Kobe Bryant planned on leaving Nike for ‘Mamba’ shoe brand before his death: report

The Laker icon's plan with his player-owned Mamba, says Shervin Pishevar, 'was going to eclipse his sports career.'

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A noted venture capitalist tweeted yesterday that he met with NBA legend Kobe Bryant just one month before his untimely death to discuss plans to launch his own shoe brand. 

“I met with Kobe Bryant in late December 2019,” Shervin Pishevar wrote in a Twitter thread. “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. He passed away weeks later. What he was about to do in business was going to eclipse his sports career.” 

Famous late NBA star Kobe Bryant was reportedly considering leaving Nike, the brand he’d endorsed for years, to launch his own shoe company, Mamba, at the time of his death. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Pishevar shared early photo designs of the shoe, as well as a detailed calendar invitation. He also claimed there were witnesses to the meeting. 

An early investor in Airbnb and Uber, Pishevar said Bryant “wasn’t happy with Nike’s marketing and promotion commitment to Kobe’s line.” He tweeted in response to a direct question that the “sales of his shoes were anemic and he blamed Nike. He retained tight control because he didn’t trust Nike’s judgment in design.” 

Author Pat Benson, who wrote Kobe Bryant’s Sneaker History (1996-2020), confirmed the report to Insider.com. 

“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.”

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“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 tweet came on the anniversary of the last Los Angeles Lakers game its veteran player attended. He sat courtside as the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks, wearing an orange WNBA sweatshirt.

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That shirt went on to become the best selling item of WNBA merchandise. 

The iconic Laker enjoyed the game last December with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, who perished with him in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, alongside seven others. 

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