The whole world was shocked on January 26, 2020 by the news of Kobe Bryant’s sudden death in a helicopter crash along with his daughter Gianna among many others. Less than 24 hours earlier “King” LeBron James had passed Bryant on the all time NBA scorers list, and Bryant had tweeted congratulations back to a man who freely admits he grew up admiring what Bryant had done and aspiring to be like him — even attending a youth basketball camp where Bryant gave advice to and mentored the man who would one day surpass him.
As great as the king is though he may never achieve all of the accomplishments Bryant did. You know the biggest ones — five time NBA champion, two time Olympic gold medalist, et cetera. Then there are the unheralded ones that aren’t done for the recognition or fame, like granting hundreds of Make-A-Wish requests in his lifetime. And even though he wasn’t ultimately successful at it, Kobe Bryant even took a stab at a hip-hop career, releasing a single called “K.O.B.E.” featuring Tyra Banks on the hook.
“What I live for? Basketball, beats and broads” may have seemed like a shameless attempt to cash in on his NBA fame, but Bryant was actually part of a rap group named CHEIZAW when he was still in high school. We’ll never know what he could have achieved in hip-hop had he put the same hard work and dedication into it that he did playing basketball, but the fact he even flirted with his rap aspirations suggests that despite the quick NBA money and fame that came he hadn’t forgotten the other things he loved. He even dropped bars on the Brian McKnight track “Hold Me”.
The dalliances in rap are now a footnote compared to his lifetime of success on the court, but as the world mourns the loss of an iconic athlete, rap fans also know Kobe Bryant brought success to the Lakers and made the purple and gold as cool in L.A. as they were in Magic Johnson’s day. Even though his relationship with Shaquille O’Neal was at times fractious, they were an unstoppable tandem together. Shaq’s love of hip-hop was perhaps the thing they had most in common although ironically O’Neal had far more success in the music world despite often being mocked for it. When the word of Bryant’s passing hit he was as heartbroken as everyone else.
Our condolences to Kobe’s wife Vanessa and three surviving daughters along with Lakers fans, NBA players, and “Black Mamba” fans worldwide.