BASKETBALL legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others perished in a helicopter crash on January 20, 2020.
Now, the future of the Nike and Kobe sneaker line has reached an end after the Kobe Bryant estate decided not to renew its contract with the brand.
What did Vanessa Bryant say about Nike?
A newly leaked image shared on Instagram by @Brandon1an shows the upcoming Nike Kobe 8 Protro Mamba Forever sneakers.
The sneakers are rumored to hit shelves this summer.
The shoe wears a simple black-based color design combined with white accents as a nod to the hues used for the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation’s logo.
Both the names of Kobe and his daughter Gianna “Gigi” are stamped on the heel in honor of their lives.
Vanessa Bryant ripped Nike over the alleged sneaker release, saying the shoe was designed by her as a tribute to her late daughter.
"This is a shoe I worked on in honor of my daughter, Gianna," Vanessa wrote on Instagram.
"It was going to be called the MAMBACITA shoe as an exclusive black and white colorway on her daddy's shoes.
"I picked the colors in honor of her uniform, the number 2 she wore just like her uniform, the inside pattern, Kobe and Gigi on the back in gold instead of Kobe's signature, the inside shoe details (butterfly, wings, halo), etc."
She continued: "The MAMBACITA shoes are NOT approved for sale.
"I wanted it to be sold to honor my daughter with ALL of the proceeds benefitting our @mambamambacitasports foundation but I did not re-sign the Nike contract to sell these shoes.
"(The MAMBACITA shoes were not approved to be made in the first place.) Nike has NOT sent any of these pairs to me and my girls.
"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. @nike," Vanessa added.
When did Nike and Kobe's sneaker deal end?
In April, Kobe's five-year post-retirement endorsement extension with Nike expired, as Vanessa and the Kobe Bryant estate elected not to renew the partnership.
"Kobe's Nike contract expired on 4/13/21. Kobe and Nike have made some of the most beautiful basketball shoes of all time, worn and adored by fans and athletes in all sports across the globe," Vanessa told ESPN.
"It seems fitting that more NBA players wear my husband's product than any other signature shoe.
"My hope will always be to allow Kobe's fans to get and wear his products. I will continue to fight for that. Kobe's products sell out in seconds. That says everything," she added.
According to ESPN, citing sources, Vanessa and the estate had grown frustrated with Nike limiting the availability of Kobe products during his retirement and after his January 2020 death.
There was also frustration with the lack of availability of Kobe footwear in kids' sizes, the outlet reported.
Per ESPN, Nike had presented an extension offer that was not in line with expectations of an ongoing "lifetime" structure similar to the Nike Inc. contracts held by both Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
"I was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband's legacy. We will always do everything we can to honor Kobe and Gigi's legacies. That will never change," Vanessa said.
It is believed that all future releases of Kobe-branded footwear and apparel manufactured by Nike will be halted.
The Kobe Bryant estate could enter into negotiations with outside brands to form a new partnership.
Vanessa also confirmed to ESPN that the Kobe Bryant estate owns the rights to both the Mamba logo and his signature.
The "Sheath" logo often featured on the tongue of Nike's Kobe sneakers is mutually owned by both sides.
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