Report: Sources reveal details behind Kentucky’s new partnership as 1st Mamba school with Nike

Jesse Cinquini
3 Min Read

Vanessa Bryant — who was the wife of former Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant — has picked the University of Kentucky to be the first Mamba Program school, according to Kentucky Sports Radio.

“Kentucky has been selected as a Mamba Program ahead of the 2023-24 college basketball season, multiple sources tell KSR,” wrote Jack Pilgrim.

“Vanessa Bryant — wife of the late Kobe Bryant — hand-picked the University of Kentucky as the first Mamba school in the partnership with Nike, a process over a year in the making now finalized. Several other programs are expected to join the fold over the course of the multi-year rollout.

“What will the partnership look like? The Wildcats will wear exclusive Kentucky-themed Kobe sneakers and apparel this season, sources tell KSR. Special uniforms featuring the Mamba logo are also possible in the future.

Kobe Bryant was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the No.13 overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft and played 20 seasons in the NBA, all as a member of the storied Lakers franchise. He averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 0.5 blocks per game in 1,346 total regular-season games with Los Angeles (1,198 starts).

Kobe Bryant accomplished a whole lot during his stint with the Lakers, both from an individual and collective standpoint. The shooting guard was named to the All-Star team 18 times, earned 12 All-Defensive team selections, was a two-time NBA scoring champion and won the league MVP award in the 2007-08 season.

But, most importantly, Kobe Bryant won five NBA titles with the Lakers — in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010 — and was an instrumental part of all those title teams.

During Los Angeles’ three-peat in the early 21st century, the 6-foot-6 guard served as a fantastic co-star to center Shaquille O’Neal. Kobe Bryant arguably wasn’t the best player on any of those Lakers teams, as O’Neal won the Finals MVP awards for all three years of the three-peat, but he was still one of the top guards in the game.

During the Lakers’ 2009 and 2010 title runs, though, there’s no denying that Kobe Bryant was the best player on the team. He averaged 32.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game in the 2009 NBA Finals against Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.

In the 2010 NBA Finals against Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo, he was similarly dominant. He averaged 28.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game versus Boston, and the Lakers won that series in seven games.

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Jesse is a sports journalist with extensive experience covering the NBA. He has worked as a staff writer covering the Lakers’ dreaded rivals, the Boston Celtics, for SB Nation. He has also covered the New York Knicks for The Knicks Wall.