Whether you’re a huge basketball fan, or you only watch when a friend has the TV tuned to ESPN, chances are you’ve spotted Kobe Bryant. Number #24 on the LA Lakers is quite the celebrity, known as an all-around great guy on and off the court. Bryant is still regarded to this day as one of the best players to ever step foot on the basketball court, even after his retirement in 2016. This 6’6″ powerhouse of a player combines class and ability effortlessly, earning the title as one of the greatest ever. There’s way more to Kobe than meets the eye, we’re sure most of you don’t know everything about this incredible guy, so read on for the inside scoop into the life of a prodigy!
Philadelphia Born, Italian Raised
Although he was born in Philadelphia, Kobe Bryant and his family moved to Italy when he was just 5 years old. The Bryant family made the move after dad, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant (top middle), had retired from the NBA, and decided to continue his career playing overseas. The family resided in Rieti, a small city in the center of Italy for 9 years. They moved back to the States when Kobe (bottom right) was 14 years old, just in time to start high school. Kobe attributes his skill and success to learning basketball outside of the U.S. He claims that he had to rely primarily on fundamentals, while kids in America are taught to rely on athleticism. Other players have also come out in recent years and made similar claims.
Not only is Kobe regarded as one of the best players to grace the game, he’s also bi-lingual! How does he have time for it all, do you wonder? While growing up in Italy, he learned Italian and became fluent! It must have been necessary when playing basketball, and making new friends. Kobe continues to use the beautiful language to this day, so after 35 years, he is still fluent in 2 languages! Man, are we impressed! We guess that as the saying for languages goes, “you either use it, or lose it”!
His Name Has Special Meaning
Where did the name Kobe come from anyway? Would you believe us if we told you that he was named after a restaurant and a type of Japanese meat? We swear, it’s true! His parents were big fans of a Japanese steakhouse in Philly named ‘Kobe’, dining there so often, they decided to name their only son after the joint! The restaurant got their name from the Japanese meat, Kobe Beef, which comes from Japanese Black cattle. Joe Bryant confirmed the rumors to Sports Illustrated in a 1998 interview, and said “I don’t know if I should say that he was named after them, they might want the rights to the name”…could you imagine! Can you believe that the restaurant temporarily changed their name to ‘The Answer’ just before the 2001 NBA Finals starring the 76ers vs. the Lakers? Pretty ironic, right? Even crazier, the Japanese Steakhouse changed it’s name back to ‘Kobe’ after the Lakers and Kobe Bryant won the series…can you say superstitious?
Like Father, Like Son
As you know, Kobe’s dad also played in the NBA, paving 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. Joe played in the NBA for 8 years, with the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Diego Clippers, and the Houston Rockets. After playing overseas for a number of years, he got involved in coaching, and is currently the head coach of the Japanese team, “Rizing Zephyr Fukuoka”. If you’re wondering whether Kobe and his father ever scrimmaged, the answer would be yes! Kobe tells 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”. It’s safe to say, a competitive feud existed between the two! Can you believe that Kobe didn’t beat his dad in 1-on-1 until he was 16 years old?!
Did you know Kobe tried his luck at a rap career before becoming a famous baller? Yep, you read that right, he even produced a debut single titled ‘K.O.B.E.’ with music corporation, Sony and famous music video producer, Hype Williams. Unfortunately, the video and song were so corny and received such backlash that Sony scrapped it all. If one good thing came out of the experience, Kobe did in fact meet a special someone during filming, a pretty girl named Vanessa Laine. This encounter served as the starting point for the pair’s relationship.
Although Kobe’s hit single and music video weren’t as successful as he had hoped, he was lucky enough to be featured in a popular group’s music video. Famous girl group Destiny’s Child produced a song called ‘Bug a Boo’ in the year 1999, and had Kobe Bryant make an appearance in the music video! Kobe played a bewildered version of himself in the video, locking eyes with the sensation, Beyoncé. Kobe had been in the league for 3 years before making an appearance in the music video, and his shot in the video was in a locker room dressed in his basketball uniform…classic Kobe!
He Took Brandy To Prom
Even hot-shots like Kobe Bryant go to prom! During his senior year at Lower Merion High School in Philly, he asked the actress/singer Brandy Norwood to be his prom date. Brandy was starring in the sitcom Moesha, and Kobe had just signed a shoe deal with Adidas while awaiting the NBA 1996 Draft, which was only a few weeks away…can you say power couple! Brandy later went public about their evening, expressing how grateful she was to Kobe for taking her, because she wouldn’t have had a chance to go to prom otherwise…how sweet! The two dated for awhile after Kobe had been drafted, making red carpet appearances together. They remain good friends to this day, Brandy can often be seen on the sidelines at Lakers games, supporting her prom date.
Welcome To The League
Kobe Bryant is regarded by many as one of the most talented and successful players to come out of the NBA. How did he come to earn this esteem do you ask? Well, for starters he was the first guard ever to be drafted right out of high school. The LA Lakers saw this young kid’s talent and took him straight from Lower Merion High School in Philly in the 1996 Draft and brought him to Los Angeles at the young age of 18. As a rookie, you either rise to the occasion or you crack under pressure. Surprisingly, Kobe was the latter, struggling during his first season and finishing with a mere 7.6 points and 15 minutes per game. But, we have to remind ourselves that Kobe skipped college, so he therefore didn’t have that crucial stepping stone between high school and the pros to mature. Kobe wasn’t one to quit, he trained tirelessly, increased his workouts and made sure to improve his skill during the off-season. The 1997-98 season was a different ballgame entirely for Kobe, his stats increased to 15.4 points and 26 minutes per game…and they only kept getting better, season after season!
His Number Was Taken
Kobe began his high school days with the number 24, before finishing his last three years with the number 33. He wanted to be no. 33 in the NBA, except it was already taken…by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of course! The League had the number retired upon Kareem’s retirement in 1989, a legend deserves to be honored! Upon entering the NBA, Kobe took the number 8, and it continued to be his number for his entire career. The photo on the right is of Kobe and Kareem, the two are good friends to this day, as Kobe has always looked up to the legend.
The Baby Of The League
Kobe didn’t just make records when he became the first guard ever to be drafted right out of high school, he was also the youngest player ever to play in the league. Kobe stole the award at a mere 18 years, 2 months, and 11 days old. But, as new talent continued to emerge, his record was later passed by Jermaine O’Neal and Andrew Bynum. His debut in the NBA was against the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 3rd 1996, where he played six minutes and went 1-1-1: one rebound, one block, and one foul!
His #1 Pet Peeve
We all have our pet peeves, some people despise those who cut lines, or those who drive 30 mph in a 50 mph zone. We’re sure you’re now thinking of what makes you tick most. Who knew that something could make a 6’6″ beast tick? There is one thing that sets Kobe off more than anything else in the world…can you guess what it is? In the outtakes of an interview for Complex magazine with Marc Ecko, Kobe revealed to fans the thing he despises most. Get ready for it…dog…poop. Yep, Kobe Bryant went on the record clarifying how much he loathes dog feces. If you don’t believe us, we’ll have you know that the Bryant family sued one of their former maids over dog poop…sh** just got real!
He Was In A Famous Documentary
Can you believe that aside from everything else Kobe Bryant has accomplished in his life, he also has an acting credit under his belt?! This guy is superhuman. He appeared in the 2012 I Am Bruce Lee documentary, a film commemorating Lee Jun-fan (known professionally as Bruce Lee) for his achievements on the big screen. Kobe Bryant has always been a huge fan of the martial arts guru, and even goes as far as calling Bruce Lee one of his biggest basketball influences. In 2010 while on tour in Asia, Kobe spoke on his role model saying, “it seems to others that Bruce Lee has nothing to do with basketball, to me he has everything to do with basketball”. The Chinese energy concept of Qi fascinates Kobe, especially it’s relation to not only martial arts, but also to basketball. Kobe likes the way Bruce Lee fights in a “formlessness” way that is very loose and organic. The all-star baller tries to incorporate this fluidity into his game by playing loosely and being able to adapt to different situations quickly.
Many fans have questioned Kobe for his weird habit over the years. It’s hard to find Kobe Bryant on the court without his jersey in his mouth! We, and half of the world are curious as to where this weird habit of his came from! Kobe dished to the Los Angeles Times, “it’s disgusting, but my father taught me when your mouth gets dry, just suck the sweat out of your own jersey, there’s no bravado to any of it; it’s just a disgusting little trick”. At least the famous baller isn’t experiencing any dry mouth on our watch!
Hard Work & Nothing Less
Kobe is a hard-worker, and that is what has gotten him to where he is today. He made the USA Olympic team in 2008 and 2012, where he and the team won Gold both times. Before the 2012 Olympics, Kobe trained day after day to ensure he was prepared to represent his country in London. He had his trainer wake him up at 4 a.m. the day of the finals to get in some extra practice time. His trainer then left the gym to get a quick nap in before the morning team practice at 11:00 am. His trainer recalls noticing Kobe taking jump-shots on one side of the gym, so he asked Kobe when he finished his workout, and got this reply, “‘Oh just now. I wanted 800 shots so yeah, just now”. This story goes to show how committed Kobe is to the game, and how hard he works for his success.
A Laker, And Only A Laker
Did you know that Kobe Bryant was only on one team during his entire career…crazy, right? He is one of the only players in the league who has never been traded from team to team. And, not to mention, his career was quite long! He is actually one of the players with the longest careers in the NBA, with a whopping 20 seasons! He is tied with the great, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kobe and Kareem trail Robert Parish, Kevin Willis, and Kevin Garnett who steal the show with 21 seasons in the League. We commend Kobe on an EXCELLENT job well done! At least fans knew that when they bought Kobe’s jersey, they would be able to get use out of it for a number of years…once a Laker, always a Laker!
Signature Sneaker Line
Kobe Bryant has his own signature Nike shoe line…are you surprised?! Interestingly enough, Kobe mirrored his shoe’s design off of soccer cleats, choosing a low-top sneaker over the ever-so-popular high-top design. During Wilt Chamberlain’s era, the 1960’s, low-top basketball sneakers were debuted, but traditionally, high-tops were the preferred choice, for their style and for ankle injury prevention. Nike followed through on Kobe’s wish for a low-top sneaker and debuted the low-top Kobe IV in 2008. Kobe sneakers are extremely popular to this day. He is currently endorsed by Nike, and is in his 12th year with the company, after starting out with competitor, Adidas. Kobe makes around $8 million a year for his deal with Nike. In the year 2014, Nike sold $105 million dollars worth of Kobe Bryant’s sneakers in the U.S. alone.
All For Love
For some strange reason, when Kobe and Vanessa started dating after meeting on set of the ‘K.O.B.E.’ music video, her high school got involved in the couple’s relationship. After Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California found out about who one of their students was dating, they made her finish her senior year from home. The school claimed that Kobe’s presence was distracting for both Vanessa and her classmates. We guess she knew the relationship would last, because she obliged and took her studies home!
Kobe Bryant is quite the family man if we do say so ourselves! He proposed to his love, Vanessa Laine when she was just 18 years old and he was 22, and the two tied the knot on April 18th, 2001. Surprisingly enough, Kobe’s parents weren’t happy about the marriage, and they didn’t attend the wedding…poor Kobe! Kobe and Vanessa are the proud parents of three beautiful daughters, 15 year old Natalia Diamante, 12 year old Gianna Maria-Onore, and 2 year old Bianka Bella. The three girls all have Italian names because of where their father spent most of his childhood…how cool! The couple is still married to this day, 17 years strong! An amazing career, and a beautiful and healthy family…what could be better?
Kobe Bryant has been featured in the men’s magazine GQ numerous times, his photo even gracing the esteemed magazine’s cover. After talk of marriage troubles among him and Vanessa he dished to 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”. He has set the record straight!
One Of The Greatest Of All Time
Kobe Bryant is regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time. We wanted to round out all of his accolades over the years, get ready it’s quite a long and impressive list! Koby 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. Kobe retired with the third-most points in NBA history, a whopping 33,643! Oh, and he has not one, but two numbers retired by the LA Lakers! It’s safe to say that Kobe Bryant goes down as one of the most likable, and most talented players to ever step foot on the basketball court.