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Nike Adds NBA's Bryant to Superstar Roster

Nike Inc. (NKE) has added another star to its stable of elite basketball players, continuing its recent run of shoe endorsement deals.

The world's largest athletic shoemaker on Tuesday confirmed it signed a sponsorship contract with Los Angeles Lakers (search) shooting guard Kobe Bryant (search) in a deal reportedly worth as much as $45 million. Nike declined to disclose the terms.

Bryant, who won three consecutive NBA championships with the Lakers, parted ways with German sportswear company Adidas-Salomon AG last year and since then had been negotiating with Nike and U.S. No. 2 Reebok International Ltd. (RBK).

Nike spokesman Mark Shapiro said the company's design team and Bryant are working together to come up with new signature basketball shoes that the 24-year-old will be wearing on court. He said Nike may develop other signature products for Bryant in the future.

The company, based in Beaverton, Oregon, also has similar deals with many other professional athletes in different sports, including notables Tiger Woods (search) and Michael Jordan (search).

The Los Angeles Times, citing an industry insider, said Bryant's contract runs for five years and is worth between $40 million and $45 million.

Nike in May signed high school basketball stars LeBron James (search) and Carmelo Anthony (search). Both of them are expected to be in the top three at this Thursday's NBA draft.

However, the size of James' deal dwarfs what Bryant will receive from Nike. According to ESPN.com, James will earn more than $90 million over seven years.

"What Nike is betting on LeBron James is his potential to be the next Michael (Jordan), and they didn't want anybody else to get him," said Jack Trout, president of Trout and Partners, a marketing strategy firm.

Trout said during Bryant's six-year relationship with Adidas, he did not have a big impact to boost the company's sales.

"Would it help Nike? Yes. Would he have a line like the Air Jordans? Probably not." Trout said.