Kobe Bryant and His European Basketball Roots

Kobe Bryant and His European Basketball Roots 1

Every time people mentioned Kobe Bryant’s name, it would either be because of his work ethic, his great talent, or his drive to win. Other times it would be in talks about who the greatest of all time (GOAT) is. Most of the time, it would be that no matter how difficult it would be to play against him, Kobe was still one of the greatest friends they ever had. That’s why when the unreal news of his untimely death reached people, it felt like a bad dream.

Many people remember Kobe for being the face of the Los Angeles Lakers. But what others don’t know is that before he played in the NBA, he used to play in Europe. When his dad, Joe Bryant, finished his NBA career in 1983, they decided to move to Europe the following year. Kobe, who was six years old then, was familiarizing himself with a basketball court despite being, well, small. Growing up in Italy meant that football was one of the sports he played as a child. However, his talent for basketball was obvious, and coaches and players that knew his father were also taking notice.

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Kobe returned to Philadelphia in 1991 when his dad fully retired from playing basketball. Besides developing his game in Italy and in France, he was also able to hone his talents during summers in the US. His hard work would pay off when, straight out of playing for Lower Merion High School, he would declare himself ready for the 1996 NBA Draft. He would be selected as the 13th pick in the first round by the Charlotte Hornets and would eventually be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.

However, what many don’t know is his love for European basketball and his roots there. When Kobe was still in grade school, he learned to speak fluent Italian so that he could communicate with his friends properly during sports. He eventually grew accustomed to the lifestyle and would even talk about his memories at Reggio Emilia and his childhood memories when he used to live in northern Italy. Despite being a force to be reckoned with in the NBA, he never considered himself to be one. Instead, he saw himself as a student of the sport, absorbing anything and everything there is to learn.

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During his tour of Europe, he would return to Italy as one of his stops. He also went to Greece in 2011, Turkey in 2012, the Netherlands in 2016, and London in 2017. He would also travel to Germany in 2014 due to knee problems, and was well-versed in Italian and Spanish.

Never did he once look down on his European brothers in basketball. He acknowledged their talents despite not making it in the NBA. He also had a great friendship with Pau Gasol.