Kobe Bryant was renowned all over the world, and the news of his passing on the 26th of January, 2020, came as a shock to millions. Kobe achieved a lot in his life, starting on the basketball court, where his mind-blowing skills and unmatched dedication to the spot were simply exceptional. But there are other intriguing facts about the basket legend. Here are ten facts that will amaze and surprise you about the icon that was Kobe Bryant!
1. Kobe’s Relationship with Japan
Kobe's father loved Kobe beef so much that he decided to name his son after the expensive and rare Japanese cut of meat. Did you know that Kobe beef is the most expensive beef in the world?
Over his career, Kobe became a much-loved player in Japan, and he often maintained close ties with the nation. In fact, in 2001, the basketball star was named a friendship ambassador for Kobe (a city in Japan). This was three years after he visited the city to support reconstruction efforts following the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
But things took a surprising twist in 2010 when he filed a lawsuit against the Japanese city over the naming rights of their beef. His attorney claimed that the star guard believed he had garnered more popularity and influence than the city. It turns out Kobe no longer wanted to share his name with the tender, fatty beef he had been named after and neither the city.
2. The Charlotte Hornets Originally Drafted Bryant
Kobe Bryant was a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout the entirety of his 20-year career. But it was the Charlotte Hornets and not the Lakers that drafted Kobe with 13th pick overall in the 1996 Draft. It turns out days before the draft; the Hornets reportedly made a deal with the Lakers to trade in Kobe for Vlade Divac (now retired Serbian professional basketball player).
At the time, Hornets had an extensive range of guards, and taking a chance on one who hadn't even played at the college level wasn’t something they wanted to take a risk on. If only they had the hindsight to keep him, as Bryant went on to become one of the greatest guards of all time.
3. His Failed Music Career
Early on in his career, Kobe Bryant tried his hand at acting, music, and other non-sports activities. His first shot at a music career was a verse and a cameo in Brian McKnight’s 1997 song “Hold Me.” Soon after, he featured in the 1999 remix of Destiny Child’s “Say My Name.”
This was someone who wanted to be taken seriously as a musician. Soon after, he released his first solo single, “K.O.B.E.” The song wasn’t well-received. In fact, it was an epic fail and Sony Entertainment immediately axed the planned album.
While these endeavors never went far, they definitely portrayed a different side of Bryant—a great quality every successful person embodies!
4. Kobe Holds The NBA Record of Most Missed Shots
Bryant was known for his go-getter attitude on and off the basketball court. It’s no surprise that he rarely felt the need for the green light from coaches or teammates to take a lot of shots — it was going to happen whether they liked it or not.
No wonder he retired as the all-time highest-scoring Laker and was the fourth-highest scoring player in NBA history, with 33,643 career points. But this also came at a cost—Kobe went down in history as the NBA's all-time leader in missed shots(14,481 in total).
5. He was an AC Milan Fan since his Childhood
Kobe Bryant spent the better part of his childhood (from ages 6 to 13) in Italy and became fluent in Italian. As his father, Joe Bryant, played for several basketball teams in the country during this period, Kobe followed Italian soccer closely and becoming an AC Milan fan. This was a no-brainer for him, considering the high trophy haul that the team scooped while he was in Italy.
The team won the Champions League twice, Coppa Italia twice, and Serie A title once. In one of his interviews, Bryant said, “It’s always been my favorite squad. Back in Los Angeles, I have an AC Milan shirt and scarf inside my locker, and I see them every day.” After his passing on, AC Milan and the fans paid tribute to Kobe Bryant before the Coppa Italia quarter-final match between AC Milan and Torino at San Siro on the 28th of January, 2020.
6. Mike D’Antoni was Bryant's favorite Basketball Player
While Kobe was always a fan of Johnson and the Lakers as they were winning championships, his childhood star was Mike D’Antoni (the Italian LBA league's top point guard of all time in 1990). During his stint at Olimpia Milano, D’antoni read the team to five Italian League titles among other competition wins. With all this success, it’s no surprise Kobe looked up to him so much.
D’antoni was one of the primary motivators behind Bryant’s choice to wear jersey number 8, as that was D’Antoni’s jersey number when he played in Milan. Their paths crossed in 2008 as D’Antoni was part of the coaching staff for the 2008 debut of Kobe to the USA National Basketball team. That year the US won the Gold Medal at the Summer Olympics.
7. Kobe Bryant’s Parents Didn’t Attend His Wedding
In 2001, at the age of 23, Bryant married his then-girlfriend, Vanessa Laine. The duo met in 1999 when he was 21, while Vanessa was 17. Six months later, they got engaged and finally tied the nuptial knot two years later. However, Bryant’s parents and his two sisters didn’t attend his wedding as well as his two sisters.
His father was against his decision to marry at such a young age and more so to a lady from a different race. Despite his father’s objections, Bryant stood by his wife and made it clear that his marriage took priority in his life. Their marriage lasted 19 years before he passed away, and they were blessed with four daughters.
8. Kobe Bryant’s change from jersey Number 8 to 24
Through the first 10 years of his career, Bryant donned No. 8. According to Kobe, this as being a time in his career where he was trying to prove himself. But before the start of the 2006-07 season, Bryant chose to switch it to 24 for the remainder of his career.
To him, this represented a fresh start and a period of his career where he had truly matured as a player and man. To quote him directly, “… Then 24 is a growth from that. Physical attributes aren’t there the way they used to be, but the maturity level is greater. Marriage, kids. Start having a broader perspective being one of the older guys on the team now, as opposed to being the youngest. Things evolve.”
This is something every gentleman has to do at least once in his lifetime—redefine himself and adapt to the changes he has to undergo as he progresses through life and gets older.
9. He Was Philanthropic and Supported Many Charities
During his basketball career, Bryant engaged in numerous charity projects. His charitable endeavors are too many to list here, a direct reflection on the kind of man he was. A loving and caring individual. That being said we have listed a few:
- He volunteered for the Boys & Girls Club of America, often hosting basketball camps.
- He participated in the league’s NBA Cares initiatives, where he helped build homes and basketball courts, stocked food pantries, and supported reading initiatives.
- He worked with sick kids through the Make-A-Wish initiative.
- He participated in a fundraising effort for Stand Up To Cancer in 2012 that raised more than $80 million for cancer research.
10. Kobe’s Infidelity Almost Broke His Family
Kobe and his family were thrust into the negative spotlight when he faced sexual assault allegations. He was being accused of raping a 19-year-old woman in 2003 at a Colorado hotel. But Kobe claimed the encounter was consensual. Prosecutors eventually dropped the case when the woman told them she was unwilling to testify.
The matter went on to be settled out of court. During a press conference at the time, Kobe took responsibility for his actions and apologized profusely to his wife and family and worked to prove himself a better man in the years since.
This scandal expectedly put a strain on his marriage, and Vanessa would later file for divorce in 2011, but the pair ultimately worked through their differences, and the divorce was called off in 2013.