NBA legend Kobe Bryant was considering ending his endorsement deal with Nike to establish his own sneaker brand, “Mamba.” This was revealed in a series of tweets by American venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, who is also the co-founder of Sherpa Capital and one of the architects of ride-hailing app Uber.
Pishevar said he met the former Los Angeles Lakers star in December 2019 who complained to him that he was not happy with Nike’s lack of commitment to marketing and promotion citing a decline in the sale of his shoes.
“I met with Kobe Bryant in late December 2019. Kobe wasn’t happy with Nike and was going to leave it in 2020. Kobe was going to start Mamba, a shoe company owned by players,” Pishevar wrote. “He passed away weeks later. What he was about to do in business was going to eclipse his sports career.”
He continued: “The sales of his shoes were anaemic, and he blamed Nike. He retained tight control because he didn’t trust Nike’s judgment in design.” Pishevar added a sketch he designed for Bryant’s sneaker.
According to Revolt TV, despite Kobe’s concerns regarding Nike’s lethetic marketing and promotion, his new Kobe 6 Protro “Grinch” shoes sold out immediately after they went on sale while moves were made to appease customers who could not get their hands on a pair.
Pat Benson, who wrote “Kobe Bryant’s Sneaker History (1996-2020)”, told the Business Insider that it was possible Kobe was preparing to quit Nike. “It’s shocking because Kobe was Nike’s golden goose and habitually toed the company line,” Benson said. “Many of his fans were upset with Nike’s handling of his signature line following his retirement. It feels redeeming that Kobe was unhappy about it too.”
“It’s certainly going to make things awkward with Nike in the future,” he added. “But it adds to the beautiful complexity of Kobe. Always pushing the envelope.”
The NBA Hall of Famer and one of the world’s most celebrated basketball icons died in a helicopter crash in January. Bryant was flying along with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and John Altobelli, head baseball coach at Orange Coast College who was also with his wife Keri and daughter Alyssa.
In a career that spanned two decades, the Black Mamba’s face became synonymous with the LA Lakers, where he won five Championship titles playing with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and Steve Nash.
Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa and their three other daughters Natalia, Bianca and newborn Capri.