Kobe’s life after the NBA was all about storytelling. He was a best-selling author, an Academy Award winner, and basketball’s biggest ambassador through the power of narrative. But as it turns out, that wasn’t the only post-basketball business endeavor on Kobe’s mind.
According to Shervin Pishevar – an entrepreneur and co-founder of Virgin Hyperloop – Bryant had plans to leave his long-time endorser Nike to start his own footwear company named Mamba, which was to be owned by the players.
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. He passed away weeks later. What he was about to do in business was going to eclipse his sports career.— Shervin (@shervin) December 29, 2020
Pishevar discovered that the reason Bryant wanted to leave Nike is that “he wasn’t happy with Nike’s marketing and promotion commitment to Kobe’s line and 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.”
Shervin presented Kobe with mock-up sneakers designed by his team to paint a picture of what Mamba could look like once it came to fruition. The design shown would also incorporate Bryant’s idea of having a tracker attached by a strong magnet connected to a Mamba fitness app that would integrate coaching/motivational features.
2/ These were the designs my team did to show him that day for an independent Mamba shoe company. Here’s calendar details. There were witnesses to the meeting and Kobe’s plans like Gina Ford, who manages Usain Bolt. pic.twitter.com/PgsIDt0P0E— Shervin (@shervin) December 29, 2020
The idea of Kobe leaving Nike was also confirmed by Pat Benson – an author of “Kobe Bryant’s Sneaker History (1996-2020).” He told The Insider that it was “very likely” Bryant was prepared to leave Nike after being with the brand for 17 years due to the company mishandling his signature shoe line after his retirement.
It’s shocking because Kobe was Nike’s golden goose and habitually toed the company line. 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.Pat Benson, The Insider
Kobe craved autonomy over his personal brand. He wanted to have full control of his sneaker empire but also provide other players the opportunity to do the same. The idea of a player-owned sneaker brand was truly a revolutionary one and the ultimate proof that Kobe’s best chapters were waiting to be written.