Webby Award winner and People's Voice winner for Best Sports podcast! How did Kobe Bryant craft the passion, the determination, and the strength to become a legend? This remarkable series reveals intimate, never-before-heard tapes of Kobe as a teenager, exploring his thoughts, his dreams, and his goals. Philadelphia journalist Mike Sielski tells the story of Kobe Bryant’s early years, weaving together these tapes and speaking with Kobe's high school coaches, his friends, his family, and the figures who knew him in his youth, to paint an enthralling documentary portrait of the making of an icon. Before he was an outsized global basketball celebrity for the Los Angeles Lakers, a 5-time NBA champion, an 18-time All-Star, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, a children’s-book author, a husband, a father, and sometimes a lightning rod for controversy, Kobe Bryant was a kid from Philadelphia. Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK
Kobe Bryant: basketball superstar for the Los Angeles Lakers, five-time NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, children’s-book author, husband, father, sometimes a lightning rod for controversy and conflict, always a competitor beyond compare, a global icon.
The Bryant Family Legacy
If you want to get to the heart of the Kobe Bryant story, you have to start with the Joe Bryant story, and that means you have to start with Philadelphia. One of the pieces of Kobe’s story that tends to get glossed over is that his dad also played in the NBA. Joe Bryant spent eight years in the league. But throwing out that fact and then moving on doesn’t capture the full picture of Joe’s career. Because long before Kobe Bryant was a high school legend around Philadelphia, Joe Bryant was a high school legend in Philadelphia. And his legend was every bit as grand as his son’s.
A Young Man in Lower Merion
Kobe Bryant wasn’t quite flashing The Mamba Mentality yet. He was 13 years old and he was jumping into the middle of the school year at Bala Cynwyd Middle School. Then after a few more months, boom, he was heading to Lower Merion, a public high school in the suburbs just outside Philadelphia, a school where about 10 percent of the students were Black.
Phenom of Philly
In 1995 high school basketball coach Gregg Downer created a staff of assistants for the purpose of coaching Kobe Bryant. Downer knew what he had in Kobe, and he knew what kind of attention Kobe would draw from opponents, from the media, from everywhere. So he did a really smart, really innovative thing: He brought on four assistants, and each coach would have his own specialized role.
We Need A Hero
In 1995, when Kobe Bryant was making his rise through the high school basketball ranks, it would have been a miracle for Philadelphia's La Salle University to win an NCAA championship.
The Summer of '95
In 1995 it was common for pro and college players to work out, scrimmage, and play pickup games together during the NBA offseason. Philadelphia 76ers General Manager John Lucas was so impressed with local high school basketball phenom Kobe Bryant that he asked if Kobe wanted to work out with the Sixers.