I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on August 23, 1978 to Pamela and Joe Bryant. I have two sisters, Shaya and Sharia, who are both great athletes.
The reason I have the name Kobe is unusual, and I love it. As part of our family lore, my grandmom told me when she first heard my name, she thought, “What in the world were Pam and Joe thinking naming (me) Kobe; perhaps they’ll have time to change it before the birth certificate is registered. Maybe they’ll give him a more conventional name.” I’m happy to report my parents prevailed. My name’s international flavor has served me well as I travel the globe playing basketball. I received a letter from Ghana and the young man who wrote said his father’s name is Kobe. Also, last year when I visited Japan, I got to visit the Kobe region, the source of my name. I loved Japan. It was beautiful and majestic, and the people of Kobe, who are still recovering from the earthquake of 1997, were friendly and quite knowledgeable about the NBA.
As a schoolboy, I learned the fundamentals of basketball in Italy, but when I was eight or nine, basketball was not my only sport of choice. I was playing a lot of soccer at that age, too. I loved both sports. I think two things contributed to my choosing to concentrate solely on basketball. One, my annual trips back to Philly to visit with family and friends, and two, my growth spurt beginning around age 11.
In Philly, soccer was not big. Basketball was. The only problem was the play was different on the Philly courts from anything I’d seen in Italy. At first, I didn’t understand the school-yard rules, the trash-talking, the machismo. But I learned fast how to handle myself playing Philly ball. I’d say the first big jump in my basketball skills occurred from when I was about 11 to age 13. It was at age 13 that I knew I could play with anyone. It was also at this age that I could finally beat my sisters, who are both outstanding basketball and volleyball players. My dad could still handle me, but he started cheating around this time, leaning on me, using his weight advantage to post me up. He cut me no slack. This went on until I was about 14 or 15 years old, when I finally beat my dad one-on-one.
High school was a big transition for me. Our team went from worst to first, to a state championship during my four years at Lower Merion. It was during the summer before my senior year that I knew my dream of going straight to the NBA from High School was a possibility. I put up good stats at the Adidas ABCD camp and was named High School Player of the Year. I was lucky enough to be able to work out with the 76ers. This came about because Coach Lucas’ daughter attended Lower Merion High School, and she casually mentioned to her dad that he ought to see me play. Well, he did, and afterward he allowed me to work out with the 76ers.
From the time I was 10 or 11, I’d dreamed of going straight to the NBA from high school. During the spring and fall of 1996, I knew my dream could come true. It was when I was on the court with NBA players that I began to feel, “This is something I can do. This is possible for me.” It was also during this time that I met Joe Carbone, an assistant trainer with the 76ers. Joe was generous enough to help me with my workouts. Later, when I went pro, Joey was the first person I hired. He is still with me.
Each year, I set out to improve my skills over the prior season. My high school coach, Gregg Downer “I think that is the highest praise a coach can give a player.”
Since my arrival in the NBA, I’ve set about improving each year and I’ve been able to do that.
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