Nike celebrates legacy of the Black Mamba

Design by Anushri Kumar Student Publications

This past weekend concluded the end of Nike’s first ever Kobe Bryant Week. The celebration, which the sportswear company initiated to honor the famed basketball legend who tragically passed away in January in a helicopter crash, was stated as a way of carrying on the superstar’s legacy and scheduled around two symbolic dates.

The first, August 23rd, would have been the superstar’s 42nd birthday. The next day, 8/24, represented the two numbers he wore throughout his career. Both numbers were retired by the Lakers in 2017, making Bryant the only player to ever have two numbers retired by the same team.

The week was marked by multiple Kobe shoe releases by Nike. The first, titled Kobe 5 Protro Big Stage, were released August 23rd, using designs of the home and away shoes Kobe from the 2010 NBA finals.

The next day came the release of Kobe 5 Protro 5X Champ, whose inspiration came from multiple championship jackets worn by Kobe over the years. The date also marked the re-release of the 2017 Los Angeles Lakers City Edition Black Mamba jersey. The fan-favorite was actually designed in partnership with Bryant, sporting both 8 and 24 on different sides of the jersey. The jersey was the cheapest of the offerings, standing at $120 while the shoes sold at $180. All three items immediately sold out.

Thursday marked a different sell, with the Kobe 5 Protro X Undefeated What If pack combining two different sneakers and selling in much smaller numbers. The pack, selling for $390, comes with two different sneakers.

One pair is designed using the colors of the Charlotte Hornets, a team that famously drafted Kobe Bryant only to trade him for Vlade Divac. The other uses colors of the 12 teams that drafted players before Bryant.

The final release dropped on August 29th. The $180 shoe, titled Kobe V Protro Girls EYBL was the most expensive of the five, taking in inspiration from the mythical character Medusa. Nike also said the shoe was meant to inspire female basketball players, with the “EYBL” being the acrostic for the Nike-Sponsored Elite Youth Basketball League.

Those seeking the new releases will have to go through resellers, which are selling for significant markups.

Before his untimely passing, Kobe had famously started the Mamba Sports Foundation as a way to impact kids through sports. His wife, Vanessa Bryant, changed the name of the organization to the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation in honor of Gianna Bryant, their teenage daughter, who had gathered a social media following after becoming a star basketball player herself before her death with her father. Nike celebrated their legacy with a $1 million donation to the foundation.

Bryant had also worked with The Boys and Girls Clubs of Los Angeles to start the Mamba League, aimed at bringing youth interest to basketball from kids around Los Angeles. The coed league maintained an even number of boys and girls, with Bryant emphasizing the recruitment and utilization of female coaches. Nike pledged to financially support the league.

With Nike’s first Kobe Bryant Week having come to a close, the company has answered a question many fans had asked after the tragedy: how would the company plan to honor Kobe’s legacy? Nike plans to press forward with the release of new shoes in the future, saying each new addition helps to preserve Bryant’s legacy.