that’s essentially what he did. It’s his final advise to the world.

Just when fans think Nike has closed the curtain on Kobe’s career commercials, they drop this late last night.

It’s titled, “The Conductor” and boy, is it good. It is comical, but that doesn’t dim the significance it holds. Kobe Bryant acknowledges the hate, letting fans, players, and owners get it out of their system one last time…and he’s reveling in it. The commercial fades to black on the back of his jersey as he leaves the court before “Just Do It” appears.

Nike has skillfully executed their campaigns with Kobe throughout the years and the exit campaign was no exception. They carefully released every single advertisement leading up to the grand chorus finale. Like Kobe raised the bar in the game of basketball, Nike has raised the bar in the world of sports advertising. With this, the curtain closes on a great career, the screen fades to black.

-Kaela, Austin, Jonathan