Kobe Bryant had many nicknames: Kob’, Bean, Showboat, and Vino, to name a few. But the one monicker that stuck was the one the late Los Angeles Lakers star gave himself: The Black Mamba.
Bryant created the Black Mamba alter ego in an effort to separate himself from his own name, which at the time was the subject of a sexual assault trial. He gravitated towards the nickname because of the movie “Kill Bill,” but also because the Black Mamba is widely regarded as the world’s deadliest snake.
Here’s Bryant talking about the nickname in a 2018 interview with Kent Babb of the Washington Post:
“The length, the snake, the bite, the strike, the temperament,” he says, and it wasn’t lost on him that snakes can also shed their skin. “ ‘Let me look this s--- up.’ I looked it up — yeah, that’s me. That’s me!’ ”
So, when Nike approached Bryant to design a Lakers jersey inspired by himself in 2017, Bryant told Zach Lowe of ESPN he knew exactly what he wanted to do, even though he wasn’t sure how he was going to do it:
“The snake came to me immediately,” Bryant says. “It came to me so fast, I was thinking, ‘This can’t be that easy. This idea is not going to work.’ I spent months trying to talk myself out of it. But in the end, simplicity always wins.”
The result was one of the most popular Lakers jerseys in recent memory: A black jersey with snakeskin print and a yellow trim around the letters, sleeves and shorts.
In the aftermath of Bryant’s tragic passing on Sunday, Lakers forward Jared Dudley took to Twitter to call on the relevant parties to bring back the City Edition jerseys from the 2017-18 season:
Need to bring back these Black Mamba Jerseys! https://t.co/wGmtlDwnDq— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) January 28, 2020
Lakers guard Danny Green retweeted Dudley’s tweet.
Under different circumstances, it would be hard to imagine Nike doing something like this, but given how huge Bryant was to their brand even after he retired, they’d probably find a way to make it happen if the Lakers requested, especially because it’s an old design. Additionally, we’ve seen Nike make jerseys for one game as soon as last season, when the Golden State Warriors wore the “We Believe” jerseys from the 2006-07 season in their final game at Oracle Arena in April.
In other words, it’s possible, and with enough public support, it could realistically be one of the ways the Lakers honor Bryant. We’ll see what the Lakers have in store for their next game on Friday against the Portland Trail Blazers.