Reliving Kobe Bryant’s All-Star Life

By Aileen Dometita January 31, 2020

When newspaper reports featured that Kobe Bryant’s helicopter had crashed, the world came to a standstill. It anticipated that out of the wreckage, the legend would survive, for, after all, he was invincible. It was just incomprehensible that he would pass away seconds before the shot clock ran out. He was merely retiring, but this was not the end of him. People would still flock to his success, but out of mentorship. Alas, what better way to pay tribute to the legend, but to remember him in his entirety- both the good and the bad.      

Taking After His Father’s Love of The Sport

Although Kobe Bryant was born in Pennsylvania, U.S, he spent much of his childhood and adolescence in Rieti, Italy. He had merely been six years old when his family immigrated to the said country. This was largely due to Joe Bryant’s retirement from the NBA. Joe had been a power forward and a small forward on the court for almost nine years.

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 He had played for the Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, and the Philadelphia76ers, amongst a few. Upon immigration in 1984, Joe decided to play in Italy’s basketball team, AMG Sebastiani.

Growing up in Italy, Kobe was a True Reggiano

If there is one thing that has remained consistent throughout the decades in Italy’s sporting culture, it is their notorious fanaticism for soccer. Forwarders and midfielders such as Andrea Carnevale, Fernando de Napoli, and Roberto Donadoni could incite intense emotionalism from the crowd.

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This enthusiasm, however, did not fully rub off Kobe for he focused his attention on basketball. He would jump off their house’s balcony; lithely land on his feet; maneuver his way through the market stalls, and dash towards the basketball court where the hoop would meet the exuberance of his shots.

The Aspirant lands the Local Basketball Team

His grit and zeal paid off. He was able to participate in the local basketball team named Cantine Riunite Youth when he was 12 years old. This was when his family moved to another Italian town named Reggio Emilia. His team members noticed that Kobe had been a cut above the rest. This dedication continued long after everyone had gone home.

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While others resorted to basketball as a hobby, Kobe would keep at it- dribbling, and shooting hoops at home. His father even had him watch basketball footage to learn renowned teams’ game plans and players’ styles.

Prioritizing his Academics, an All-Time High

His family moved back to Philadelphia where Bryant finished high school in Lower Merion. Nonetheless, he remained enamored with his love for sports. His high school English teacher, Jeanne Mastriano, recounted that Kobe would be pulled out to play basketball, but upon returning to class he would have completed and readied the assignments.

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When prompted by Mastriano to write different verses, meters, and types of poetry, Kobe would write about Basketball. The latter had been encouraged but advised to keep an alternative plan- which Kobe readily dismissed in view of playing professional basketball.  

High School Days Before Joining the NBA

Upon taking the SAT, Kobe garnered a score of 1080. He was well qualified to apply for and receive a collegiate basketball scholarship; Duke had been his choice. Upon further thought, he opted to join the NBA directly. His parents had co-signed his contract with the Charlotte Hornets for he had only been 17.

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It wasn’t long before the season began, that he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. He signed a contract with them on his account. Within a year, he was playing on the court with superstar Shaquille O’Neal.

A Rookie Dodges a Punch from Shaquille O’ Neal

Shaquille O’ Neal threw a punch at the young adult, during lockout season in a pickup collegiate game. The duo was pitted against each other, heckling, and running high on adrenaline. O’ Neal, consumed by the need to win, taunted the teenager, saying, “Take that, little b****…What are you gonna do about it?”

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O’ Neal clenched his fist, withdrew his shoulder and aimed to hit young Kobe in the face. Kobe dodged the massive fist by meager inches and blindly threw one back. Given such a wide difference in stature, Kobe admits that the dismal throws were merely to show that he was unintimidated by O’ Neal. It took a few minutes before the two were torn apart by team members.

Marriage is on the Rise for the Promising Basketball Player

Mexican teen model Vanessa Urbieta caught the eye of then- 21-year-old Kobe Bryant. Kobe had tried to launch a career in the music industry when he met Vanessa who was featured in one of Snoop Dog’s music videos. A year later, the pair decided to marry, to the chagrin of Kobe’s parents.

The disapproval stemmed from Vanessa’s Latin heritage; Joe Bryant had intended for his son to marry an African-American woman. Kobe’s parents were visibly absent during the marriage ceremony. Joe nonchalantly stated that it was Kobe’s life now that he had gotten married.

Two Giants Land the Championship for the Lakers

Despite the feud between O’Neal and Bryant, they were both feverish to gain acclaim on the court. Either one would occasionally misdirect their anger during gameplay, but both understood that it was borne out of respect. Shaq would mock Kobe’s turnovers and crossovers, but both understood that this was an inside joke.

Their team consecutively championed the NBA 1999-2001 seasons. No one has won a championship row ever since.  

Looking Out for his Sisters By Holding Back Support

Kobe has two sisters, Sharia and Shaya. When he had been a rookie in the NBA until the early 2000s, he financially supported the two. Eventually, he held back believing that he was reinforcing their dependency, well off into adulthood.

At first, he was met with resistance, but his sisters soon forged their own career after graduating from college. Kobe tells the press that he could not have been more proud of them, for choosing to grow independently.

Trouble Brewing With his Public Image

Kobe had suffered from a knee injury and had to have such operated. He checked himself in a lodge and spa in Colorado. After being shown his room, he requested the 19-year old concierge to return and give him a private tour; she conceded. After the 15-minute tour around the grounds, the victim bid goodbye. Kobe requested a hug. She acceded to such when Kobe planted a kiss on her lips. The woman tried to leave but Kobe was forceful in his efforts.

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Kobe held her by the neck and forced her by the side of the couch. During the entirety, the victim frequently kept saying no. She was certain that the basketball player heard her because every time she said it, he tightened his grip. He asked her if she would tell anybody, to which she said no. She was fearful that he would restrain her further or use force if she had threatened to report him.

When the charges were filed, Bryant claimed they subsequently had consensual sex, the victim cried afoul that she had been raped. The prosecution showed evidentiary documents that she incurred vaginal tears, and bruises around her neck. Moreover, her underwear and Bryant’s shirt had been bloodied. The criminal charges were eventually dropped, but Bryant made a settlement in the civil case. Although maintaining his innocence, he apologized to the victim while reading a statement in court.

Kobe Becomes the Lone Star of the LA Lakers

A poor playoff causes the LA Lakers to lose to the Spurs. A press war ensues between the two players, where both insist that the other leave the team.   The Lakers team traded off O’ Neal to the Miami Heat, refusing to concede to the latter’s call for more money.

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     In 2004-2005, O Neal’s Miami Heat faced the LA Lakers on the court. With everyone glued to their seats, O Neal taunted the crowd by asking what happens to a Corvette that runs into a brick wall. Shaquille indignantly dominates the court and beats Kobe’s Lakers twice during the regular season.

 Channeling the “Black Mamba”

After settling the civil aspect of the sexual assault charges, Kobe Bryant struggled to maintain the public image of an outstanding basketball player. His reputation had been badly tarnished. He had subjected his wife to ridicule. This pressure took a toll on Vanessa as she later suffered a miscarriage. Moreover, endorsers refused to renew their contract with him. To cope with such disgrace, Kobe Bryant dissociated himself by embracing the alter-ego known as “Black Mamba”.

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To cope with such disgrace, Kobe Bryant dissociated himself by embracing the alter-ego known as “Black Mamba”. Kobe recounts that his name evoked negativity. To channel stoic attention to basketball, he would summon the “Black Mamba”- stone-cold and slithering to wry the ball from the opponent. Further on, he created the Mamba Brand akin to a phoenix rising from the ashes.

 The Mamba Mentality- Infectious and Relentless

In one of his Instagram pictures, Kobe poses with rare disgruntlement behind a female team of youth basketball. Without interpreting his post in a negative light, almost all of the team members, looking scoured and slumped over, held their trophy no higher than their nose.

In his caption, he details that the members have worked with him two years since the game, and have grown more dedicated to the sport, instead of (one player) having chosen dance. This work ethic- demanding the same intensity of commitment from others, as much as he imposed such on himself, is the very foundation of “Mamba Mentality”. He thrived in discomfort, knowing full well that it is within our nature to reinvent ourselves. This introspection leads to betterment, and eventually greatness.

While Kobe believed in mentorship, the mentality also drew on the competition. Since the higher up one goes in any field, only a limited few can bask in the limelight. He aimed and succeeded in “killing” the opposition. This was infective. Now, his mentee, LeBron James, dominates in the likes of him.

Going Beyond the Court- Spouses Establish a Foundation

The couple shelled out money to help youth minorities. Believing that sports can create a positive impact, Kobe encouraged children, veterans and local communities to play. He also helped build budding careers by offering scholarships.

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Shortly after Kobe’s untimely demise, the site closed down, and donations were directed to the Mamba Sports Foundation(MSF). The MSF also caters to American veterans and NFL athlete training.

Cementing his Place on the Team, Kobe is Named MVP

He successively led the Los Angeles team to victory in the 2006 playoffs against Toronto and the Boston Celtics. In the Lakers-Toronto game, he landed 81 out of 122 points. At this time, he was the second-highest individual to score that many points in a game- Wilt Chamberlain scoring 19 points higher in the 1962 game.

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Kobe garnered the same MVP title in the 2009 and 2010 NBA Finals.

The Olympian Lands Acclaim for the USA

The prestigious event was held in Beijing, China. When he received his jersey, he took a few minutes to revel at the moment. His team composed of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, nd Kevin Durant, to name a few. He hadn’t been close with the others, for they had starred opposite him on the court.

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He admitted that he had much on his mind- filmmaking, writing his book and laying a foundation as his legacy. Nonetheless, he imparted the “Mamba Mentality” which carried the USA to gold in the Olympics. Basking in the glory of the “Redeem Team”, he looked up at the crowd and stared in awe of the spectators’ solidarity. They were just as eager as him to win, so he did. The USA had been restored to worldwide basketball acclaim.

Kobe Remembers and Credits his High School English Teacher

Kobe had a close affinity with his English teacher Jeannie Mastriano for his writing skills. It seems that it has paid off given the notoriety his book has brought, and the moving narration in his short film.

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Kobe recalls that his teacher taught him the value of patience and determination- simply keep swinging the ax, and the tree will eventually fall. The basketball player is an avid learner and believes in betterment. He said the trick is to write without the prompt kill the joy of the moment. One can always get better.

When in Rome, Speak as the Romans Do

Owing to Sasha Vujacic, a family friend, and fellow Lakers player, he learned how to speak Slovenian and did so during a press conference.

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During an in-game interaction, Bryant swore at the Mavericks star player, Luka Doncic in the latter’s native tongue – just to throw off and possibly, humor the competition.  

Keeping True to His Italian Upbringing, Kobe Lauds Soccer

Upon being interviewed, Kobe said that soccer is a strategic sport. A player would need sufficient foresight upon receipt of the ball and anticipate the competition’s movement. Kobe applied elements used in soccer- such as form, structure, and space, to his advantage in playing basketball.

 When Kobe gained mass popularity as an NBA player, he remained an unabashed soccer enthusiast. In 2008, he watched by the sidelines as Argentina won against Brazil. Kobe had even gone to Messi’s table in the cafeteria, sat down with him and talked about gameplay during the Olympics. Way to g, Kobe!

Tension Runs High Amongst Family Members

Like all families, the Bryants were not invulnerable to family disagreements. Kobe’s parents, Joe and Pamela had disapproved of Kobe’s marriage to a Latina and were absent during the latter’s wedding. Their strained relationship only took a turn for the worse when Joe and Pamela auctioned off their son’s memorabilia collection.

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Kobe, outraged at what his parents had done, filed a case against them to retrieve his belongings. Some of which included his high school jersey, NBA championship rings, plaques, and awards. Kobe claims he had not consented to the sale, and that his parent’s actions were an insult to the support he had given his family throughout his career. His parents issued an apology, but the court granted the sale of one-tenth of the items set for auction.

 It was only three years after that the Bryants seemed to have made amends. A former NBA coach saw Kobe and his dad hugging at a camp in Santa Barbara. It was apparent that throughout their misgivings, the Bryants remained a tight-knit family.  

 The Sport Wears Him Out

By 2012, he had ruptured his Achilles’ Tendon and missed out for most of the season. Dwight Howard and Steve Nash covered the floor for the Lakers. Upon returning to court by December, his kneecap gave way.

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The following year, he injured his rotator cuff and struggled to land points for the team. It was the totality and frequency of these injuries that led him to consider retiring.

Basketball, His First True Love  

Following the publication of his book, “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play”, Kobe set to visually narrate his life through a short film. In it, Kobe can be seen to have started playing with his father’s rolled up socks, fashioned into a ball. With only five seconds in the clock, he would imagine himself shooting the breathtakingly momentous shot.

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Adjudged Guilty When Set As an Animation Film Juror

Having claimed another trophy, he was set to sit as a juror in the Animation is Film Festival. However, protests circulated online stating that he was unfit to do so. The petition demanded that the festival ban sex offenders from adjudging; Kobe’s success would whitewash the abuse suffered by his rape victim. 

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The event producers issued a statement directing its efforts focused on the film, and that upon consultation with stakeholders, it would forego with Kobe’s seat in the panel.

 Establishing his Legacy- the Black Mamba Academy

Following his retirement from professional basketball, Kobe directed his energy to mentoring basketball youth and engaging individuals to take up sports for character development, enhancing physical stamina and forging relationships. He co-founded the Black Mamba Academy to train athletes alongside NBA and WNBA players.

His daughter, Gianna Bryant, had taken a liking to basketball and would also participate in the pieces of training held at the Academy. They had been on their way to the facility when the helicopter suddenly crashed killing all people aboard. To pay homage to their untimely death, young athletes, awaiting the Bryants’ arrival, knelt on the basketball court with their heads bowed.

 Alpha Male of The Family

When Kobe Bryant married Vanessa Laine, he would have never imagined that he would be the sole male of the family. Producing four beautiful daughters, the eldest, Natalia is 17 years senior to the youngest child, Capri.

Natalia had a fondness for volleyball, whereas Gianna, the second eldest, took after her father’s sport. Kobe calls them all as his princesses, while Vanessa stands Queen Mamba.

 A Female to Carry on the Legacy

Kobe Bryant was all smiles when he was featured in Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show. They had talked about his newly-established foundation, family life, and his legacy. Jimmy, amazed at the 41-year-old player’s talent, teased that the latter and his wife should try to produce a male son- someone to carry on Kobe’s legacy.

Bryant nonchalantly told the host, that his daughter, Gianna, had taken care of the predicament. She was a basketball protégé and had her eyes set for the WNBA.

For Filial Reasons: Flying via Helicopter

Upon being interviewed, Kobe Bryant mentioned that he loved the efficiency helicopters brought to transport. As a parent of four, there would be occasional school plays and meetings he had to attend.

Between the spouses, he took charge of bringing his daughters to school and fetching them. However, traffic around Los Angeles was getting progressively frustrating, and being hounded by the press made it worse. He looked into alternatives to transport and considered flying via helicopters.

A Day in a Life of an MVP

He had made a daily time plan where he would arise early, do anaerobic exercises, attend to his kids en route to school, fly out for practice and handle the press. After having a few pictures taken, and briefly answering queries, he would board the helicopter, fly back to fetch his kids and run on autopilot carpool mode.

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After kissing his wife goodbye, he would then attend to work. He insisted that the third of an hour spent in a carpool with his kids was more than enough reason to fly in a helicopter. 

 It’s Clear: Weather Conditions and Taking Flight

Kobe had considered the risks when traveling by helicopter. Thus, he had taken some precautions to ascertain his safety and that of his children during these trips. He entrusted his life with the sole expertise of pilot, Ara Zobayan.  Moreover, he and his wife decided that they would never ride together to ensure that his children would have a surviving parent, in any happenstance.

His last flight route was deemed to be a “Cadillac Escalade” of helicopters- running across Los Angeles. Moreover, the chopper he rode on was equipped with dual engines and system alarms, albeit lacking a warning system and terrain awareness features. The recorded air traffic control communication showed that Ara Zobayan was flying low in altitude- beyond radar coverage, but such is commonly acceptable given the legal altitude ranges for the chopper’s type and class.

Remembering the Legend

 Bryant had worked with Tracy McGrady in the NBA straight out of high school. Oddly enough, McGrady claims that Kobe had wanted to die young and be immortalized as an NBA legend- even transcending Michael Jackson’s fame.

It must be noted that Kobe was in his early 20s at that time, and was only laying down his career’s foundation. The family man, this generation has come to know, would have wanted to see his children grow up.