“Hey, is Kobe ok? Why are you in a mausoleum?” is an actual text I got after they watched my Instagram story on the Nike Kobe AD reveal. Needless to say, if Nike and Kobe Bryant wanted to portray this event as the wake of Mamba the player, they got the job done.
Inside a dimly lit warehouse in Los Angeles lays Kobe Bryant, NBA legend. Ok, he’s not really dead, but rather the chapter of his life where he was a five-time NBA champion and one of the greatest of all-time has moved on to the other realm. It was fitting that the event took place on November 1st, also known as the Dia De Muertos (The Day Of The Dead) and that the shoe was called the Nike Kobe A.D.; it’s almost like they plan these things in advance.
The “mausoleum” was adorned with all things Kobe, from old signature shoes to retro jerseys to historical pictures and other symbols of the legacy that Bryant is leaving behind. If this wasn’t a media event, I could easily imagine this setup being something you would see in a movie. I can’t even imagine how die-hard Kobe fans in Los Angeles would react to seeing this surreal tribute to Mamba. The candles on the floor and the monuments set the solemn ambiance and there was even a signature book that people could write messages to Kobe. Me doing me, I wrote, “Mamba, I can’t believe we’ve been calling you Mamba for all these years. Never stop shooting…”
Like those who celebrate Dia De Muertos (or all All Saints Day in the Philippines because we do it too), it was a time to be sad in a way, but it was mostly a time to remember what Mamba meant to all of us.
Even when Kobe did show up (because he’s not dead, ok?), we could see that this was a different launch event for him. He still wants to create the next great basketball shoe because his mentality – his Mamba Mentality, if you will – won’t allow him to produce a less than stellar product, but he’s not also thinking about having to deal with a game the next day or having to watch Nick Young throw up an ill-advised three-pointer at the worst possible time. Kobe will still talk about the Nike Kobe AD and all its performance features and all the technical stuff, but it’s more about the big picture and totality of what he’s accomplished that seems to be the focus this time around. He’s still Mamba, but he’s a peaceful Mamba. Maybe it’s the beard…