A complex person as well as an incredible athlete,
Kobe was a man of many talents and strong opinions,
which is why we profiled him twice on this show.
In remembrance, we've reached into our vault
and pulled excerpts from those stories,
excerpts we feel combine to paint a portrait of the man
at least as we saw him.
This first clip comes from 2000,
when Kobe, then just 21 years old,
met with our now former correspondent, James Brown,
and talked of being destined for greatness.
Your first remembrance of when you felt
that this was gonna be your game?
First remembrance, I would say I was actually eight years old,
playing in a league in Florence.
I was playing on the junior team.
Managed to score 61 points.
-And I was eight. -Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
-Hold on. -Yup.
Eight years old and you scored how many points, Kobe?
Eight years old-- 61. 61. 'Cause I--
My uncle always told me, my father always told me,
"You could put points on the board,
all you gotta do is shoot it."
-You know. -(LAUGHS)
Bryant's father, as you may know,
was professional basketball player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant,
who played in the NBA and then Italian pro leagues.
It was seeing his father's success and popularity,
Bryant told us,
that inspired him as a little boy
to become a star in his own right.
I wanted to have the same type of feeling that he had.
And I didn't know what that feeling was.
I mean, to have people chanting your name and...
asking you for autographs all the time.
Um, I was kinda curious to see
what that feeling would feel like.
I wanted to experience that same type of emotion,
and I wanted to be better than my father.
And he used to kick my butt.
-BROWN: All the time? -KOBE BRYANT: All the time.
At what point did you get him?
-I was 14. -No kidding?
What was the feeling like then?
I wanted to keep doing it.
BROWN: And his feeling?
He didn't want me to keep doing it.
-So, he never played me again. -(LAUGHTER)
BROWN: No kidding? Y'all stopped after that?
Oh, I haven't played my father since.
Fifteen years passed between the time we featured
that young and brash Kobe,
and the man who became a basketball icon.
By the time we profiled him again in 2016,
Bryant had become known for his obsessive need to win
and silence his critics, real and imagined.
Our Andrea Kremer picks up from there.
ANDREA KREMER: It began when he was a boy.
And his family moved from Italy,
where his father played professional basketball,
to a strange and foreign world...
the Philadelphia suburbs.
KOBE: I was a little Italian boy.
I was the son of an NBA basketball player.
KREMER: How'd that go over?
KOBE: Well, one kid tried to challenge me,
and that just gave me an opportunity
to just unleash hell on this poor kid
because of all the frustration of moving into a new place,
and the isolation that comes with that.
You know, at that moment, I understood how much...
the game can be...
a place of...
of venting, it can be an outlet for me.
Basketball was gonna be your armor.
KREMER: Bryant's bravado, some said arrogance,
earned him more detractors when he turned pro at 17.
I, Kobe Bryant...
have decided to take my talents to, uh...
(CROWD LAUGHING, CHEERING)
No, uh, I've decided to skip college,
and take my talents to the NBA.
KREMER: If not everyone loved his act,
that was just more fuel to the fire.
And during his second year in the NBA,
Bryant got a phone call that cemented
his single-minded approach.
KOBE: Gold's Gym in '98 and lifting weights,
and I get a phone call,
it's Michael Jackson on the other line.
And... kinda like, "What the hell's going on?"
Somebody's playing a practical joke--
Michael Jackson calling you at the age of 18?
At the age of 18. And he's a big basketball fan.
And I was starting to get... flack,
for being an introvert,
and being so serious all the time about the game.
And he wanted to call
and give me encouragement and say,
"Don't change for them. You have to stay focused.
If you wanna be one of the all-time greats,
you have to study the all-time greats.
You have to...
be obsessive about what you do and how you do it."
And... the summertime, that I would just disappear,
because I'd be studying, I'd be researching, I'd be...
-figuring out what-- -Studying, researching what?
KOBE: The game.
Chicago won another championship. How? Why?
How do we get to that level?
KREMER: It didn't take long for Bryant and the Lakers
to figure it out.
He won his 1st NBA championship when he was just 21.
The first of three consecutive titles.
He was a king in the land of stars.
But there was a selfishness that bothered his coach,
PHIL JACKSON: I always remember a game
in which Michael Jordan was in retirement,
and he came to the game,
I think Kobe had like 40 points, the first half.
And I turned to the coaches and I said,
"Kobe knows Michael's in the stands."
He's just showing him who he is.
You literally said this to your coaches?
-Yeah. -And were you right?
Yeah, I was right.
He wanted to put on a show for Michael.
-ANNOUNCER: Kobe! -(CROWD ROARS)
JACKSON: That part irritated me about Kobe.
This was one of his younger type things,
where he went off the edge and said,
"Here, you wanna look at this? See how good I am?"
KREMER: Over time,
Bryant's behavior grated on others as well.
-ANNOUNCER 2: Bryant... to Shaq! -(CROWD ROARS)
KREMER: He famously bickered with his on-court partner,
the more well-liked Shaquille O'Neal.
And in 2003, landed in the national news,
when he was accused of sexual assault.
The charges were dropped.
But he reached a civil settlement with the accuser.
The episode marked a new low.
And after that, Bryant said,
he stopped trying to fight his bad reputation,
and decided to embrace it.
He adopted a new, sinister persona,
borrowed from a Quentin Tarantino movie.
That was the birth of the Black Mamba.
(BLACK MAMBA HISSING)
I'd like to introduce my friend, the black mamba.
Of all the creatures that you could've pulled for yourself,
why that one?
Because it spoke to me.
The length of the snake, the accuracy of the snake.
When I step on the court, that's me. I don't play around.
I'm not there to be your best friend.
I am there to destroy you.
KREMER: He wanted that assassin, that killer character.
Just the public. On, you know, losing grace.
Falling from grace. And to redeem himself.
KREMER: Bryant's Black Mamba alter ego
has not gone unnoticed.
And in a town built on reviews,
his are, shall we say, mixed.
These are others' words about you.
Here comes the smile, 'cause you know it's coming, right?
And your own teammate, Steve Nash,
when asked to describe you in three words, quote,
-"Mother effin' asshole." -(CACKLING)
Why're you laughing?
'Cause they're all true.
-KREMER: They are all-- -(LAUGHING) Of course!
They're all true.
As all fans well know,
Bryant's prickly personality and on-court success
generated decidedly mixed reactions throughout his career.
But after he announced he'd be retiring,
he was given a proper sendoff by fans nationwide.
Forcing him into the unfamiliar role
of beloved hero.
KREMER: For three months now, in every arena he's visited,
Kobe Bryant has heard an unfamiliar sound...
The chorus reached a crescendo at the All-Star game.
Can all of us get on our feet,
and let him hear it one more time!
CROWD: (CHANTING) Kobe! Kobe!
KREMER: It's all very nice. Except for one thing.
The man at the center of all this love
has long taken pride in being
the most hated villain in the sport.
I've always been comfortable in, uh...
in the dark corners.
So, when we went to Philadelphia and I got that ovation,
it was like, "Whoa. What is this?"
You know, it's kinda like the weird thing
where you're hugging a kid
that's not used to getting hugged.
And it's kinda like that uncomfortable hug, like...
And then, you realize, "Man, this...
This feels good.
This is pretty-- This is pretty sweet."
By the end of our last piece,
Bryant was talking for his plan of an artistic future.
One in which he would become
one of the world's next great storytellers.
KREMER: This, Bryant says,
is where he'll achieve greatness in a new field.
He's lined his office with photos of his inspirations.
J.K. Rowling, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs,
and the composer John Williams.
How often do you come here?
All the time. (CHUCKLES) All the time.
There's sometimes where I can't sleep,
and I just have something inside my brain
and I'll just come in here
at two o'clock in the morning or something.
I have a lot of energy.
Yeah, it's... nonstop.
KREMER: Bryant says he's here reading and writing.
Training for his new job.
I knew at a very early age that this date was coming.
So, I started trying different things out.
Things I was interested in.
It was always gravitating around story.
-Like what? What did you try-- -Like advertising. Um...
I wrote a great amount of commercials.
A lot of stuff that I do with Nike,
I actually write as well.
CROWD (CHANTING) MVP!
KREMER: This year, Kobe Inc. produced a campaign
In which we hear the home crowd chant its love for Bryant...
CROWD (CHANTING) MVP!
KREMER: ...and the road crowd, its hate.
CROWD: (CHANTING) Kobe sucks!
KREMER: The concept, the words, the message.
Bryant says they're all his.
He also says that he's just getting started.
That soon he'll be creating movies, books,
even video games.
Making no mistake.
This isn't something you're lending your name to.
Or just putting your money on.
This is me. Writing every day.
Thinking every day.
Organizing every day.
And, uh, these stories will come...
from-- From me.
I wanna be able to prove to myself, and to show my peers,
that we are more than what we do.
I want to be able to set that-- Set that standard for us all.
♪ ("REAL SPORTS" THEME PLAYS) ♪
Happy to be joined in the studio by Andrea Kremer. Andrea...
When you got the news on Sunday, your first thoughts?
Wh-- What else could you think of?
It's just not something that you're ever expecting to hear.
really, just watching the reaction of so many people,
not just the fans but-- but people in the media,
people in sports, people--
The emotion that they had,
and it really makes you understand
the impact that he had on the younger generation.
this is the biggest death that they've ever experienced.
How do you square that?
The outpouring of emotion with what was his--
Villainous is too tough a word but his complex image?
Well, it-- Villainous is a word that he liked to use.
He even-- As we indicated in our story,
it was part of his narrative that he created.
He liked to have that hero-villain dichotomy,
if you will.
He was a hero to some and a villain to others.
Your story included an image that seems haunting now,
It was of his copter,
the same kind of copter involved in his death.
Him getting off of that copter
as he arrived at the Staples Center,
and talking about why he used it as frequently as he did,
to commute to games, both his and his daughter's.
-Nice commute! -Thank you.
How's the traffic?
-What traffic? -(LAUGHTER)
Yeah, I think that's the point, right?
Why do you-- Why do you have to do this?
Um... Get here a lot faster. (CHUCKLES)
Why does it matter?
Why do you have to get here faster?
You know, it's, um...
I started doing it, um, several years ago,
to get to-and-from practice quicker,
because my kids would have soccer games
and basketball games and things like that.
So, with practice
and then me doing a bunch of treatment after practice,
I would never be able to make it back on time.
So, I just started taking a helicopter and then...
after a while, it just became a habit.
What's so eerie is that traveling by helicopter
was a huge part of his life, as he indicated to us.
It enabled him to live where he wanted to live.
Work where he needed to work.
And he brought it up. He--
It enabled him to go to his kid's games even back then.
And oddly enough, enabled him to be,
not a better father, but a more present father.
He mentioned being able to go to his kid's soccer games
and baseball games and he only had two at that time
but he was still integrally involved.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention, um,
the accusation of sexual assault in '03.
Um, it never came to trial.
but held to the belief that it had been consensual.
You talked with him.
Did you find him defensive about it?
He had a nondisclosure agreement
that, uh, he said precluded him from saying certain things.
We did ask him about it,
and he did talk about it as best as he possibly could.
And he framed it in a way that it led to his alter ego,
which really became his image of the Black Mamba.
But to me, Bryant,
the biggest thing that it indicates is that,
he was a complicated man with a complicated legacy.
He was beloved but there's--
As with many people, other sides of him.
Successful film writer, Oscar-winning filmmaker,
and a brilliant basketball player.
His memory's gonna outlast all of us.
♪ ("REAL SPORTS" OUTRO PLAYS) ♪