Kobe Bryant is best known for his success on the basketball court. His accolades list includes five-time National Basketball Association (NBA) champion, two-time NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP), two-time Olympic gold medalist, and fourth all-time leading scorer. Many fans would argue that Kobe became the image for the NBA during the 2000s when the Los Angeles Lakers won three consecutive titles (2000, 2001, 20002) and won two more consecutive tiles in 2009 and 2010. Kobe was able to leverage his Nike sponsorship to create an exclusive product line and begin selling shoes and sporting accessories around the globe. Kobe also knew how to speak fluent Italian and Spanish. The ability to connect with fans in their native language helps expand his fanbase and global brand.
Kobe's first visit to China was in 1998, where he hosted a local basketball clinic. During the late 1990s, the NBA sought to expand its international presence into China, given the growing middle class. Throughout his career, Kobe continued visiting China, representing Nike and the NBA. Kobe invested in China to enhance educational opportunities for students. In 2009, Kobe established the Kobe Bryant China Fund to raise funds for education, sports, and cultural programs. Source.
Additionally, Kobe played a significant role in the United States Olympic Team during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. According to an ABC article, “Kobe's brand has been aggressively marketed in China, and his rise there was swift. He became China's Jordan.” Source. In 2007 – 2010, Kobe jerseys were the highest selling in China, outpacing Yao Ming, ranked 10th in jersey sales. Source.
Kobe became part of the fabric in China. Kobe became synonymous with basketball. Kobe was even featured in Chinese commercials. Kobe's basketball success, association with Nike, and continual investment in the Chinese market allowed him to become a local icon and global brand ambassador.
Remembering Kobe Bryant
Following the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, fans around the globe hosted vigils in his memory. Fans from Los Angeles, Philadelphia, China, India, and the Philippines all showed respect for the late Kobe Bryant. It is evident that Kobe was known around the globe and was a strong global brand.