Nike and W+K Shanghai have released a new film to commemorate the retirement of NBA legend Kobe Bryant. Released in China as part of Kobe’s Last Season campaign, the spot titled “Don’t love me. Hate me.”, features Kobe delivering a monologue over footage of his games and training camps in China and tutoring his Chinese basketball fans.
The spot, the only film made for an individual territory, demonstrates the importance of the China market to Nike and recognises the millions of Kobe fans in China. W+K Shanghai said, “Kobe devoted his time, passion and wisdom in Chinese ballers through his trips to China. For Chinese basketball kids, Kobe is not just a basketball super star, but more like a powerful and beloved mentor.”
Kobe is regarded as one of the greatest players in NBA history having won five NBA championships, one MVP award and made 18 All-Star appearances. His never-give-up spirit and cold-blooded determination has inspired generations of Chinese ballers and made him perhaps China’s best loved basketball star. Kobe’s only professional game in China was at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, where he led the USA team to victory over China in the opening game. He made a total of 12 trips to China in the past 15 years for Nike promotions and training camps. In 2008, W+K produced a 6-episode-TV series for Nike titled “Kobe Mentu”, meaning “Kobe’s students”, aiming at selecting elite Chinese basketball players to train with Kobe in the US.
科比亲笔所写退役信｜Kobe Bryant’s Retirement Letter
To mark Kobe’s last game against Utah Jazz on April 14th, and the finale of their Last Season campaign, Nike released a film titled “The Conductor”. Produced by W+K Portland, the spot sees Kobe playing a conductor, standing at the middle of a stadium for the last time, conducting a chorus of haters made up of opposition fans and players including Kobe’s long time rival, former Boston Celtics player Paul Pierce. Phil Jackson, the coach that led Kobe to his 5 championships, also stars in this spot. As a nod to his Chinese fan base, there is an appearance by a Chinese basketball fan wearing a No.11 China Basketball Team jersey(belonging to Chinese basketball player Yi Jianlian).
Notably, the Chinese spot “Don’t love Me. Hate me.” approaches the idea of hatred from a different angle. Whereas “The Conductor” centres on hatred from opposition fans, “Don’t love me. Hate me.” challenges young ballers to raise their game, to live up to Kobe’s greatness, to hate him for the hard work his high standards have necessitated.
Kobe first announced that this season would be his last on Nov. 30th, 2015, setting Nike’s Last Season campaign in motion. First off, Nike dubbed April 14th the “Mamba Day”, after the nickname they gave to Kobe in 2003. They followed that by gathering their multi-sport roster of star athletes, including Lebron James, Roger Federer and Li Na, for a short tribute video.
Though Nike has produced campaigns around numerous sportsmen and women, Last Season, with three major spots, several posters, extensive exposure on TV and internet and a whole day named in his honour, is perhaps the largest scale campaign by a sports brand to mark a player’s retirement.