Kobe Bryant. History of the Lakers champion who grew up in Tuscany
Pistoia, friends, the camps and the 'one on one' challenges: everything is needed to win in the NBA.
A great man and a tireless champion disappears prematurely. Kobe Bryant was all that and more. In his life there appears a unique bond with Tuscany, especially with Pistoia where, between the 80s and 90s, he lived. We want to remember him by publishing an exclusive cover interview that appeared in our Firenze Made in Tuscany Magazine.
The next-door champion. The one that one day is playing in the neighborhood field and the next appears on television. One of the most sparkling stars of the NBA basketball league. The one that couldn’t stand losing a one-on-one game and always asked for a return match. Kobe.
The very first word he learned to say was “win”. Figures prove it: three NBA titles (2000, 2001 and 2002), a gold Olympic medal (2008), MVP of the year in NBA league (2007/2008), three-time MVP of the All Star Game (2002, 2007 and 2009), youngest player of the All Star Game (19 years and 175 days old, on February 8th1998), the youngest winner of a slam-dunk contest (18 years and 175 days old, on February 8th1997), one of the two players who ever scored 50 or more points in four consecutive games (Wilt Chamberlain achieved seven games in a row), the highest number of three-point shots in a single game (12, on January 7th2003, vs Seattle Supersonics), the highest number of three-point shots in a half (8, on March 28th2003 vs Washington Wizards), the highest number of three-point shots in a row in a single game (9, on January 7th2003 vs Seattle SuperSonics), the highest number of free shots in a quarter (14, on December 20th2005 vs Dallas Mavericks), the highest number of three-point shots in the All Star Games (14). We could go on and on.
But basketball lovers know that that’s enough and to spare. Kobe’s next door was along the uphill road that leads from Pistoia to Abetone. The Bryants’ place was in Cireglio when Joe, known as Giuseppe, Kobe’s father, played in the Pistoia team in the years between the ‘80s and ‘90s. Joe Bryant played seven seasons in Italy, first in Rieti, then in Pistoia and Reggio Emilia.. Kobe still has a deep Tuscan accent. He was named after the beef steak enjoyed by his parents, Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox (daughter of basketball player John Cox) at a restaurant shortly before he was born. Kobe’s favorite soccer team is AC Milan and he is a big fan of Frank Rijkaard and Ronaldinho . “Actually- says Kobe- I often look back and have pleasant memories of the time spent in Tuscany and in Italy. I am very fond of your region, it is very important to me. My teenager years are an unforgettable part of my life.
Have you lost touch of your friends of that period or not?
I am still in contact with some of them. Not only in Pistoia, but also in Rieti and Reggio Emilia. And, I have to admit it, I really enjoy bringing my wife and children (Vanessa and daughters Natalia Diamante and Gianna Maria Onore) to Italy to see the places I grew up in. It is really nice to see that most of these places have not changed much since I lived there. And if I have the chance to meet an old friend, I’m even more anxious to come back as often as possible.
What have you learned from your father about basketball?
My father taught me everything I know about basketball. I really enjoyed sharing with him the passion for this sport which became my job, the best job in the world.
Needless to say that you are very satisfied with yourself.
I feel very lucky for having gone such a long way, professionally speaking. It has been, and still is, a beautiful journey . I often try to imagine my future life, to understand what the coming years have in store for me. One thing I can say for sure: anything can be achieved through hard work, commitment and dedication.
Now that you have won everything, what is left to win?
Our goal is to win the championship every year.
“Win”, Kobe’s favorite word. It’s seems so long ago when Kobe made his debut with the Lakers shirt number 24. When the boy played “small” a few times against Utah Jazz and Van Exel argued with coach Del Harris about the young pup’s shots. Old Del knew his business. But Kobe has never worried about it. He probably still hears his father saying in Italian, with a Dan-Peterson style accent, on a field outside of Pistoia: “Shoot Kobe, shoot…there’s nothing to be afraid of”. And he started shooting. The problem is, for his rivals, that he has not stopped yet.