In Game 2 of their first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Los Angeles Lakers brought back their Black Mamba jerseys, which originally debuted in 2017. Since then, they’ve worn the jerseys for every Game 2 of their playoff series, likely as a tribute to Gianna Bryant, who wore No. 2 with the Mamba Academy.
The Lakers have made a conscious effort not to lose a game in the Black Mamba jerseys because they know what and who the jersey represents, and they’ve succeeded in doing that so far. However, it’s been a little easier for them to have a pep in their step because of the way Bryant designed the jersey.
During an episode of “Inside the Green Room,” Danny Green said the Black Mamba jerseys are unlike any jersey he’s ever played in, both in look and feel:
“He definitely designed them great. They feel really nice, the texture and material. A lot of us were joking, I think he left some of his DNA in this thing with how well we’ve been playing ... The feel of it is unbelievable, he designed the perfect jersey. It’s very breathable, and obviously the aesthetics. Everybody wants to try and buy one, like ‘where can I find it? Where can I get it? Can I have yours?’ I’m like ‘nope, not my Kobe jersey.’”
That’s because the Black Mamba jerseys are unique. In fact, they’re so unique that Nike wasn’t able to reproduce the jerseys until later in the season, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic:
It was not as simple as calling up Nike and ordering a new shipment. The uniforms are made of a special moisture-wicking fabric and had not been produced in more than two years since Nike rolled them out as the Lakers’ first “City Edition” jersey.
The league said it would be able to deliver the uniforms by mid-to-late April, shortly after the playoffs were scheduled to begin. With that knowledge, the Lakers tried to pinpoint when they should debut the look.
That attention to detail is something Bryant was famous for as a player, but it also translated to his role in designing the jersey, according to Tim Harris, the Lakers president of business operations and chief operating officer — he wanted the jersey to be perfect:
“He was, it wasn’t just like, ‘I want it to look like this,’” Harris said. “Kobe was involved in the performance of it. He wasn’t just interested in, like, this is what I want the uniform to look like, this is how I want it to perform.”
“He got down to the level of detail where he was examining the drawstring of the shorts and the performance of the drawstring,” Harris said. “It’s not surprising that he leaned into it, but to say he took a very thoughtful approach to this uniform is an understatement.”
It’s a shame that we’ve likely seen the Mamba jerseys for the last time this season, but with how popular they’ve been, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lakers bring back them back next season — similar to how the Miami Heat have kept their Miami Vice jerseys around. Hopefully that means more jerseys for the public too.