When Kobe Bryant’s estate let the late basketball icon’s Nike contract expire in mid-April, it appeared his long-running sneaker franchise had come to end.
A month later, however, images of what was dubbed the Kobe 6 Protro “Mamba Forever” emerged on sites like Sneaker News with claims of a summer release. The black, white and gold shoes seemed to be designed in honor of the Los Angeles Lakers legend’s late daughter, Gianna, who died in the tragic helicopter crash that also killed her father and seven others last year. The sneakers bore golden 2’s, a reference to the younger Bryant’s jersey number. Her nickname, Gigi, appeared on the right heel.
Bryant’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, however, says she never approved those shoes for release. And now that images have emerged showing the sneakers—originally to be called the Mambacita shoe, according to Bryant—in the hands of the public, she is demanding answers.
“It appears someone already has Gigi’s Mambacita shoe in their possession,” Bryant wrote on Instagram. “If someone can share how they have these shoes in their possession, that would be great because my daughters and I don’t have any of Gigi’s Mambacita shoes.”
Bryant included in her post an image of the Kobe 6 Protro “Mamba Forever” in what appears to be someone’s house—movie posters and a sneaker collection in the background would suggest the picture was not some internal image leaked from Nike. Since she published the post early Thursday morning, it has racked up more than 633,000 likes.
Bryant said she designed the shoe in her daughter Gianna’s honor. The colors and inside shoe details, she noted, were all picked with her in mind.
“The Mambacita shoes are not approved for sale,” Bryant wrote. “I wanted it to be sold to honor my daughter with all of the proceeds benefitting our [Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation] but I did not re-sign the Nike contract and decided not to sell these shoes.”
The sneakers, Bryant further asserted, “were not approved to be made in the first place.”
“Nike has not sent any of these pairs to me and my girls,” she wrote. “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.”
Bryant—through Kobe Bryant, LLC—has applied for a number of apparel and footwear trademarks over the past year, including ones for “Mamba” and “Mambacita.” The first products to come from these filings debuted on May 1 in honor of Gianna’s birthday. The collection, launched with the New York City label Dannijo, included hoodies, sweatpants and face masks. All proceeds were to go to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation, Bryant said.
Except for the face masks, all the items in the collection featured a logo that Kobe Bryant, LLC had applied to trademark in February. The filing describes the mark as “a circle with a snake biting the left side of the circle and body coiled around the left forming the letter M inside the circle and snake body coiled around the right side of the circle.” This same symbol, also prominent on the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation website, appears on the back of the Kobe 6 Protro “Mamba Forever.”
Nike did not immediately respond to a request for comment.