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#pounditMonday, December 6, 2021

Report: Kobe Bryant was planning to leave Nike, start his own shoe brand

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant appeared to have quite the ace up his sleeve before his untimely passing this year.

Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, a co-founder of Sherpa Capital who has invested in such companies as Airbnb and Uber, revealed a bombshell about Bryant this week. Pishevar tweeted that he met with the Los Angeles Lakers icon in Dec. 2019 to discuss Bryant’s plans to start Mamba, a shoe company that would be owned by players. Bryant was supposedly unhappy with Nike and was planning to leave the brand in 2020. Pishevar also shared details of the meeting and the designs he presented to Bryant.

Pishevar further stated that Bryant was specifically displeased with Nike’s commitment to his shoe line as well as the poor sales numbers.

Bryant’s plans were confirmed by author Pat Benson, who wrote the book “Kobe Bryant’s Sneaker History (1996-2020).” Benson said it was “very likely” that the five-time NBA champion would have left Nike.

“It’s shocking because Kobe was Nike’s golden goose and habitually toed the company line,” Benson told Meredith Cash of Insider.com. “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.

“It’s certainly going to make things awkward with Nike in the future,” added Benson. “But it adds to the beautiful complexity of Kobe. Always pushing the envelope.”

Bryant, who passed away on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash, had been with Nike for 17 years at the time of his death. He became synonymous with the brand, launching several signature sneakers with them and coming out in many memorable advertising campaigns (including appearing as a puppet with LeBron James, seemingly jumping over a speeding Aston Martin, and promoting the “Kobe System” in a series of ads with Kanye West). Bryant had previously been endorsed by Adidas early on in his NBA career.

It is unclear if anything will ever become of the plans for the Mamba shoe company. But Bryant’s vision for a player-owned business model may just live on through this effort that we recently heard about.

H/T Insider

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