Vanessa Bryant Calls Out Nike After Unauthorized Mambacita Shoes Surface — But How Were They Leaked?

Photo: Tinseltown / Shutterstock
Kobe Bryant, Vanessa Bryant, Gianna Bryant and Natalia Bryant

Vanessa Bryant has taken to Instagram to question Nike for the apparent release of a shoe collab she says she did not agree to.

Some time following the death of her husband, five-time NBA championship winner, Kobe Bryant, and their daughter, Gianna in early 2020, Vanessa Bryant entered discussions with Nike regarding a collaboration on a shoe in Gianna's honor.

The shoes were going to feature black and white detailing and be called "Mambacita," a nickname given to Gianna, and would also feature the number "2" — Gianna's jersey number — in gold lettering, along with both her and Kobe's names.

According to Vanessa, the shoes were of her own design, everything from the colors to the pattern, even the inside details of the shoe.

Why is Vanessa Bryant now calling out Nike over their Mambacita shoes?

The drama started when leaked images of the Mambacita shoes surfaced.

Brands like Bleacher Report Kicks shared images of the shoes designed by Vanessa, though re-named "Mamba Forever." According to the images, the shoes were going to be released "later this year."

The shoes, however, had been produced without Vanessa's consent and had never been approved by her for release.

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The proceeds from the shoes were supposed to go to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation.

Unfortunately, the shoes were not approved for sale or manufacturing, as Vanessa decided not to renew Kobe's longstanding contract with Nike.

After the leaked images surfaced, Vanessa shared her outrage on Instagram.

“Nike has not sent any of these pairs to me and my girls," she wrote. "I do not know how someone else has their hands on shoes I designed in honor of my daughter Gigi and we don’t. I hope these shoes did not get sold.”

Photo: Instagram / Vanessa Byrant

Vanessa's post also featured an image of an unidentified person holding the Mambacita shoes, revealing that Nike appears not to have scrapped the project after all.

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How were Nike's Mamabacita shoes leaked?

In her Instagram stories, Vanessa went on to share a tweet saying a shoe retailer in the United Kingdom, Foot Patrol, had released a few pairs by accident.

Photo: Instagram / Vanessa Byrant

According to Sneaker News, the company mistakenly sent the Mambacita shoes out instead of their Kobe Protro "Hall of Fame" shoes.

The shoes are also sold out on resale websites like Goat and Fight Club.

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This whole fiasco seems to be a case of "backdooring," a practice in which a company will sell off its stock to high-paying individuals before the product ever reaches the market.

A few years ago, multiple Foot Locker employees were caught backdooring Air Jordan 1 Royals.

In Foot Locker's case, employees would hold a few pairs of shoes behind the counter for those who entered their private raffles. Meanwhile, customers who waited in line for hours without participating in backdooring were told the Air Jordans were sold out.

What was meant to be a very meaningful project for the Bryants seems to have now made the family victims of Nike's backdooring, the most twisted part being that random people on the internet have the shoe Vanessa designed, while she doesn't even have them herself.

Nike was in talks to make two more shoes with Vanessa, though their partnership now may have crumbled.

Nike has not yet responded to the situation.

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Kat Mackay is a writer who covers pop culture and good news for YourTango.