Vanessa Bryant celebrates her late daughter Gianna’s 18th birthday with a special release

On May 1, 2024, Vanessa and Kobe Bryant's late daughter Gianna “Gigi” Bryant would have been celebrating her 18th birthday.

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Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers poses with wife Vanessa and daughters Gianna (left) and Natalia during a ceremony honoring Bryant for moving into third place on the all time NBA scoring list and passing Michael Jordan, before the game with the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center on Dec. 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

In light of Gianna “Gigi” Bryant’s heavenly 18th birthday, Vanessa Bryant is teaming up with Nike to honor her daughter’s life. On May 1, Bryant and the sports retailer are releasing a special edition of the Nike Kobe 8 sneaker, fittingly called the “Mamabacita.”

On April 29, Bryant unveiled the new sneaker design on Instagram, giving a sneak peek into her daughter’s posthumous tribute, and captioning the post, “MAMBACITA ❤️5/1/2006 ❤️GIGI.”

Inspired by Gigi’s “transformational impact” on women’s basketball, the sneaker and its promotion follow a butterfly motif. In addition to the abstract butterfly design, the shoe features the late basketball player’s jersey number and nickname, along with a heart, an angel, and “Mambacita” stitched onto the inside of the shoe. 

“Gigi changed the game. Forever,” Nike wrote in its own Instagram post announcing the shoe. “On 5.1 we celebrate Gianna “Gigi” Bryant’s 18th birthday and the transformational impact she had on highlighting women’s sports with the release of the Kobe 8 Protro ‘Mambacita.’” 

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On Jan. 26, 2020, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter were killed in a helicopter crash while traveling to a basketball tournament for the teen. Following their untimely deaths, fans across the country mourned the legendary player and found various ways to honor his legacy and that of his young daughter, who was already following in the NBA All-Star’s footsteps.

As fans painted murals and other memorials for Kobe and Gigi, Vanessa founded The Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation in loving memory of her late daughter and husband. Now, the new Nike colorway, set to release on May 1, will further support the nonprofit organization, which is “dedicated to creating positive impact for underserved athletes and boys and girls in sports.” Ultimately, the sneaker release is only a part of Vanessa’s ongoing efforts to honor her late husband and daughter’s legacies. 

This year, the widowed mother announced plans to build not one but two statues: one showcasing Gianna and one of Kobe Bryant wearing his original number, eight, on his jersey. These two statues will reportedly stand beside Kobe’s most recent statue, which was built at the Arena.    

“Kobe has so many people that have supported him all over the world from the very beginning, and this moment isn’t just for Kobe, but it’s for all of you that have been rooting for him all of these years,” Vanessa Bryant said during the statue’s unveiling in February 2024. “To the fans here in L.A., this is a special city. Kobe was so proud to represent. You welcomed him with open arms and have been so important to him, our family, and his legacy. It brings me joy to see how much love you have for all of us. We love you back.”