Nike, which hasn't had a Kobe Bryant signature sneaker in its merchandise mix since the basketball player’s death in a helicopter crash in January, plans to honor the accomplishments and the life of the retired Laker with five new versions of the Kobe V Protro sneaker silhouette and a re-issued basketball jersey, all of which will hit retail between Aug. 23 and Aug. 29.
The Beaverton, Ore., company has dubbed those days as Mamba Week.
It's a week with two symbolic dates: Aug. 23 would have been Bryant's 42nd birthday, and the following day combines the two jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — that Bryant wore during his career.
In addition to marking the occasion with a series of retail releases, Nike is using the week as a way to draw attention to the Mamba League it created in partnership with Bryant and local Boys & Girls Clubs as well as announce a $1-million donation to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation in memory of Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who also died in the helicopter crash earlier this year.
First on the floor will be the Kobe V Protro Big Stage, featuring black and white tattoo-like art that references the 2009-10 season (the season in which Bryant won his fifth championship ring) on the upper alongside a metallic gold Nike swoosh.
The $180 sneakers are scheduled to drop at 11 a.m. (Pacific) Aug. 23 at Nike.com and its SNKRS app as well as at select retailers.
That is to be followed on Aug. 24 by the Kobe V Protro 5X Champ ($180), with details inspired by championship-themed jackets gifted to Bryant over the years. The sneakers have purple and black patent leather uppers, Laker-gold-colored accents and a five-star allover print insole. This style will also be available at Nike.com, SNKRS and select retailers starting at 7 a.m. (Pacific) that day.
Dropping at the same time will be a re-issue of the 2017 Los Angeles Lakers City Edition Black Mamba jersey ($120).
Co-designed by Bryant, the jersey features a snakeskin-patterned, all-black fabrication with the Lakers purple and gold edging at the sleeves and scoop neck, and it bears Kobe Bryant's two jersey numbers — 8 on the front and 24 on the back.
The jersey will be sold through the NBA's official online shop as well as at Nike.com and the SNKRs app. (According to a Nike representative, this marks the first time the shoe-focused app will offer apparel.)
The Aug. 27 drop will have a much smaller distribution and a much larger price tag. That's because the Kobe V Protro X Undefeated What If pack ($390) is two pairs of sneakers that will retail exclusively through the website of L.A.-based sneaker shop Undefeated.
According to the Thursday announcement, one pair has a colorway inspired by the 12 teams that passed on Bryant in the NBA draft, and the other is served up in a teal and gray combination inspired by the team colors of the Charlotte Hornets, the franchise that traded the 13th overall pick to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac.
Both sneakers sport metallic gold accents that pay homage to Bryant's championships as well as Undefeated's five strikes logo on the heel and tongue.
The final shoe to drop, the Kobe V Protro Girls EYBL ($180), is set to hit retail (at the same stockists as the first two sneakers above) at 7 a.m. (Pacific) Aug. 29.
The design, which features a dark green upper, writhing serpent details, a few spare pops of yellow and red and the letters EYBL on the tongue, is described as "being inspired by the mythological character Medusa and her ability to freeze onlookers with a single glance."
EYBL isn't just a reference to the paralyzing gaze of the snake-coiffed Gorgon; it is also the acronym for the Nike-sponsored Elite Youth Basketball League, and the shoe is meant to inspire "the next generation of female hoopers."