When Vanessa Bryant, the wife of the late Kobe Bryant, reached a deal to continue producing apparel under Nike, it was certainly great news.
Throughout the NBA, the WNBA and the sport of basketball, Bryant’s shoes were still worn despite the Bryant family electing not to renew their contract with Nike in April of 2021. Basketball players continued to pay massive amounts of money for Bryant’s shoes after Nike stopped production of the classic sneakers. For players like NBA All-Star Devin Booker or veteran forward PJ Tucker, it was not only for the comfort and style it provided on the court, but also to continue the legacy that Bryant created over his legendary career in the NBA.
But, with Nike reestablishing their partnership with the Bryant family, a current face of the brand would help continue the legacy of Bryant on the court and create even more fans of Bryant’s apparel.
After Bryant’s wife dismissed the news that Bulls star Demar DeRozan would be the face of the brand and said that only her husband would be the face of the line, it’s clear that there may not be a male player in the NBA that could be the face of the Mamba brand. However, that doesn’t mean that a female face could not step up and represent the brand.
Anyone familiar with the life of the Black Mamba knows of his love of women’s basketball, especially with his daughter Gianna’s commitment to becoming a great basketball player just like her father. Naturally, when you’re looking for a top school in women’s basketball, the University of Connecticut stands out as one of the premier programs. Both Bryant and his daughter were seen at games in Gampel Pavilion and voiced their love of the program.
Therefore, with a clear connection between UConn and the Bryant family, it would make sense to choose basketball star Paige Bueckers as the female face of the Mamba brand.
To start, Bueckers is poised to be the next star in women’s basketball. During her time at UConn, she’s proven that she is the real deal, most recently leading the Huskies to an NCAA Championship appearance despite numerous injuries on the team. Even Bueckers, who suffered her own injury early in the 2021-22 season, came back to help her team win and showcased her remarkable talent throughout the NCAA tournament.
You could even say that Bueckers showcased the “Mamba Mentality.”
Before his passing, Bryant defined the Mamba Mentality in the following words: “Mamba Mentality is all about focusing on the process and trusting in the hard work when it matters most. It’s the ultimate mantra for the competitive spirit. It started just as a hashtag that came to me one day, and it’s grown into something athletes — and even non-athletes — embrace as a mindset.”
I’m focusing on this definition because it directly relates to Bueckers’ career in the game of basketball. Despite the injury and hardship that’s occurred and set her back, she’s trusted in the hard work she has put in and has stepped up when her team has needed her the most.
Bueckers’ own personal connections with Bryant do not stop there either.
Growing up, Bueckers watched Bryant dominate the hardwood, seeing the Lakers star demonstrate a unique combination of talent, hard work, and clutchness. As Bueckers started to establish her own name as a future face of women’s basketball, Bueckers and Bryant shared messages on social media and Bueckers even looked forward to a workout with Bryant ahead of her freshman season at UConn, according to CBS Minnesota.
After Bryant’s tragic passing in 2020, Bueckers wore a pair of custom Kobe sneakers to honor him that displayed her future college, the Chester family and Christina Mauser who perished in the same helicopter accident that killed Bryant and “Long Live Gianna” on the heel.
By becoming the female face of the Mamba brand, Bueckers would not only be able to grow the game of women’s basketball, a task that Bryant was dedicated to advancing throughout his life, but the Bryant family would be placing the brand in the hands of one of the game’s stars.
The Mamba brand would have someone representing their brand that not only had connections with Bryant during his life, but also someone who is dedicated to growing the game of women’s basketball on and off the court. The Mamba brand would be adding a player who has already shown her massive marketability through a variety of NIL deals that include notable brands like Gatorade, StockX, and many more.
UConn is also a Nike school, meaning that the iconic sports brand provides all apparel for UConn athletes. With the Bryant family now signed under Nike, Bueckers would be able to wear any Mamba shoe of her choosing, while not violating the existing apparel deal with the school.
It’s a match made in heaven for both Bueckers, the Bryant family and Nike. With the stars aligned for Bueckers and Nike, it only makes sense to get the deal done.