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Kobe Bryant’s Nike Deal Ends, Estate Files Patents for Mamba Sneakers and Apparel

Last Updated: July 21, 2021
To honor the legacies of the late NBA icon and his daughter, Gianna, a “Mamba Brand” is reportedly in the works.

ESPN analyst and host of the upcoming Boardroom show “The Sneaker Game” Nick DePaula reported Monday that Vanessa Bryant and her late husband Kobe’s estate had formally ended their relationship with Nike. The Black Mamba first joined the Nike family in 2003, leaving Adidas for the iconic Swoosh.

Through the years, Bryant pushed the brand to produce innovative designs, popularizing low tops for game days and changing the sneaker establishment forever as his fame and accomplishments reached rare, historic heights.

Now, the legacies of Kobe and daughter Gianna are poised to live on through an all-new venture.

The Mamba signed a five-year deal with Nike following his 2016 retirement, joining Michael Jordan as the only other athlete to date to maintain a shoe deal after the end of his on-court career. The contract led to the wildly popular “Protro” series — updated versions of Kobe’s retro models, modified with new technology and design innovations. And though this era is now over, Nike took time this week to honor the imminent Hall of Famer’s lasting impact on the brand.

As the company said in a statement on Monday, “Kobe Bryant was an important part of Nike’s deep connection to consumers. He pushed us and made everyone around him better. Though our contractual relationship has ended, he remains a deeply loved member of the Nike family.”

Mrs. Bryant, meanwhile, expressed her disappointment and doubled down on her commitment to honoring Kobe and Gigi. She said in a statement to ESPN confirming the news, “I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy. We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi’s legacies. That will never change.”

Much like her father, Gigi was a promising player who had a tenacious style on the court, earning her the nickname Mambacita. And her growing personal brand promises to factor into what’s coming next.

News of the dissolution did not come as a surprise to sneakerheads. Prior to his and Gigi’s tragic deaths last year, there were rumblings that Kobe had grown dissatisfied with the Nike partnership. The 18-time All-Star reportedly felt that they had limited the production of many of his products in the wake of his retirement. His estate cited a similar concern following his passing.

Right on cue, reports emerged in late 2020 revealing that Bryant had previously been in preliminary discussions to launch Mamba, a shoe company meant to supercharge the next chapter of his post-NBA career.

The termination of the deal with Nike may be the first step that Mrs. Bryant and the estate end up taking towards realizing Kobe’s dream. Nice Kicks, with an assist from Sneaker Law Firm, confirmed that Kobe Bryant, LLC has filed 13 trademarks over the last 11 months related to shoes and activewear.

Nearly half of the filed trademarks appear to be related to kids’ gear, including “Lil’ Mamba” and “Mambacita.” This corresponds with recent reports that indicated Vanessa Bryant was committed to finding a way to producing more youth-oriented products featuring the Kobe moniker.

While the future of the family brand will remain a mystery up until an official announcement, legions of fans around the world now have even more reason to await the confirmation of a “Mamba Brand” in the coming months. The buzz only reinforces what we already knew: Kobe and Gigi will continue to influence ballers and fans across generations.

About The Author
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos
Bernadette Doykos is the Senior Director of Editorial Strategy at Boardroom. Before joining the team, her work appeared in ELLE. She previously served as the head of evaluation for a nonprofit where she became obsessed with systems and strategy and served as the curator of vibes and extinguisher of fires for the design thinking firm Stoked. She is constantly plotting a perfect tunnel ‘fit and a playlist for all occasions.