When it comes to the best basketball players in the world, there will not be many names that you list off before you get to Kobe Bryant. Bryant entered the league at the young age of 18 and is leaving after two decades with a legacy that is impossible to ignore. Kobe's been the personification of effort for most of his career, with stories that detail his work ethic that are enough to make anyone feel guilty.
It is important to remember that greatness also comes with sacrifices. Kobe will be the first to admit that he does not have friends, but what you may interest you is who he reaches out to and considers to be like-minded. While Kobe is a multiple time champion and MVP, he was also arrested in 2003 in regards to a sexual assault allegation. The story impacted Kobe in countless ways, but not all of them were bad. The fallout of the situation and his thoughts on it is further discussed in this piece.
There is no better person to describe Kobe Bryant quite like Kobe himself. In this piece, you'll find some great quotes taken from different periods of Kobe's life and career. It helps paint a picture of an athlete who was tremendously talented, but also battled his own form of demons. It was not always pretty but there was never any doubt that if there was work to be done, there may not be a stronger name to call than Kobe.
His retirement at the end of the 2015-2016 is fitting, if not a few years too late. It is allows the legend to go out on his terms and embrace the spotlight one more time. Whether you hate or love him, I assure you by the end of this list, you'll know Kobe Bryant a lot better than you did before.
20. Most Seasons With The Same Team
When it comes to players who have become icons for their franchise, there might not be any bigger example than Kobe Bryant. Bryant is the Lakers so much so that in his last year they’ll play him however long he wants, to the detriment of the team, because their record is not nearly as important as Kobe. It should be no shocker that Kobe holds the NBA record for most seasons with the same NBA team, as he has been with the Lakers for 2 long decades. This also includes 16 different games on Christmas Day that Kobe has participated in. When asked about it, Kobe stated:
“It's a huge honor and I think it's the way most players envision their careers going. That would kind of be the dream scenario if you could be with a franchise and play your entire career with one franchise.”
18 His Grandfather’s Role
When Kobe was 10 years old, he was living in Italy with his Father, who also played in the NBA. Shockingly, NBA games may not have been as plentiful in Italy. As a result, Kobe’s grandfather who would mail Kobe tapes of NBA broadcasts from TNT. Kobe openly talks about how film study has been influential in his development as a basketball player. Kobe is not shy to openly praise other players, and it is fascinating to watch the influence of other superstars on helping a legend like Kobe hone his game. Kobe recalled talking to his father about basketball:
"My father told me, 'Watch this. See this guy? This is how you can make use of your left hand,' " Kobe said. "It was John Battle, dribbling left and laying it in."
It is clear that Kobe's outstanding mind for the game of basketball was developed at a young age.
17 He Played With Lamar Odom In High School
Kobe Bryant was an outstanding basketball player at Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, so much so that he ended up skipping college and was selected in the NBA Draft in the first round. Kobe was the 6th player to do so, with the most notable example being Kevin Garnett. Part of what helped Kobe excel in high school may have been playing alongside Lamar Odom. While Odom spent a year playing for Rhode Island, both Bryant and Odom were first round picks and both have also won championships.
16 He Had A Falling Out With His Parents
Life may have seemed like it was going pretty well for Kobe when he was leaving high school and going into the NBA. Kobe also made the decision to get married at an incredibly young age and did not sign a prenup because he just loved her too darn much. The marriage led to a falling out that lasted two years until his wife, Vanessa Laine, gave birth to their daughter. While they are a close family now, it is interesting to think about what an impact that may have had on a very young Kobe, who was just trying to figure out his own place in the league.
15 His Thoughts On Rehab
Towards the end of Kobe’s career, he has unfortunately been sidelined with injuries. During his prime, Kobe was as durable and as consistent as they come. When it comes to tackling rehab, he looks at it the same way he did the game of basketball, saying:
“I just go. Once I make the decision I am going to take this challenge on, I never waiver and I never question the investment. I already made the decision. You have those painful moments, but you just keep on moving.”
By this point in Kobe’s career, he’s clearly proven to the world that there is nothing he can’t do when he puts his mind to it.
14 His Daughters' Thoughts On His Retirement
When it comes to playing professional sports, there are many sacrifices that players make. One of the biggest sacrifices is that it significantly impacts the time you get to spend with your family. Kobe is looking forward to spending more time with his two twin daughters. When asked their thoughts on his retirement, Kobe went onto state:
“They want me home more. I love being around them. But they understand the sadness about it, too. They understand that you’ve been playing this since you were a kid and it could all be over. It’s like, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy.’ To them, they know me as ‘Dad.’ They see me workout. They see me train. They see the effort I put in. But I’m always Dad to them. If I try to show them how to make a move, they are like, ‘Dad, seriously?’ [Like] I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’m just Dad. It’s awesome.”
Clearly, there is no shortage of things to get Kobe excited about in the next stage of his life.
13 His Relationship With His Wife
Kobe's relationship with his wife has definitely had its fair share of struggles. They got married at a very young age, and as you know now, it caused issues with his parents. When asked about his relationship now, Kobe stated:
"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."
Kobe may not be the greatest husband in the world, but at least he is not afraid to say that he is willing to put in the work.
12 The Endorsements He Lost
In 2003, Kobe Bryant was arrested in relation to a potential sexual assault on a 19-year-old girl. Kobe ended up admitting to sleeping with the woman, but that the entire act was consensual. The case ended up being settled out of court after the accuser refused to testify. While this did not take Kobe away from the basketball court, it definitely took away from his wallet. He lost deals with McDonald's, Nutella, Nike, Coco-Cola and didn't get any new sponsorship until 2006. Kobe has since rebounded to being one of the most marketable athletes, but there was definitely a time where that was not the case.
11 He Has A Documentary
Kobe Bryant teamed up with Showtime to create a documentary entitled Kobe Bryant's Muse. The film came out last February, and when asked about it, Kobe talked about how the project evolved:
"They followed me around with the cameras, and we did all that stuff, and we had a film. We sat here, watched the film, and at that time I had already crystallized what we were going to do with Kobe Inc., and what I enjoy doing, which is storytelling. So after we watched this, I said, 'You know what? Let's not make a standard documentary. Let's make something more.' ... So we put the brakes on that project (nearly a year ago), and just created something completely new."
At the very least, you know the documentary followed the vision that Kobe had for it.
10 He Wants The All-Star Game To Be More Competitive
It is easy to see how the All-Star game is now and think that it always used to be that way. Things are relaxed, people make jokes and it’s not really seen as a largely competitive game. This baffles Kobe, who feels that everything could be a competition, and he wishes it would change. Kobe has stated:
“Go back and watch the 1988 All-Star game, the '89 All Star game. Those guys competed. They were trying to win, man. And I always tried to do the same thing. ... You understand, when I'm matching up with Vince [Carter] in the All-Star Game, or matching up with Dwayne [Wade] in the All-Star Game, they know I'm coming. Hopefully All-Star Games will get back to that.”
9 The Role Of Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson was not always a fan of Kobe, but there is no doubting the role that the Hall of Fame coach had on Kobe. Prior to Jackson, Kobe was struggling to avoid distractions plaguing his game. Jackson allowed Kobe to, as Kobe says:
“Stay present, stay in the moment and not predict what it is that you're seeing. You see it in all the time in your profession. Writers come up and they talk to a player, and they already have a preconceived idea of what it is they're going to write."
While Kobe can think that now, it does not mean things were always warm and fuzzy between the two. Thankfully for the Lakers, he used that drive to become an even better player.
8 He Reaches Out To People He Admires
When it comes to being at the top of your profession, it may not come as a shock that you also want to reach out to people that are also incredibly successful. Kobe has a habit of cold-calling (or cold-emailing) different powerful people in the world to learn from them. Most recently, he had reached out to Anna Wintour, who was the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine. When asked why her, Kobe said:
“She has a reputation in her industry similar to mine, and we drive people. But I was really curious to understand how she's able to create such a culture of excellence, of glamour, in her publication and be able to do it consistently year after year after year after year after year. How is that culture created within that company, and how is it sustainable."
Clearly, Kobe doesn't just take his inspiration from other NBA players.
8. How He’s Noticed He's Aging Physically
There is no doubt that professional athletes are putting their bodies under some significant wear and tear. This is even more true when you consider the relentless work ethic that Kobe had follow him throughout his career. When someone who works so hard decides to step away, it is interesting to know how Kobe knew it was time. Kobe has stated:
“It's strange. If I could describe it, it's like when you don't have the energy in the legs that you used to have. It's the energy in the legs. It's the explosiveness. It's the continual motor. Those things are always taken for granted.”
At the very least you know he is stepping away at a time when he feels he cannot be the physically dominant player that he once was.
7 His Relationship With Shaq
When it comes to the ups and downs of Kobe’s career, there is no doubt that one of the most controversial individuals involved was Shaq. The two won championships together but also publicly feuded with one another in what ended up being irreconcilable differences. When asked why the animosity, Kobe stated:
"And it became insulting. Because I chose to extend my deal with the Lakers to play with Shaquille O’ Neal and win championships. I knew what I could have done individually. I could have gone to another team and averaged 35 points a game. I could have gone anywhere and destroyed people. I gave that up to win championships. So it was infuriating to hear people say I was selfish. It was very, very maddening.”
Kobe went on to state that he felt Shaq was lazy for certain years (not counting his championship years) and that he was not afraid to tell him that it bugged him. Easy to see why these two butted heads.
6 He Doesn’t Have Friends
When you look at someone like Kobe Bryant, it is easy to think that there is not a likely chance that he has time for a lot of friends in his life in between family, being a phenomenal basketballer and just, you know, being Kobe. He has admitted that he does not have friends but instead has ‘like minds.’ To explain, Kobe has said:
“You know, I’ve been fortunate to play in Los Angeles, where there are a lot of people like me. Actors. Musicians. Businessmen. Obsessives. People who feel like God put them on earth to do whatever it is that they do. Now, do we have time to build great relationships? Do we have time to build great friendships? No. Do we have time to socialize and to hangout aimlessly? No. Do we want to do that? No. We want to work. I enjoy working.”
Kobe knows what it is that he enjoys in his life.
5 The Impact Of The Colorado Situation
Kobe has spent time in his career as a hero, but also a villain. After a sexual assault charge came to light, Kobe admitted that he changed his overall attitude towards media:
"Me sitting here, doing this interview—I don’t have to do this. Ever since Colorado, I control my shit. If I don’t want to do something, I don’t fucking do it. Nobody is going to control my career or my life."
Well, there is no doubting that Kobe doing things his way has worked out pretty well for him so far.
4 What He Thinks About People Who Say He Shoots Too Much
When you are one of the greatest of all time, there are also going to be people who criticize you. Given that for certain years Kobe literally seemed like the entire Lakers team, it may not be surprising to know that one of the criticisms is that he shoots too much. What does that even mean? Well, Kobe explains:
"I’ve shot too much from the time I was eight years old. But ’too much’ is a matter of perspective. Some people thought Mozart had too many notes in his compositions. Let me put it this way: I entertain people who say I shoot too much.”
If he takes a shot and he misses, the haters are happy. If he makes it, the Laker fans are happy. Double win!
3 He Held The World’s Largest Global Media Call
Kobe is a huge ambassador for trying to help the game grow in different parts of the world. This past December, he held a global media call that included 146 reporters from 24 different countries and territories. This was the largest media call in league history and will hopefully set a benchmark going forward of players being open and willing to extend their talent to unfamiliar markets. When asked if he would ever consider taking his game and ending his career in Italy or China, two places where he has spent time, Kobe stated:
“I can see myself doing that. I can see myself doing a lot of stuff. That’s a whole other question. I will make some decisions when I decide to hang it up.”
Let’s be honest, Kobe is done playing basketball but it’s still nice to see a superstar be so willing to talk about the value of other markets.
2 What He Is Taking With Him From The Game
There is nobody out there that can deny Kobe has left an unbelievable legacy. Forever a legend in the city of LA, Kobe has won MVPs, Championships and been a perennial all-star his entire career. It’s easy to see those things and think that is what he is taking away from the game, but it is not all. Kobe talked about the deeper meaning of basketball:
“The understanding of perseverance, of how to deal with failure, how to handle successes, understanding how to communicate with others, understanding how to understand others, empathy, compassion and things like that. Those are things that I’ll carry with me forever.”
1 When He Knew He Was Done
It is one thing to talk about the physical toll of basketball, but it is easy to overlook the mental impact of playing the game. For Kobe, basketball was not just a game but a way of life. Kobe spoke in the past about how in the mornings he would set aside 15 minutes and think about life, and perhaps not shockingly, his mind would often drift towards basketball. Things started to change for Kobe, as he has said:
“About a year and a half ago. It's a weird thing to have happen. The game has really been a part of me since I was two. So to have my mind start drifting to something else, kind of becoming obsessive about that, then I knew it was time to really walk away.”
If neither your heart, nor body is in it anymore, what is the value in still playing?