It feels like, in the year since his tragic and shocking death, we have heard all the Kobe Bryant stories.
Kobe the prodigy. Kobe the young buck. Kobe the champion. Kobe and the mamba mentality. Kobe the mentor. Kobe the girl dad.
But there are stories you probably have not heard, and the latest episode of the Sports Uncovered podcast from NBC Sports — which drops Jan. 21 — has them.
The podcast is titled: Sports Uncovered: My favorite Kobe story.
It is a must-listen as they explore the complex and fascinating person that was Kobe Bean Bryant.
Sports Uncovered is on all podcast platforms: click here to subscribe now!
For example, you probably know the story of the game in 2002 when Kobe took 47 shots against the Boston Celtics (and shot 17-47). When he was asked after the game if he felt he had to take that many with Shaquille O’Neal out that night, Kobe’s response was both brutal and vintage Kobe.
“No,” he said. “I felt like I had a better chance at making a shot 1-on-5 as opposed if my teammates were wide open.”
The story you probably haven’t heard is from the next day at practice, as told by Laker teammate (and future NBA coach) Brian Shaw to Tom Haberstroh:
“So we get back to L.A. and we’re watching film, and Phil Jackson piped in the interview as part of the film session. And then said, ‘how do you guys feel about what your teammate said about you?’ And Rick Fox stood up and he got real emotional and he was like, ‘Man, how do you think that makes us feel?’ and was going off on Kobe. And Kobe just looked at him right in the eyes and said, ‘Rick, you can get mad all you want, but that’s really how I feel.’…
“And so I had to kind of take a step back and in a weird way, it makes you feel like, you know what, if you gotta go in a fox hole with somebody, that’s the mentality of a guy you want to have that feels that he can take everybody out by himself.”
The podcast is filled with those kinds of stories. It has former Oregon and current WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu discussing her eulogy at Kobe and Gigi Bryant’s memorial. It has Olympic gold medalists Usain Bolt and April Ross.
It has Shane Battier — one of the many “Kobe stoppers” over the years who had limited success in that role — talking about his face-guarding technique on defending Bryant. Did it work?
“Well, the answer is, in the end it worked. But not for the reasons you think. I knew that Kobe, being the alpha male he was, would never admit to that technique having an effect on him. And he will go out of his way to show the world that this technique didn’t work. That he was impervious to it. How is the only way to disprove that theory? By taking more mid-range jumpers, which was his weakness. And so, he may have hit more, but he took away his best shot which was driving into the paint, drawing fouls, kicking to teammates, finishing at an unbelievable rate, just to prove me wrong.”
Interviews on the podcast include Kobe’s Lower Merion High School head coach Gregg Downer, through people who covered him in the NBA. Marc Spears, now of The Undefeated at ESPN, talks about how Kobe studied and prepped for everything — including meeting fans after the game.
Spears describes how Kobe got a “scouting report” on a 7-year-old named Cameron with a speech impediment that he met after a game at Staples Center.
“Kobe comes out the locker room and yells, ‘Where’s Cameron at? Where’s Cameron at?’ Cameron sheepishly puts his hand up like, here I am. Goes up to him, Cameron’s like frozen, his friends are frozen. He hugs Cameron, and he hugged like his two friends. And then he asked them how they’re doing at school and asks them if they play basketball and gives them some basketball motivational words.”
Kobe impacted Cameron’s life in ways he may not have ever realized.
“So all of a sudden, it went across the school, that Cameron knew Kobe. And the big kid, the shy kid who had dealt with this speech impediment when he was a child, all sudden the whole school was wanting to be his friend. Just cause he knew Kobe Bryant.”
There is so much more, such as LA Times columnist LZ Granderson talking about the growth of Kobe after he used — and paid a fine for — an anti-gay slur to insult referee Bennie Adams during a game in 2011.
“By 2014, I would say Kobe’s worldview had shifted from one of someone who didn’t necessarily have a problem with gay people, to someone who spoke up on behalf of gay people.”
The stories go on and on, like Kobe torching Isaiah “J.R.” Rider in after practice, and much more.
Check out the Sports Uncovered podcast from NBC Sports, and spend some time remembering Kobe as one of the great personalities in sport.