On April 13, Kobe Bryant is playing his final game as an NBA player. The match-up against the Utah Jazz may be the final act of a long and illustrious basketball career, but it’s definitely not the last we’ll see of the man who calls himself the Black Mamba. Much like the way Michael Jordan lives on beyond the court as a Jumpman logo, so too will Bryant’s legend continue in sneakers and video games. How do I know this? Well, besides the rather predictable nature of sport celebrity and brand behavior, we have two shiny new ads that tell us as much.
Both Nike and 2K Sports are saluting the LA Lakers star with ads to air during tonight’s game. But Nike’s actually named today Black Mamba Day, with a social mobile Mamba Day tribute generator, and a special auction of limited edition, signed Kobe gear on eBay to benefit The Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation. The Swoosh’s spot, by Wieden+Kennedy Portland, features Bryant as a conductor leading a serenade of haters and fans, including Phil Jackson, Paul Pierce, and Rasheed Wallace actually singing.
Meanwhile for NBA 2K17, 2K Sports’ ad–created by agency Crispin Porter+Bogusky LA–also incorporates both the haters and the fans, this time to show how Bryant’s legacy will live on among legions of stick-moving, button pushers. the brand also announced a special “Legend Edition” of its best-selling video game NBA 2K17, featuring Bryant on the cover.
Whether you hate him because he routinely destroyed your favorite team, or because of his 2003 sexual assault scandal, it’s interesting that both of these legacy spots so clearly embrace his status as one of the more polarizing players in sports.