Vanessa Bryant, the widow of the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant, recently called out Nike after the sneakers she designed to honor her late daughter Gianna wound up in the hands of someone else after she decided against releasing the shoe to the public.
On Thursday, June 3, the mother of four took to her Instagram page, where she called out the retail giant in a lengthy statement after photos of the unreleased sneaker made their way around the internet.
“This is a shoe I worked on in honor of my daughter, Gianna. It was going to be called the MAMBACITA shoe as an exclusive black and white color way on her daddy’s shoes,” the mother wrote. She explained that she picked the colors in honor of Gianna’s uniform. “The inside pattern, Kobe and Gigi on the back in gold instead of Kobe’s signature, the inside shoe details (butterfly wings, halo), etc,” she continued.
Bryant then revealed that she never approved the item for sell nor did Nike ever send her or her family any pairs. She added, “The MAMBACITA shoes are NOT approved for sale. I wanted it to be sold to honor my daughter with ALL of the proceeds benefitting our @mambamambacitasports foundation but I did not re-sign the Nike contract and decided not to sell these shoes. (The MAMBACITA shoes were not approved to be made in the first place).”
She concluded her statement with: “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.”
In the second slide, Bryant shared a photo of someone holding a pair of the sneakers. In the caption, she called for help in figuring out how “they have these shoes in their possession.” She added, “That would be great because my daughters and I don’t have any of Gigi’s MAMBACITA shoes.”
Many users in the comments section sympathized with Bryant, apologizing for the mishap. One person provided a suggestion of how this mistake could’ve happened, which garnered over 4,000 likes. “These shoes were probably mass produced with anticipation with you resigning Kobe with Nike,” the person who goes by username @daniel_m4 wrote. “These pairs were probably stolen from a Nike warehouse and sold. It’s called back dooring. Happens ALL the time. Most famously with the Trophy Room Jordan 1s. Somewhere along the Nike supply chain someone took these shoes.”
One possibility reportedly is that the shoe is a prototype that wasn’t intended to be shared with the public.
ESPN’s Nick DePaula reported that the Bryant estate decided not to resign with Nike for several reasons, including Nike “limiting the availability of Kobe products during his retirement and after his January 2020 death in a helicopter crash.” The estate was also reportedly upset with the lack of kids’ sizes for Kobe’s signature sneakers.
TMZ also reported that an Instagram user, Brandon1an, who initially shared a photo of the shoes last month, claimed Nike was behind the leak. In a statement obtained by TMZ, the user said, “I just want to make it clear that I don’t own a pair of those Mambacita Kobes. The pictures I posted are official product pictures from a Nike authorized retailer.” He added, “Unfortunately for [Vanessa Bryant], Nike clearly sent pairs to this retailer (as well as others) with the intent of selling pairs.”
Meanwhile, Nike has yet to respond to the incident publicly. As previously reported, Kobe and Gigi were among nine people who were killed after their helicopter crashed near Calabasas, California, on January 26, 2020.