The popular basketball line appeared to come to a sudden end last year when Kobe Bryant’s estate let the late basketball icon’s contract expire. At the time, the superstar’s widow, Vanessa Bryant, suggested the split was not always a done deal. “I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy,” she wrote on social media.
At the time, ESPN reported that the Bryant estate had been frustrated with Nike and that it had rejected an extension offer because it was not in line with expectations. In June, when images of an unreleased Kobe sneaker leaked, the widow took to social media to demand answers and make clear she never approved the shoes. In November, however, ESPN reported that the two sides remained in talks with the hope of eventually coming to terms.
It appears they succeeded. Nike and Bryant announced Thursday that they had entered into a new partnership. According to Bryant, fans will “soon” have access to Kobe gear “for years to come.”
“Kobe Bryant means so much to so many of us, not just NBA fans but globally beyond the game,” John Donahoe, president and CEO of Nike, said in a statement. “His impact in growing the sport, particularly encouraging women and young people to pick it up, endures as one of his deepest, lasting legacies. Together with Vanessa, we hope to honor Kobe and Gigi by championing a new generation for many years to come.”
The partnership’s first new shoe, the Kobe 6 Protro “Mambacita Sweet 16,” will honor the Bryants’ daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant, who also died in the tragic helicopter crash that killed her father and seven others in early 2020. All proceeds from the shoe will benefit the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation (M&MSF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to underserved athletes and boys and girls in sports. According to Bryant’s Instagram post, Nike will donate 100 percent of net proceeds yearly for Gianna’s shoes to M&MSF.
Bryant and Nike’s new relationship “will focus on championing a new generation of fans and encouraging youth participation in sport,” it said. As part of their partnership, they will work together to establish a youth basketball center in Southern California and continue to outfit NBA and WNBA athletes “who carry the legacy of the Mamba Mentality.”
“We’re excited to announce our partnership with Nike is going to continue,” Bryant wrote on Instagram. “I am so proud that my husband’s shoes are still the most worn by players on NBA courts and that the demand for his shoes remain so desired by his fans around the world.”
Kobe Bryant’s sneakers have ranked as some of the most popular styles among NBA players lately. According to Baller Shoes DB, 114 players wore one of Bryant’s signature shoes as their primary sneaker in the 2020-21 season. Kyrie Irving and 2021 NBA Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo’s footwear franchises, meanwhile, ranked second and third with 49 and 41 players, respectively, wearing their silhouettes.