We’re finally starting off with 2021 after how 2020 felt like decades. The previous year is a chock full of heartbreaks, and Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing is one of them. Kobe’s death is one of the many things (COVID-19 being the biggest one of course) in 2020 that we did not expect to happen, and it is very understandable. Just barely 4 years since his last game ever as the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar (that’s April 13, 2016 for you), Kobe definitely had a lot of plans in his life after the NBA. Aside from various businesses, Kobe was passionate in promoting basketball through the Mamba Sports Academy (now known as just Sports Academy out of respect to Kobe).

Perhaps another one of those surprises from 2020 is that Kobe actually considered leaving Nike and establishing his own shoe brand—a move that has been done by Stephon Mabury and Shaquille O’Neal, and definitely a big move at that. This surprise news was revealed by entrepreneur Shervin Pishevar, where he explained at how Kobe actually contemplated ending his contract with Nike and establishing Mamba as his own sneaker brand. In fact, Pishevar even shared that there was an early sneaker design—described as a slip-on with a snakeskin texture and fitness tracking features that would connect to an app for “coaching and motivational content”.

For a sneaker that is for a brand that is completely independent, this prototype Mamba brand sneaker does look good.

The reason for this supposed move? Kobe was unhappy with how Nike was marketing his Kobe line, citing poor sales. There’s some truth to that, as the Kobe line—since Kobe’s retirement in the NBA—was not doing as great. The Kobe line generated buzz recently when Nike decided to release protro versions—aka upgraded versions—of Kobe’s old signature sneakers, starting with the Kobe 1 (and later with the Kobe 4 and Kobe 5). Nike’s move of doing protros definitely gave the Kobe line a boost, but it did not meet demand well since a big chunk of those protros were released in limited quantities—and some of them with insane resell prices. 

Resell prices of Kobe sneakers went up through the roof following Kobe’s tragic passing, that even Nike decided to delay the release of the Kobe 5 Protro Big Stage to more than 6 months later.

While the idea of Kobe having his own sneaker brand—one that is independent from big brands—will definitely send a shockwave community, it is one of those moves that we wished would have happened if not for his tragic passing. While former NBA stars like Marbury and Shaq did something similar, but were often laughed upon (despite Shaq saying that his budget-friendly line sold over 120 million pairs in Walmart), I’m sure everyone is curious at what Kobe has in mind for his own independent shoe brand. 

Maybe Kobe wanted his shoes to be more accessible to everyone, especially his fans. Maybe he wanted his shoes to have designs that capture more of his personality than what Nike (and adidas) has been doing for him. Maybe Kobe wanted to prove that retired NBA players like him can create a new sneaker brand that will make a big impact to the community—enough to go against the big, mainstream brands.

The supposed Mamba brand sneakers may not be as affordable as those budget-friendly Shaq or Starbury shoes, but maybe Kobe wanted a sneaker that has the innovation and the tech—but made accessible to a wide audience with a good amount of supply in hand; maybe even better than what Kanye is doing with his Yeezy line and various Yeezy collabs.

Unless Kanye West finally decides to launch apparel that is stylish AND affordable, we’re still not convinced with the Yeezy-GAP rumor mill.

While we may not see Mamba brand come into fruition in the immediate future, Kobe’s wife Vanessa did said that she and Nike are doing something to make Kobes—including the Protros—more accessible to everyone. That’s probably the next best thing we can have right now, after all, right?

At the end of the day—Mamba brand or none—I’m sure there will be fresh, new ways of fulfilling Kobe’s legacy not just with shoes, but with his passion for sports and on making things—from basketball itself to apparel like sneakers—accessible to a wider audience. 

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