Growing up, you may have seen kids in school, kids on the streets and kids on basketball courts randomly shout ‘KOBE’ whilst shooting a spherical object; be it a crushed-up paper ball or an actual basketball into a dustbin or hoop respectively. To the untrained eye all of this may seem like a bunch of nonsense but, to basketball fans, this was much deeper and more personal. This was the emulation of a man and a hero who the world mourned on the 26th of January 2020.
Kobe Bean Bryant was born on the 23rd of August 1978 to Pam and Joe Bryant in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The name ‘Kobe’ came from a Japanese steak which his parents found a liking for. At the age of six, the whole Bryant family moved to Italy where Kobe’s father played in a lower league. In his time, Kobe was able to fluently communicate the Italian language, which he would then go on use to much effect against his foreign opponents later on in life. Football was one of Kobe’s favourite sports growing up, with him being an avid fan of the famous Italian team AC Milan.
In 1991, he returned to his hometown and started playing basketball at the Lower Merion High School. In a time when high school media outlets such as BallisLife and Overtime were scarce; Kobe was known to be a walking highlight reel and went onto win four straight state championships. Kobe wasn’t just a student of the game, but also an avid learner in class which garnered him multiple college opportunities. However, being the opportunist that he was, he took a leap from high school straight into the 1996 NBA draft; one which included several future hall of famers including Steve Nash, Ray Allen and Allen Iverson.
When Kobe was in Italy, his grandfather used to send him tapes of Los Angeles Lakers games and he became a fan immediately, his eyes gripped to every piece of the action. From Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Magic Johnson, his heroes taught him to love the game and inspired him to one day become a legendary Laker. On draft night, Kobe Bryant was picked 13th overall to the Charlotte Hornets. If this was a parallel universe, we would have seen Kobe Bryant teaming up with Michael Jordan who would go onto buy the Hornets. But as fate would have it, Kobe got his wish and was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. In all honesty, the words ‘Kobe’ and ‘Lakers’ have become synonymous in recent times, with this lanky 18-year-old going onto have a 20-year career in purple and gold.