Kobe Bryant’s estate may launch his own sportswear brand after Nike split

Vanessa Bryant has filed for 13 trademarks on behalf of the estate, including “Play Gigi’s Way,” “Mamba,” “Mambacita,” “Baby Mambas,” and “Mamba League.”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JUNE 9:  Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers during Game Three of the NBA Fi...
The Sporting News/Sporting News/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant’s estate parted ways with Nike last week as the late basketball player’s wife allowed the contract to expire and declined to sign an extension. All Kobe Bryant-branded footwear releases will reportedly be halted — but fans may see new gear in the future. Multiple sources, including intellectual property attorney Josh Gerben, have noted that Bryant’s wife Vanessa Bryant has led legal filings for more than 13 trademarks since May 2020 on the behalf of Kobe’s estate. The filings show that the trademarks are intended to be used for everything from clothing, gym wear, loungewear, and footwear.

ESPN reported the end of Bryant’s Nike contract, with sources telling the publication that Bryant and the estate were frustrated with the lack of Kobe releases both after his retirement and after his death in January 2020. The basketball legend was reportedly also discontent with the limited run of products that made it hard for his fans to buy his sneakers, jerseys, and other goods. “My hope will always be to allow Kobe’s fans to get and wear his products,” Vanessa Bryant told ESPN. “I will continue to fight for that. Kobe’s products sell out in seconds. That says everything.” With the trademark filings, it seems Bryant is keeping her hope alive — as well as her husband’s legacy.

What’s in the works — Bryant has filed trademark applications for names honoring not just her late husband, but their late daughter Gianna, whose nicknames were “Gigi” and “Mambacita.” Since 2020, Vanessa Bryant has filed for 13 trademarks on behalf of Kobe’s estate, including “Play Gigi’s Way,” “Mamba,” “Mambacita,” “Baby Mambas,” and “Mamba League.”

Nike produced nearly 20 sneakers with Bryant over the course of the 18-year partnership.Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

“The filings would suggest Vanessa [Bryant] is building an IP portfolio for a new brand launch,” Gerben told CNBC. Each appeal shows that the trademarks are intended to be used for everything from clothing, gym wear, loungewear, and footwear. Gerben further told CNBC these trademarks were filed under “intent to use,” which usually means an underlying business may be being planned.

On top of the trademark filings, Kobe’s estate has also been trying to protect the brand around the late basketball player and his daughter by rebranding the Mamba Sports Academy to simply the Sports Academy, retiring the word “Mamba.”

Planned before Kobe’s passing — Even prior to Kobe Bryant’s untimely death, there were suggestions the basketball player would launch his own brand. The last trademark that Kobe Inc. filed before his death was for “Mambacita” on Dec. 30, 2019, while Shervin Pishevar, an entrepreneur who co-founded Virgin’s Hyperloop, recently revealed that Kobe had planned to start his own sneaker company and call it “Mamba.”

Despite the rumors, Vanessa Bryant said a lifelong contract was still on the table after the basketball legend’s passing — but sources told ESPN that Nike had presented Bryant’s estate with an extension offer that was not in line with the “lifelong” deals given to Michael Jordan and LeBron James. James’ contract is reportedly worth more than $1 billion in total, while Jordan has already made an estimated $1.3 billion from Nike as of May 2020. An insufficient offer would certainly push the estate to continue Kobe’s personal brand — and make sure there were enough goods to go around.