Kentucky Selected As First College Team For Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Program

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In October of last year, the men’s and women’s Kentucky basketball programs hosted a free basketball skills camp in association with the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation. Gifting both teams with the Nike Kobe 4 Protro “Mambacita” as a thank you this past July, the University of Kentucky has since cemented its relationship with the Bryant estate.

Hand-picked by Vanessa Bryant, the Kentucky basketball program is reportedly the first collegiate team to be selected as a Mamba Program ahead of the 2023-24 season. Initially reported by Kentucky Sports Radio, the unofficial partnership is expected to mirror the endorsement deals shared between LeBron James and Ohio State University and Florida A&M. For the upcoming season, the Wildcats will be bestowed with Kentucky-exclusive Kobe-themed sneakers and apparel, with room for the potential appearance of Bryant’s sword-sheathed logo gracing their crisp blue and white checkered uniforms.

Head coach John Calipari and Bryant held a long-standing relationship ever since he implored the New Jersey Nets – their head coach at the time – to draft an 18-year-old Kobe. When Natalia visited the program alongside the Mambacita Foundation last year, the school gifted her with a number 2 Kentucky jersey in remembrance of her late sister. In honor of what would have been Gianna’s 17th birthday, Vanessa and Bryant’s oldest daughter returned the favor, sending Coach Calipari his own pair of “Mambacitas” alongside Bryant’s memoir and Gigi’s jersey, commemorating the growth of their connection.

While official details of the upcoming partnership haven’t been disclosed just yet, several more programs are expected to join the fold over the coming months. In the meantime, the Nike Kobe 11 is expected to be the first Kentucky-branded silhouette worn by the Wildcats during the upcoming season.

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