Vanessa Bryant Demands Answers About Nike’s Leaked “Mambacita” Shoe

Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images.
Vanessa Bryant is seeking answers from Nike about the existence of an unapproved collaboration she worked on, and subsequently pulled out of, with the sneaker giant last year. 
On Thursday, Vanessa Bryant took to Instagram to reveal the leak of the Nike Kobe 6 Protro “Mambacita,” created to honor her late daughter Gianna, who died in January 2020 from a helicopter crash in California. The shoe was going to be named after Gianna’s nickname in reference to her father Kobe Bryant’s moniker “Black Mamba.” 
Bryant posted a statement on Instagram to denounce the alleged leak after seeing photos of the shoes emblazoned with the #2 — Gianna’s basketball jersey number — shared on social media. The photo was shot in an unknown location and shows a light-skinned hand holding it against a rack of shoes in the background and a Marvel poster on the wall. The same shoes also made their way to the basketball court, when the Milwaukee Bucks’ player Khris Middleton wore them during an Eastern Conference finals game on May 29, according to Bleacher Report
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In the post, Bryant wrote: “The Mambacita shoes are not approved for sale. I wanted it to be sold to honor with all of the proceeds benefiting our Mambacita Sports Foundation but I did not re-sign the Nike contract and decided not to sell these shoes.” She continued: “Nike has not sent any of these pairs to me and my girls.”
The shoes seen on Middleton resemble the Nike Kobe 6 Protro, which Bryant says was a deliberate choice to create “an exclusive black and white colorway on her daddy’s shoe.” Gianna, who was a basketball player at Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy, wore a black-and-white uniform, as well as the number 2’s seen on the sides of the shoes. On the back, the names “Kobe” and “Gigi” are engraved in gold. 
Photo: Issac Baldizon/NBAE/Getty Images.
Kobe Bryant had a long-standing relationship with Nike, signing a five-year contract in 2016 shortly after retiring from the NBA. After Bryant’s tragic death in 2020, his wife Vanessa and Nike did not reach an agreement to re-sign the basketball pro’s contract in April 2021. Earlier this year, Vanessa Bryant hinted that one of the reasons the deal fell through was that Nike was not willing to make a deal in perpetuity, telling ESPN that she “was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband's legacy.”
Refinery29 reached out to Nike for comment, but at the time of publishing, had not yet heard back.

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