University of Kentucky Will Become First Nike “Mamba Program”

The University of Kentucky is making history as the Wildcats will become the first “Mamba Program” in the NCAA.

According to Kentucky Sports Radio, the university will wear exclusive Nike Kobe PEs, apparel, and potentially uniforms with the Mamba logo as well.

The deal was reportedly a year in the making with Vanessa Bryant handpicking the program as the inaugural school. More institutions are expected to join the Mamba Program.

The relationship between the University of Kentucky and the Kobe estate began to develop in October of 2022 when Natalia Bryant visited the school on behalf of the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation. The Wildcats greeted her with a number 2 jersey in honor of her late sister, Gigi Bryant, and a custom Air Force 1 Low decked out in Kentucky Blue.

Natalia and Vanessa then returned the favor as they gifted Coach Cal with the Nike Kobe 6 Protro “Mambacita Sweet 16,” which Natalia had on-foot when she visited the university.

Together, Natalia and Coach Cal organized a skills workshop in which 200 kids got to learn from the men’s and women’s basketball teams, as well as the UK basketball staff.

This is the first partnership with any university. Coach Calipari and Kobe Bryant had a very special relationship, so anything we can do with the foundation that continues to tell the stories of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, we are all game for it with the foundation.

Kat Conlon, Executive Director of the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation (Per KSR)

Before joining UK, Calipari served as the coach of the former New Jersey Nets, in which he almost drafted Kobe Bryant in 1996 during the first season of his NBA coaching career. With the number 8 pick in the draft, Calipari ended up taking Kerry Kittles over Kobe, who then went to the Charlotte Hornets as the number 13 pick.

As the story goes, Kobe went on to become one of the best players in NBA history and Calipari was fired midway through his third season as the coach of the New Jersey Nets.

Despite the blunder, Kobe and Calipari maintained a good relationship over the years, up until Kobe’s untimely death. At the time, Calipari shared a personal note that Kobe had recently sent to him saying, “To my man Cal, keep leading our young men to GREATNESS. You are more than a coach, you are a teacher of [edge]. Much love to you my brother.”

While the partnership hasn’t been officially announced by the university or Nike, the deal aligns with the Swoosh’s official rollout of the Nike Kobe line as Kobe’s estate agreed to a new partnership contract over a year ago.

The Mamba Program is one facet of the Mamba resurgence with the Nike Kobe Protro series kicking off with the release of the Nike Kobe 8 Protro “Halo” colorway on Kobe’s birthday, August 23.

Keep it locked on Nice Kicks on Instagram and the Nike Kobe release dates page to stay on top of the latest news and drops.

Related Posts: