New York (AFP)
Basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who died on Sunday, amassed a fortune thanks to his talent and some very good economic decisions, but a scandal in 2003 and a complex personality prevented him from going as high as his idol, Michael Jordan, in the business.
All his life, Kobe Bryant will have had a goal. "People don't understand how obsessed I am with the idea of winning," he said in 2013 in a public interview.
"Black Mamba", one of his many nicknames, spoke of the field, but his competitive spirit did not stop at the trophies.
On the salary side, after sharing the poster for eight seasons with Shaquille O'Neal in the Lakers jersey and agreeing to earn less than elsewhere, he then claimed his due.
He has chained eight seasons to more than $ 20 million annually, the last three of which have been marked by a series of serious injuries and declining performance.
In total, $ 323 million raised in 20 seasons, the second biggest jackpot in NBA history, behind Kevin Garnett (334).
Off the field, the insatiable scorer did even better, with around $ 356 million in advertising contracts and partnerships during his playing career (until 2016), according to Forbes magazine.
At the center of this platform, ideally positioned in Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the world, the equipment supplier Nike, with which he signed up in 2003, after an aborted adventure with Adidas.
The comma brand paid him another $ 16 million last year, according to Forbes, more than any active player except LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
The collaboration had however started badly, because only a few days after the signing of the first contract, Kobe Bryant was arrested in Colorado for the alleged rape of an employee of the hotel in which he stayed.
The case ultimately did not go to trial, the alleged victim refused to testify at the hearing, but the reputation of number 8 of the Lakers was to be permanently tarnished.
One of its sponsors, the fast-food chain McDonald's, will definitively cut ties, as will Nutella.
- The Chinese menu -
If the adopted Californian will sign other partnerships later, notably with the airline Turkish Airlines or the computer manufacturer Lenovo, his image will never fully recover from this road trip.
Nike, known for its loyalty to its athletes, will however maintain its confidence in Kobe Bryant and, from the 2005-06 season, will release each year a new pair of shoes with its name.
But in the United States and the West, the player, yet widely regarded as one of the best in the history of the NBA, will never succeed Michael Jordan, the absolute benchmark in sports business.
The fault of an individualistic and sometimes distant personality, less attractive than that of a LeBron James or even a Michael Jordan, yet capable of the same harshness but with a charming envelope.
Interested in business, more open to the world than many other American athletes because having lived in France and Italy, Kobe Bryant did not wait for the end of his sports career to broaden his horizons.
He was in particular one of the first to seize the potential of the Chinese market, from the early 2000s.
Thanks to numerous visits, commercials shot specifically for this market, and several initiatives, notably humanitarian, the native of Philadelphia has become a legend in China.
His jerseys, shoes, and the products he promoted there tore up, ensuring him significant income.
Beyond that, the basketball player with five NBA titles was one of the pioneers of a new generation of athletes to position themselves as an investor and no longer just as an advertising vehicle.
In 2014, he will buy 10% of the shares in the energy drinks group BodyArmor for $ 6 million. Four years later, these same shares will be valued at $ 200 million after the entry into the capital of Coca-Cola.
Through his investment company, Bryant Stibel, Kobe Bryant had also acquired stakes in the sports platform The Players Tribune or the video game publisher Epic Games.
He also made a remarkable foray into film production, with the animated short film "Dear Basketball", written by him, crowned with an Oscar in 2018.
The sporting retreat gave Kobe Bryant a more peaceful image, the fierce competitor turning into a mentor at the bedside of other players.
With sympathy capital on the rise and the expressed desire to remain positively involved in the world of basketball, Kobe Bryant was guaranteed to remain for a long time a figure of his sport and a privileged target of advertisers.
© 2020 AFP