Kobe Bryant: Celebrating a sport icon

Kobe Bryant


The world lost a lot of good people in 2020, a sizable number were lost to the coronavirus pandemic but the world lost a particular sports icon owing to a helicopter crash tragedy on the 26th of January, 2020.

Kobe Bryant, the 41-year-old former basketball player was reportedly taking his 13-yeat-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, from their Newport Beach Home to a youth basketball tournament in Thousand Oaks, when their helicopter crashed.

The world was shocked to learn that about the demise of the man with the “mamba mentality” and the shock was further exacerbated when the world learned that Gianna Bryant was also aboard the ill-fated helicopter, making it a tragedy’s tragedy.

Before his death, there was no doubt in any basketball enthusiast’s mind that Kobe Bryant was the real deal. He lived and breathed basketball. Even after his retirement in 2016, Kobe didn’t stop pursuing new frontiers. He expertly transitioned from the sporting world into the world of business. But more about that later.

In the beginning…

Let’s examine how it all started for Kobe Bryant. Kobe started playing basketball as early as 3 years old and this was largely due to the influence of his father, Joe Bryant. Joe Bryant himself had a remarkable career in the NBA and the European League.

At age 6, there was no doubt in Kobe’s mind as to what he was going to do with the remainder of his life. He knew basketball was going to be a lifetime obsession of his.

Owing to Joe Bryant’s basketball career, the Bryants has to move to Italy and despite the allure of soccer in Italy, Kobe maintained his fidelity to basketball.

When it became clear that Joe Bryant’s basketball career was over, the Bryants moved back to Pennsylvania and Kobe’s dalliance with basketball began.

Thanks to his determination and talent, Kobe made it into the basketball varsity team of the Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

The Aces made him a starter even as a freshman; a strange occurrence when you think about it. Despite the team’s hard work, they didn’t fare well at the tournament during Kobe’s first season as a team player, and for Kobe, since all he wanted was to win, it was an anticlimactic season.

Even at that, Kobe didn’t lose hope. In fact, Gregg Downer, Kobe’s High School Coach remembered him for his dedication to the team and the game.

When Kobe announced that he was taking his talent to the NBA straight out of High School, enough people thought he needed to see a shrink.

In a way, Kobe’s pronouncement felt like he was considering himself too good for college basketball and that skipping it was the right thing to do.

Kobe won’t be the first person to make a giant leap to the pro league from high school but he may well be the first person to announce it with such boldness and candor.

Kobe realized early enough that the best way to get noticed by scouts, coaches, and general managers was to be the best shooting guard on the roster.

As a result of this realization, he started training as a guard and began improving his game.

Kobe’s father struck a deal with the 76ers that allowed Kobe to try out with the pros. This deal did not just elevate Kobe’s game but it also served as a smart marketing ploy, as it allowed Kobe to put his skills on display, for the benefit of scouts and coaches.

The NBA Years

In 1996, the high school basketball wiz by the name of Kobe Bryant entered the NBA draft and he was picked 13tt by the Charlotte Hornets.

But before Kobe could even wear a Hornets jersey, the unimaginable happened.

The Los Angeles Lakers General Manager, Jerry West, made sure Kobe was shipped to Los Angeles in exchange for Vlad Divac.

Although Kobe’s draft caused a stir in the sporting world, the signing of Shaquille O’Neal by the Lakers happened around the same time and one could say, from a public relations standpoint, that O’neal’s signing stole Kobe Bryant’s thunder.

At the end of the day, the signings laid down the groundwork for a modern-day basketball dynasty; one fraught with many controversies.

Kobe’s first game as a pro wasn’t spectacular;0 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, and 1 block in six minutes of playing time.

His first career point came two days later against the New York Knicks. For someone who got so much hype for his draft into the NBA, Kobe had a slow start and that made him a target for criticisms, some of them acrimoniously.

Kobe later got his ball touches and shooting style and in no time, he began to dominate games.

The controversial Bryant

Despite his great basketball skills, Kobe Bryant was no Mike Jordan, in the sense that his interpersonal skills were not so great.

Kobe Bryant’s elevation to basketball greatness can be explained by highlighting his crazy work ethic and competitive nature.

In fact, Kobe’s obsession with discipline and a strong work ethic made him butt head with Shaquille O’Neal on several occasions.

O’neal had a weight problem he didn’t take seriously and Kobe knew what the implication will be on the overall team performance. Kobe wanted Shaq O’neal to be more disciplined but it was obvious they had different views on what discipline means. Kobe Bryant was known as the “Mamba Mentality” crooner. To him, Mamba Mentality is all about becoming the best version of oneself.

It’s a mindset of continuous improvement and infinite curiosity.

During the spell of his 20 colorful years in the NBA, the Mamba Mentality epitomized what Kobe Bryant was all about. Kobe’s career wasn’t without controversies. Kobe had an active feud with Shaquille O’Neal during his career. They fought a lot about many things. Things like team roles shot selection, and team leadership are part of the things they disagreed about.

The feud between the duo started with something as mundane as jersey sales. Kobe’s popularity was on the rise and his jerseys were flying off the shelf and Shaq O’Neal accused Kobe of selfish playing and showboating. The disagreement between the duo intensified during the 2000-2001 season when Shaq O’Neal came to camp overweight. As always, Kobe was also concerned about the way that will affect team performance and he felt Shaq’s weight problem was a sign of irresponsibility.

The 2003-2004 was a trying season for the Lakers; Kobe was accused of Rape during the summer and his future seemed uncertain due to legal challenges.

During this trying period for Kobe, he felt his team couldn’t care less. There were outbursts during press conferences and one of Kobe’s teammates accused him of not showing interest in having a relationship with his team outside the court.

Wrapping Up

When Kobe ended his NBA Career in 2016, he did it in style. His 60 points outburst in his last game with the Utah Jazz was a remarkable way of ending a colorful basketball career.

At the Staples Center, he thanked his fans, teammates, and other supporters for contributing to a fulfilling career. He ended his speech with the phrase “Mamba Out’ and in no time, ‘Mamba Out’ T-shirts were being sold on his official website.

In a sense that was Kobe’s segue into the world of business. This is not to say he didn’t know anything about the business world before retiring but he took an active stake in business upon his retirement.

Kobe teamed up with Jeff Stable to found Bryant Stable, a venture capital firm with a $100 million fund. The firm focused on data companies, tech startups, to mention a few.

Kobe also invested $6 million in BodyArmor and that singular investment returned a windfall of $200 million. Kobe Bryant successfully transitioned from an autograph-signing athlete to an empire-building businessman.

One can only imagine what would have happened if he had lived to be 100.