Earlier this spring, the estate of Kobe Bryant allowed his contract with Nike to expire and ended a partnership that had dated back to 2003. Kobe had reportedly been unhappy with the sneaker giant prior to his and his daughter Gigi’s untimely death in 2020 and had been considering starting his own athletic brand once his contractual obligations were fulfilled. His wife Vanessa had been hoping to sign a lifetime deal with Nike on par with those of Michael Jordan and LeBron James, but the two parties weren’t able to agree on terms before the then-current deal expired.
If Vanessa was dissatisfied with Nike before, she has even more reason to be upset now. The widow took to Instagram to reveal she never approved the Kobe 6 Protro “Mambacita,” of which images first surfaced in May. Nike has yet to officially confirm a release for the shoe, but Vanessa spoke out after becoming aware that others had already got their hands on the sneakers.
"I wanted it to be sold to honor my daughter with ALL of the proceeds benefiting our Mamba Mabacita Sports Foundation, but I did not resign the Nike contract and decided not to sell thse shoes,” Vanessa said on Instagram (emphasis hers). “The Mambacita shoes were not approved to be made in the first place. Nike has not sent any of these pairs to me and my girls. I do not know how someone else has their hands on shoes I designed in honor of my daughter Gigi and we don't. I hope these shoes did not get sold.”
Nike has already released another Kobe — Despite no longer having a contract with the estate of Kobe, Nike and Undefeated released a collaborative Kobe 5 Protro “Hall of Fame” to coincide with his posthumous induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. If the Kobe 6 Protro “Mambacita,” also known as “Mamba Forever,” does go on to release, it’ll be the second sneaker to release after the contract expired — and possibly the last.
The sneaker at hand commemorates both Kobe and Gigi, with each of their playing numbers (“24” and “2”) appearing across the two shoes as well as their name. Vanessa says it was her decision to have their names appear on the sneakers’ heels instead of the typical Kobe signature, as well as them baring the same black and white colors of Gigi’s uniforms and other details from her life.
As is typical with sneakers, images and a purported summer 2021 release date have only been leaked and not officially confirmed by Nike. For now, we can only speculate on what Nike had been planning on doing and how it’ll go forward after Vanessa’s statement. Input has reached out to Nike for comment and will update if the company responds.