Some resellers were quick to profit off of Kobe's death.
Reselling sneakers has become a billion dollar industry that anyone can partake in. From 12-year-old hypebeasts to 40-year-old OGs, there's a wider variety of people making a living off the sneaker game. Websites like StockX and GOAT have provided platforms for these resellers while Facebook groups have created safe spaces for local buyers and sellers to interact. Most of the time, the sneaker community is a wholesome place that brings people together. Like everything else in this world, there is a dark side to mirror the positives. Perhaps the most negative aspects of sneaker reselling were put on full display in the immediate aftermath of Kobe Bryant's death on Sunday, January 26th.
In the hours and days following Kobe's passing, prices for his signature shoes skyrocketed on StockX. Silhouettes that were going for below retail were suddenly going for exorbitant prices. It was immediately clear to everyone in the community what was going on. Those with Kobe stock were raising their prices knowing the demand for Bryant-related items was about to go up. Let's take the Kobe 6 "Grinch" for example. The shoe was going for an average price of $1,200 on StockX a month ago but now you'll be hard-pressed to find a pair under $2,000. Some sizes are even going for as much $4,000. Some of Kobe's Adidas sneakers were being put up for insane prices as well. For instance, the Adidas Kobe "Storm Trooper" sold for as low as $50 USD in October of 2019. On January 30th, a pair sold for a whopping $1,000.
Image via StockX
Sneakerheads quickly caught on to what was going on and many had some concerns. This kind of market fluctuation was to be expected. After all, Kobe is a legend and with his death in mind, it was only a matter of time before fans sought out some Kobe gear for their collections. The principle of supply and demand dictates prices and when demand goes up so does the cost. However, the rate in which prices were increasing was truly obscene and it became clear that some scummy resellers were looking to make a quick buck off of the death of one of the most beloved figures in basketball history. Eventually, StockX caught on to the controversy and released a statement saying they aren't responsible for market fluctuations, which for all intents and purposes, is true. What they did pledge to do that week, however, is donate all sales from Kobe sneakers to the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation.
“As is the case for any live marketplace, real-life events have ramifications on market performance,” StockX said in a statement per WWD. “Following the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing, there was a surge in interest in products related to the basketball legend, including some of his most noted sneaker collaborations. The increased interest is a testament to his impact both on and off the court. Over the course of the past decade, Bryant released hundreds of colorways in partnership with Nike, many of which were fast fan favorites along with silhouettes that have become the preferred game shoe for players across the league.”
As of right now, prices on Kobe sneakers are still incredibly high and we in the sneaker community have been asking ourselves: is selling Kobe shoes for ridiculous profits after his death ethical? The short answer is no but it's a bit more complicated than a black and white conclusion. As with anything, there are layers to this topic.
Profiting off of someone's passing is never okay. How would you feel if someone started selling your loved one's clothes for insane prices immediately after they die? You probably wouldn't be very happy about it and for good reason. One can make the argument that it's not the resellers fault and that it's the buyers who are setting a bad example by agreeing to the prices. While this may be true to an extent, it still doesn't excuse the resellers who are setting the prices, accepting the sales, and benefitting from the profits. A true Kobe fan would sell their Kobe gear for a reasonable price, knowing there is someone out there who is looking to honor the late legend in the most wholesome way possible. At the end of the day, reselling sneakers is a business with an overwhelming profit motive. Still, there is a difference between being a good businessman and being a shameless culture vulture.
Another question raised is: when will it be okay to start reselling Kobe's again? It's a hard question to answer but the best answer, for now, is whenever the market corrects itself. Eventually resellers will begin to notice that buyers don't want to purchase the shoes for crazy prices and this will lead to an expeditious decrease in costs. Once this occurs, everything will be back to normal. No one was ever upset at the resellers for selling the shoes and making profits. The issue was always based around the sudden increase in prices. Had the Kobe 6 "Grinch" continued to sell for $1,200, no one would have cared. But because the prices of shoes doubled and in some cases, tripled, people took issue with that and for good reason. With this in mind, it becomes apparent that once prices go back to normal, all ethical dilemmas surrounding the sale of Kobe's sneakers will go away.
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Moving forward, the sneaker community is going to need to take a long look at itself in the mirror and think of the ramifications of certain individuals. Thanks to some herb-ish behavior from hypebeasts, the sneaker community can get a bad rap at times. For instance, Sneaker Con has become a haven for 13-year-olds who wear Bape masks and only listen to "Sicko Mode." These stereotypes taint the outsider's perspective of what being a sneakerhead truly is. In light of this recent Kobe reselling debacle, the sneaker world is receiving some negative press and as a community, we can do a lot better.
Since the beginning of time, shady business practices have existed. Realistically, this phenomenon won't be going away anytime soon, however, this doesn't mean you have to participate in it. Making profits is fine and quite frankly entrepreneurship of any kind should be encouraged. Having said that, you still need to abide by some ethical rules. Not profiting off of the deaths of others is a solid place to start. Wouldn't you agree?