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The Power of Kobe Bryant: How Kobe Bryant Elevated the EC77 Brand

by Dani Merritt |

Way back in 2009, I partnered with a former NBA player that played for the Los Angeles Lakers at the time. He invested in the brand and believed in what we were doing at the time. He introduced us to a lot of people. One person he told us about was Kobe Bryant, to whom he was good friends. He told us he wanted to show Kobe the brand and see if he was interested in investing in it.

This excited us, as it would anyone. Kobe was my favorite basketball player and still is to this day(Kyrie Irving is a close second). Having him as a partner sounded exciting. Him just knowing who we were? Good enough.

We ended up having a huge party in New York with Maserati that year and a lot of Lakers players were in attendance along with several big time people in the city at the time. A huge business boost. Kobe did not attend. Knowing who Kobe was on the court, hearing the stories, now I know why he wasn’t in attendance. Winning was all that was on Kobe’s mind. Things like parties before games? Not important.

We soon found out after that he wasn’t interested. This infuriated me a bit. Why not? Why wouldn’t he give us a chance? But this fueled me. For the better. At the time, I was only making t-shirts with graphics on them. I honestly thought we were great. The Lakers player we partnered with introduced us to cut & sew goods and manufacturing. We had prototypes but no real products. Maybe this was why Kobe didn’t believe in it.

Either way, it fired me up to level up my brand. We needed more. I studied cut & sew garments, sketched designs and began to manufacture our goods. Denim, sweaters, mostly everything. I wanted to make sure we never missed another opportunity.

Kobe’s rejection raised the brand to a higher level. Soon after that, our partnership with the Lakers player fizzled out, but we maintained our growth. We began sending notable celebrities free garments. We connected with stylists, giving them apparel and accessories for their celebrity clientele. Our name started to become recognized, all because of a no from Kobe Bryant.

When someone you admire passes on you, it does something to you. It will either level you up or it will drown you. Luckily, for us, it was the former. We ended up sending Kobe some gear which was accepted, but we never heard back from him.

When he passed in 2020, I remember the day. I was standing up on my phone. When I read it across my phone, I had to take a seat. Then, I cried. They say you can’t possibly love someone you don’t know personally. I don’t believe that for a second. I came from a very dysfunctional family. The people in magazines and on tv meant a lot more to me than most. Kobe’s desire to be great at anything he touched was inspiring. To this day, I watch his interviews. His basketball talent was incredible. His work ethic and self-confidence were what I admired the most.

I thank Kobe for passing on the EC77 Brand because it showed me that I had way more in me than what was present in 2009. I was nowhere near prepared to run a major brand. I didn’t even know what a real brand was then. Had he invested in it at that time, we probably would have blown it. Things in life happen for specific reasons. I believe him saying no was meant to be.

We all will remember Kobe Bryant. He will forever be special and near and dear to my heart. I didn’t meet him, but I had a connection. That was enough. The journey continues for the brand. Thank you Kobe for the inspiration.