If you’re a basketball fan or if you happen to watch games when a friend has the TV tuned to ESPN, you most likely have seen Kobe Bryant once or twice. Number #24 on the LA Lakers, he’s known as an all-around great guy both on and off the court. To this day, he’s still regarded as one of the best basketball players in history, even after his retirement in 2016. The 6’6 powerhouse combines class and ability without any effort, earning him the title as one of the greatest ever. However, there’s a whole lot more to Kobe than meets the eye. We’re sure most of you don’t know all there is to about this incredible guy, so read on for the inside scoop on the basketball legend!
Philadelphia Born, Italian Raised
While he was born in Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant and his family relocated to Italy when he was only 5 years old. The Bryant family moved after his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant (top middle) retired from the NBA and decided to continue his career by playing overseas. The family lived in Rieti, a small city in the center of Italy for 9 years. When Kobe (bottom right) was 14, the family moved back to the States, just in time for him to start high school. Kobe attributes his skill and success to learning how to play basketball outside the U.S. He’s said that he’s had to rely on fundamentals while kids in America were taught to rely on athleticism. Recently, other players have come out and made similar claims.
Aside from being considered to be one of the best players in the game, Kobe is also bilingual! While growing up in Italy, he learned Italian and became fluent. It must have been necessary when playing basketball and making new friends. 35 years later, he’s still fluent in both English and Italian.
His Name Has Special Meaning
You might be wondering where his name came from. Would you believe it that he was named after a restaurant and a type of Japanese meat? Well, it’s true! Kobe’s parents were big fans of a Japanese steakhouse in Philly named ‘Kobe’. Since they ate there so often, they decided to name their only son after it. The restaurant got the name from the Japanese meat, Kobe Beef, which comes from Japanese black cattle. Joe Bryant confirmed this rumor in 1998 in an interview with Sports Illustrated, saying, “I don’t know if I should say that he was named after them, they might want the rights to the name”.
Like Father, Like Son
As you already know, Kobe’s dad played in the NBA as well. He paved the way for his talented son to spread his wings. Joe “Jellybean” Bryant was the 1st round, 14th overall pick in the 1975 NBA draft by the Golden State Warriors. He played in the NBA for 8 years, with the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Diego Clippers, and the Houston Rockets. After playing abroad for a few years, he became involved in coaching and is currently the head coach of the Japanese team, “Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka”. It turns out that Kobe and his father scrimmaged. Kobe told fans, “he’d elbow me in the mouth, rip my lip open. Then my mother would walk out on the court, and the elbows would stop”. Kobe didn’t beat his dad in a 1-on-1 game until he was 16!
Did you know Kobe tried for a rap career before becoming a basketball player? He even produced a debut single named ‘K.O.B.E.’ with Sony and the famous music video producer, Hype Williams. Sadly, the video and song were both so corny that they got a lot of backlash. So much so that Sony scrapped it all. The one good thing that came out of this experience is that Kobe met a special someone while filming, a pretty woman named Vanessa Laine. This was the starting point of the pair’s relationship.
While his single and music video weren’t as successful as he hoped, Kobe was lucky enough to be featured in a popular group’s music video. Destiny’s Child produced a song named ‘Bug a Boo’ in 1999 and had Kobe make an appearance in the music video. He played a bewildered version of himself in the video, locking eyes with none other than Beyonce. Kobe had been in the NBA for 3 years before this music video appearance.
He Took Brandy To Prom
Even stars like Kobe Bryant go to prom! In his senior year at Lower Merion High School in Philly, he asked the actress and singer, Brandy Norwood, to be his prom date. At the time, Brandy was starring in the sitcom Moesha, and Kobe had just signed a shoe deal with Adidas while he was waiting for the NBA 1996 draft. Later, Brandy went public about their evening, saying how grateful she was he took her since it was her only chance to go to prom. These two ended up dating for a while after Kobe had been drafted, making some red carpet appearances together. To this day, they’re good friends.
Welcome To The League
Many people regard Kobe Bryant as one of the most talented and successful players of the NBA. How did he earn this? Well, he was the first guard to ever be drafted straight out of high school. The LA Lakers saw his talent and took him right in at age 18 in the 1996 Draft. As a rookie, you can either rise to the occasion or break under the pressure. You might be surprised, but Kobe was the latter. During his first season, he struggled, finishing with a mere 7.6 points and 15 minutes per game. However, Kobe trained tirelessly, worked out more and made sure to improve his skill during the off-season. The 1997-98 season was a completely different ballgame for Kobe. His stats increased to 15.4 points and 26 minutes per game. From there, he only got better.
His Number Was Taken
Kobe started high school with the number 24 before he finished his last three years with the number 33. He wanted to keep the number 33 in the NBA as well, but it was already taken… By who? By none other than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar! The League retired the number with Kareem’s retirement in 1989. When he entered the NBA, Kobe took the number 8, and it went on to be his number for his entire career. Here we can see the two together – they’re good friends to this day. In fact, Kobe has always looked up to the legend.
The Baby Of The League
Being the first guard drafted right out of high school wasn’t the only record Kobe broke. He was also the youngest player to ever play in the League! He stole the award at 18 years, 2 months, and 11 days old. However, as new talent kept emerging, his record was passed by Jermaine O’Neal and Andrew Bynum. Kobe’s debut in the NBA was against the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 3rd, 1996. He played six minuted and went 1-1-1: one rebound, one block, and one foul.
His #1 Pet Peeve
We all have those little things that make us tick. Whether its people cutting lines or slow drivers, each of us what gets us going. Now you’re probably sitting there thinking about what irks you the most. Would you ever think that there was something to irritate a 6 ft 6 creature? Kobe Bryant has his pet peeves especially this one. Once during an interview with Marc Ecko from Complex magazine, Bryant admitted that what he hates the most in the world is dog poop. He even sued one of their past maids over dog fees! Jeez, that must be one large pet peeve.
He Was In A Famous Documentary
It is no secret what a legend Kobe Bryant is. But did you know that he has also participated in several acting roles? In 2012 he was featured in the I Am Bruce Lee documentary, a film honoring Lee Jun-fan (known professionally as Bruce Lee) for his victories. Bryant has always had a fascination with martial arts and even admits that Bruce Lee is one of his greatest influencers. Back during his 2010 tour of Asia, he said that despite what people may think, Bruce Lee has a big part when it comes to basketball. He went on to explain the Chinese energy concept of Qi and its connection to not only martial arts but also basketball. Kobe was fascinated with this as well as Lee’s fighting style, which he tries to bring into his own basketball game.
Fans have wondered for years why Kobe Bryant has such weird tactics, including keeping his jersey in his mouth. Well, we agree with this and are interested to know where such a ritual stems from. He spoke to the LA times once and explained that although it is rather gross, its something he learned from his father. His dad once told him that when his mouth dries up, then he should suck up the sweat from his jersey and luckily for him this seems to work!
Hard Work & Nothing Less
Kobe is a dedicated player who’s hard work has helped him achieve the greatness he has accomplished today. In 2008 and 2012 he won gold medals on the USA Olympic team. To prepare for the 2012 Olympics, he trained tirelessly to perform to the best of his ability and not let his nation down. He woke up at 4.am to begin training and even when his trainer would leave to go take a nap before team practice, Kobe was caught taking jump shots until he reached 800 shots! This goes to show how motivated he was to the game!
A Laker, And Only A Laker
During Kobe’s entire career in basketball, he only played for one team, and the only player to never be traded. Not only that, but he is one of the players with the most lengthy NBA career totaling 20 seasons! He is neck and neck with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar but surpassed by Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, and Kevin Garnett who have 21 seasons. Kobe was devoted to the laker and lived by the motto, once a lake always a laker!
Signature Sneaker Line
In addition to his many accomplishments, Bryant also has his deal with Nike where he has produced his on show line. His original line is based on soccer cleats so he went with a low top style rather well-liked hightop design. In 1960 during the Wilt Chamberlain era, many people were against low tops because they were not as supportive of ankle injuries, but Nike allowed for this design. His shoes are worn worldwide today and have a longstanding 12 year deal with Nike. In 2014 his shoes made 105 million dollars and he earns about $8 million a year for this deal.
All For Love
On the set of Kobe’s infamous ‘K.O.B.E.’ music video, Kobe met his girlfriend Vanessa. Strangely, her highschool, Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California intervened and forced her to continue her senior year at home. They reasoned this by saying that having Kobe present was a disturbance for Vaness and her peers. She agreed to their request, and was confident in her relationship!
Kobe Bryant was engaged to his first love 18-year-old Vanessa Laine when he was just 22 years old. The two walked down the aisle on April 18th, 2001. Bryant’s parents weren’t too thrilled about the news and refused to come to the wedding. Despite this, Kobe remains a family man and is devoted to his three daughters Natalia Diamante (15), Gianna Maria-Onore (12), and Bianka Bella(2). Their names have Italian roots because Bryant spent the majority of his childhood in Italy. Even though they did not always receive positive remarks for the relationship, the couple has been together for a strong 17 years with a beautiful family.
Bryant has also been plastered on the men’s magazine GQ with headlines and front pages too many to count! There were once rumors about marriage problems and he set things straight when he told GQ “I’m not going to say our marriage is perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. We still fight, just like every married couple. But you know, my reputation as an athlete is that I’m extremely determined and that I will work my ass off. How could I do that in my professional life if I wasn’t like that in my personal life when it affects my kids? It wouldn’t make any sense”.
One Of The Greatest Of All Time
Kobe Bryant is honored and credited as being one of the most incredible basketball players ever.. We’ve decided to gather all his awards so prepare yourself because it is rather lengthy. He is a former MVP, five-time NBA champion, two-time Finals MVP, 18-time NBA All-Star, two-time scoring champion, two-time Olympic Gold medalist, nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team nominations, 11-time First Team All-NBA’er and a Slam Dunk title. By the time he retired he was recognized as having the third-most points in NBA History, an insane number of 33,643! That’s not all but two of his numbers are retired and is he seen as one of the most skilled players to have ever graced the basketball courts.
It turns out that Kobe has a middle name, but strangely, it doesn’t appear on any official documents. His middle name is ‘Bean’ which is a nickname from his father. It’s also a reference to his father’s athletic nickname when he was a player in the NBA – ‘Jellybean’.
At the age of 23, Kobe got married. He met his wife, Vanessa, in 1999 when Kobe was 21 and Vanessa was only 17. They began dating and got engaged six months later. Finally, two years later, they got married.
As it turns out, Kobe’s family wasn’t too keen on his marriage. In fact, they opposed it entirely. They thought Kobe was too young to get married. In addition, they didn’t like the fact that he was marrying a non-African American woman. His family didn’t attend his wedding at all.
Kobe nicknamed himself the ‘Black Mamba’ due to the fact that the snake has incredible speed, agility, and accuracy. Another reason he liked the nickname was he watched Quentin Tarantino’s movie, Kill Bill, in which ‘Black Mamba’ was code for a deadly mission.
While he spent little time studying, Kobe was a brilliant student. He got good grades in classes and also scored high on his SATs. However, he made the decision to forgo college and pursue a caeer in the NBA. We think it’s safe to say that he made the right choice.
In 2008 and in 2012, Kobe represented the United States in the Olympics. In fact, he won gold medals both times while playing alongside people like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and others. As it turns out, he purposely lost weight before the Olympics, saying, “With summer basketball leading directly into the season — and I’m expecting to play until next June — I have to take some load off my knees. I’ve got to shave some of this weight.”
On His Own
It’s said that Kobe improves his games by playing against his own shadow. He’s said that it’s a good way to develop new moves for the season and improving his reaction time. He’s said that he believed that there is always something new to learn.
Most Valuable Player
Even though he won five titles during a string of dominance back in the 2000s, Kobe only got one NBA Most Valuable Player award throughout his entire 20-year basketball career. It happened in 2008.
Back in 2002, Kobe paid a whopping $8 million to get out of his endorsement contract with Adidas. What was the reason for that? Well, he did it all so he could sign an endorsement deal with Nike instead.
Poem Turned Film
In 2015, Kobe wrote a poem called “Dear Basketball”. Two years later, it was the basis for a short animated film of the same name, which he also narrated himself. The piece won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
In 2018, Kobe published his first book. It’s called The Mamba Mentality: How I Play. In the book, he describes his approach to basketball. Of course, the title of the book reflects the nickname he gave himself, The Black Mamba.
Throughout his 20-year career, Kobe has earned approximately $328 million from his NBA contracts alone. In total, it’s been said he’s earned $680 million during his career. Forbes wrote about him, “The only athletes to earn more are in individual sports and include Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher, and Floyd Mayweather.”
Before erupting for 60 points in his last NBA game, it seemed like ending his career averaging 25 points per game was out of reach for Kobe. However, the Black Mamba retired averaging 25 points per contest for his career. This put him at no. 12 in basketball history.
Call Of Duty
In 2010, Kobe appeared alongside Zach Braff at the Call of Duty: Black Ops launch at the Santa Monica Airport. There, they presented a $1 million check to the Call of Duty Endowment. It’s an Activision-founded nonprofit organization that helps veterans transition to civilian careers after their military service.
For a while, some sportswriters and fans believed that Kobe is a selfish man, making you believe he was the only child and showered with affection. Well, that’s incorrect. Kobe has two sisters – Sharia and Shaya. They’re both older than him.