UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT – MAY 15: Vanessa Bryant speaks on behalf of Class of 2020 inductee, Kobe Bryant alongside presenter Michael Jordan during the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Mohegan Sun Arena on May 15, 2021 in Uncasville, Connecticut. Kobe Bryant tragically died in a California helicopter crash on Jan 26, 2020. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Vanessa Bryant is seeking answers from Nike about the existence of an unapproved collaboration she worked on, and subsequently pulled out of, with the sneaker giant last year. 

On Thursday, Vanessa Bryant took to Instagram to reveal the leak of the Nike Kobe 6 Protro “Mambacita,” created to honor her late daughter Gianna, who died in January 2020 from a helicopter crash in California. The shoe was going to be named after Gianna’s nickname in reference to her father Kobe Bryant’s moniker “Black Mamba.” 

Bryant posted a statement on Instagram to denounce the alleged leak after seeing photos of the shoes emblazoned with the #2 — Gianna’s basketball jersey number — shared on social media. The photo was shot in an unknown location and shows a light-skinned hand holding it against a rack of shoes in the background and a Marvel poster on the wall. The same shoes also made their way to the basketball court, when the Milwaukee Bucks’ player Khris Middleton wore them during an Eastern Conference finals game on May 29, according to Bleacher Report

In the post, Bryant wrote: “The Mambacita shoes are not approved for sale. I wanted it to be sold to honor with all of the proceeds benefiting our Mambacita Sports Foundation but I did not re-sign the Nike contract and decided not to sell these shoes.” She continued: “Nike has not sent any of these pairs to me and my girls.”

The shoes seen on Middleton resemble the Nike Kobe 6 Protro, which Bryant says was a deliberate choice to create “an exclusive black and white colorway on her daddy’s shoe.” Gianna, who was a basketball player at Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy, wore a black-and-white uniform, as well as the number 2’s seen on the sides of the shoes. On the back, the names “Kobe” and “Gigi” are engraved in gold. 

MIAMI, FL – MAY 29: Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks drives to the basket against the Miami Heat during Round 1, Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on May 29, 2021 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant had a long-standing relationship with Nike, signing a five-year contract in 2016 shortly after retiring from the NBA. After Bryant’s tragic death in 2020, his wife Vanessa and Nike did not reach an agreement to re-sign the basketball pro’s contract in April 2021. Earlier this year, Vanessa Bryant hinted that one of the reasons the deal fell through was that Nike was not willing to make a deal in perpetuity, telling ESPN that she “was hoping to forge a lifelong partnership with Nike that reflects my husband’s legacy.”

Refinery29 reached out to Nike for comment, but at the time of publishing, had not yet heard back.

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