Vanessa Bryant has publicly slammed Nike after images of sneakers that she designed in honor of her late daughter Gianna were leaked online without her permission – even though she never gave the brand authorization to produce them.
The 39-year-old, who is the wife of late NBA star Kobe Bryant, shared a statement on her Instagram Stories on Thursday morning, when she hit out at Nike over the apparent leak of the shoe design, which she originally created to benefit the Mamba & Mambacita Foundation, a charity set up in honor of her late husband and daughter who died in a 2020 helicopter crash.
Vanessa shared an image of the sneakers being held up by an unknown person, while revealing that the shoes appear to have been produced without her authorization – and released after Kobe’s years-long contract with Nike expired.
She explained that the design of the shoe had been discussed with Nike, but ultimately Vanessa decided not to go ahead with the collaboration – nor did she agree to re-sign her late husband’s deal with the brand.
‘This is a shoe I worked on in honor of my daughter, Gianna,’ she wrote. ‘It was going to be called the Mambacita shoe as an exclusive black and white colorway on her daddy’s shoes.’
Outrage: Vanessa Bryant has publicly hit out at Nike after images of a sneaker she designed in honor of her late daughter Gigi were leaked online without her permission
The 39-year-old said she discussed the design with Nike, but never authorized production – adding that her late husband Kobe Bryant’s deal with the brand was never re-signed
Vanessa added that she personally chose all of the different elements of the design, from the number 2 featured on them – the same number that her daughter wore on her basketball uniform – and the names Gigi and Kobe on the back.
‘I picked the colors in honor of her [basketball] 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.
According to Vanessa, Nike never had her authorization to put the sneakers into production, with the mother-of-four claiming that she chose not to move ahead with the collaboration after discussing the initial design with the brand.
She also made the decision not to re-sign her late husband’s years-long contract with Nike, through which he released a popular line of sneakers, which expired in April – more than one year after Kobe and 13-year-old Gianna died in a helicopter crash.
‘The MAMBACITA shoes are NOT approved for sale,’ Vanessa wrote. ‘I wanted it to be sold in honor of my daughter with ALL of the proceeds benefitting our @mambamambacitasports foundation but I did not re-sign the Nike contract and decided not 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 the shoes I designed in honor of my daughter, Gigi and we don’t. I hope these shoes do not get sold. @nike.’
Vanessa then shared several images of the shoes – including one photo which seems to show someone with the sneakers in their possession – while asking anyone who has information about them to come forward with details.
Tragedy: Kobe and Gianna (pictured with Vanessa and the couple’s three other daughters) died in a helicopter crash at the start of 2020
How? People were sharing information on how to obtain the shoes online
How did this happen? She also expressed confusion over a photo depicting an ‘on-feet look’ of the shoes, which were being worn by a model
‘In the 2nd photo, it appears someone already has Gigi’s MAMBACITA shoe in their possession,’ she wrote in the caption of a post.
‘If someone can share how they have these shoes in their possession, that would be great because my daughters and I don’t have any of Gigi’s MAMBACITA shoes.’
She then reposted several screenshots from other social media users, including photos of the shoes that in ads, as well as high-res pictures that seem to have been taken in preparation for the sneakers to go on sale.
Vanessa also questioned other people’s claims about the shoes’ distribution – posting one tweet from a user who alleged that several pairs of the sneakers had been released early by a UK-based retailer called Foot Patrol.
‘Do your research a store in the U.K. called foot patrol released a few pairs early by accident. stay sleeping,’ the tweet read. Vanessa circled the message and added a question mark.
She also expressed upset over an image of the shoes being modeled ‘on-feet’ in what appears to be an ad for the design.
The controversy was also addressed by one Instagram user who posted photos of the shoes last month.
‘Guys, I just want to make it clear that I don’t own a pair of those Mambacita Kobes,’ Brandon1an wrote on his Instagram Stories on Thursday.
‘I don’t own a pair’: One Instagram user who posted photos of the shoes in mid-May addressed the controversy on his Stories on Thursday
Heartache: Gianna and her father Kobe died in a tragic helicopter crash in January 2020
Approved: Last month, Vanessa released a limited-edition Mambacita clothing collection in collaboration with Dannijo, and the designs sold out in just a matter of hours
‘The pictures I posted are official product pictures from a Nike authorized retailer.’
DailyMail.com has contacted Nike for comment.
The controversy over the shoes comes just weeks after Vanessa debuted a charity clothing line in honor of Gianna, which sold out in a matter of hours.
Vanessa’s athleisure collection was created in collaboration with New York-based fashion brand Dannijo and was released on what would have been Gigi’s 15th birthday.
The collection of unisex purple, black, and white sweats was named Mambacita after Gigi’s basketball nickname, in a nod to her father, whom Lakers fans called the ‘Black Mamba’.
It has been year a year since Gianna and her father Kobe tragically died in a helicopter crash. Gianna – known to her loved ones as Gigi – was just 13-years-old and her father 41.
Vanessa spoke to People this past March about moving forward less than two years after the crash in Calabasas, California that also claimed the lives of pilot Ara Zobayan, 50, Alyssa Altobelli, 14, Keri Altobelli, 46, John Altobelli, 56, Payton Chester, 13, Sarah Chester, 46, and Christina Mauser, 38.
‘This pain is unimaginable [but] you just have to get up and push forward,’ she told the outlet. ‘Lying in bed crying isn’t going to change the fact that my family will never be the same again.
‘But getting out of bed and pushing forward is going to make the day better for my girls and for me. So that’s what I do.’