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Monday, April 9, 2007

Kobe Bryant Never Forgot His Italian Childhood

Kobe Bryant may seem like a strange topic for a soccer blog; however, had fate played out a little differently, he might have become famous in another sport.

Kobe was born in Philadelphia, PA, to Pamela and Joseph Bryant. His father was an NBA player, and when Kobe was six, Mr. Bryant took his family (Kobe has two older sisters Shaya and Sharia) to play in the Italian professional basketball league. Kobe and his sisters attended Italian schools, and embraced the culture, along with the lifestyle of Italy. He learned basketball, soccer, and the beautiful Italian language.

According to Wikipedia, "He has said that if he had stayed in Italy, he would have tried to become a professional soccer player, and that his favorite team is AC Milan." (1) The family would reside in Europe for seven years. When they returned, he starred in Philadelphia high school basketball circles. He then made the decision, at the tender age of 17, to enter the NBA draft. He has made significant contributions in his career:
  • Three consecutive NBA championships with the LA Lakers between 2000 and 2002.
  • Nine time NBA All-Star.
  • Youngest player (18) to start an NBA game.
  • Eight-time All-NBA selection.
  • Youngest player to score 10,000, 14,000, 15,000, 16,000, 17,000, 18,000, and 19,000 points.
  • He either holds or shares seven NBA records. (2)
Today, I saw a video clip on the Gazzetta dello Sport web site that featured Kobe. He was giving an interview to Sport Italia. In Italian. "I'm a little embarassed because I went to Italian elementary schools, but haven't spoken the language much in a long time." It is very rare to see a famous athlete appear genuinely humble. In my opinion, his Italian was superb.

The interview focused mostly on his NBA career; however, I found the first question and response to be the most salient of the entire discussion.

(Sport Italia) "What stayed with you from your years in Italy?

(Kobe Bryant) "The passion. For the life. A passion to play basketball. A passion to play and do the things you love with all your heart. The passion of the family and children. Of all the things that are important in your life. They have always remained with me. Italy has always remained in my heart." (3)

The country remains in his heart, and the language still resides in his mind. He named his second daughter "Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant."

Can you imagine Kobe wearing the blue shirt of Italy? Or the black and red of AC Milan?

References

(1 and 2) Kobe Bryant in Wikipedia.
(3) Kobe Bryant interviewed by Sport Italia.

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