№0: Kobe Bean Bryant Player Spotlight

August 23, 2020

Welcome to the tedi.substack.com weekly newsletter! At the beginning of each week*, this newsletter will touch on any number of entertaining, informative, or (possibly) useful topics.

This week’s player spotlight is on the late Kobe Bean Bryant. You can find my written narrative in the section below.

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Welcome to Player Spotlight! Inspired by the writings of the late Zander Hollander (Sportswriter, archivist, and author of the ever informative The Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball), I decided to put my 30 years of basketball knowledge to some use and come up with a short, free flowing, and non-linear/viewpoint narrative on the featured player. 

The Preamble

Before setting the stage for this story, I have to be honest, I’ve never been Kobe Bryant’s biggest fan. But when the conversation shifted to his relentless drive and passion for the game of basketball, that—I have always respected.

Originally a Charlotte Hornets draft pick, Kobe Bryant entered the National Basketball Association (NBA) about eight years after my own interest in the game blossomed (Just ask my mom). It was the height of my basketball consumption and Bryant’s basketball story was among the many that I followed in the ensuring years.

Come to think of it, I was in the peanut gallery for most of it: From the hand injuries that derailed his first two off-seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers; the three-peat in the early 2000’s; Colorado; the Bulls trade that didn’t happen; 81 in ‘06; Gasol to LAL that set in motion the back-to-backs in 2009 and 2010; being present during three of his trips to Manila; injuries to his Achilles, knee, and rotator cuff in consecutive seasons; and of course, the 60 he punched in during his retirement game.

A twenty-year career.

A surefire first ballot Hall of Famer.

Take Every Advantage Kobe Manila Tour 2011 | July 13, 2011

For the rest of my life, July 2011 will always be a memorable month for me.

Kobe coming over (his third time in Manila), was just icing on the cake.

Here is a written narrative of the events that happened on that day.

Through the generosity of a friend, I had the unique opportunity to be a part of media entourage that would be following Bryant for his one-day Take Every Advantage Kobe Manila Tour 2011.

The tour started (well at least for me), in front of the Nike Park Fort located in Bonifacio High Street, Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Taguig City. Barricades and security personnel were already in place by the time we arrived and at the center of it all was a small stage situated in front of the Nike’s Philippine flagship store.

It turns out that the entire space fronting this small stage was cornered off for the media entourage. We—the media—had ample space for the entire BGC event and comfortably looked on as Kobe arrived for his interview. Bare in mind that it was 2011 and selfies weren’t the norm yet. If it were, I would have posted a nice photo with me (foreground) and Kobe (background).

After his obligations at Nike Park Fort, Kobe and his media entourage (that includes me!) made their way into the heart of Taguig for the inuguration of a Gawad Kalinga basketball court. From there, we proceeded to the Araneta Coliseum wherein Kobe was scheduled to oversee a short scrimmage featuring a UAAP Selection (collegiate players from DLSU, ADMU, and FEU) and the Smart-Gilas Philippine National Team.

Towards the end of the aforementioned scrimmage, Kobe spoke to several of the mic’d up hosts so that they could inform the sold out crowd that he would be joining the UAAP Selection team—as a PLAYER!

Donning a gold FEU jersey, Bryant stepped onto the court and played the next 8-minutes (with hardly any stretching or warmups). He had a couple of dunks and fed off the energy of the capacity crowd.

Smiles all around.

Bryant’s stat line based on the video below: 8 minutes, 6 points, 3-7 Field Goals, 0-3 3 point field goals, 5 rebounds (2 offensive), 3 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, and 2 turnovers.

Postscript: Last February, I had the opportunity to speak to one of the coaches involved with that UAAP Selection team and he told me the story behind the FEU jersey that Bryant wore. As the story goes, Kobe was looking for a jersey to wear for this impromptu game. The coach had a spare FEU jersey on hand and it was handed to Bryant.

The rest as they say is history.

Think about it…if you close your eyes and think about Kobe Bryant in a basketball uniform, what image comes up? Lower Marion High School. The Los Angles Lakers. Maybe an NBA All-Star or Team USA jersey? Those pre-draft workout pictures with Kobe in Boston Celtics practice sweats….and now an image with him in an FEU jersey!

I’m sure the people at the NBA, Los Angeles Lakers, and Nike (not necessarily in that order) were furious with this development.

But it certainly made the fans happy.

My moment with The Black Mamba

After that wild finish in the Araneta Coliseum, my friend and I proceeded to the Manila Peninsula to join my dad for dinner at the hotel lobby. An added incentive to the dinner was that The Manila Peninsula also served the residence of Kobe Bean Bryant.

Midway through dinner, Kobe and his security team walks right past our table! We were all visibly stunned but I managed to stand up from my seat and shout in the direction of Kobe.

“Thanks for the game, Kobe.”

As he turned the corner and walked towards the hotel’s front door, Kobe turned to me (with his signature serious game face) and gave me a nod.

I then looked at everyone in my table and said to the group, “Did you guys see that?”

They did.

Marketing does work!

Several days after Take Every Advantage Kobe Manila Tour 2011, I still couldn’t get that image of Kobe in his Hunt or be Hunted dark blue/light blue apparel out of my mind.

Products that endorsers (subtly or not so subtly) push usually never work on me.

This was the one time that it did.

I ended getting the shirt and yes, even the shorts.

Two sets of them.

Los Angeles Lakers @ Golden State Warriors | Oakland Arena | March 27, 2012

The following year, I found myself in San Francisco after attending some classes in Old Town, San Diego.

Despite only being there for a few days, I still managed to squeeze some nice upper bowl seats (behind one of the baskets) for a Lakers/Warriors game over at Oracle Arena.

Now, without the intervention of the Basketball Gods, I would have remembered my first game at Oracle Arena for this Andrew Bynum play that led to his subsequent benching.

Instead, the Lakers rallied and Kobe Bryant willed his team to victory with these two clutch plays. He certainly broke the hearts of the Warriors faithful on that day.

This is a great way to end this post.

Happy 42nd Birthday, Kobe!

We miss you man. ■


About

Tedi Gustilo Villasor, Ph.D. is a former columnist for Baby Magazine (Philippines) as well as a past contributor to NBA.com/Philippines. His other works include the indie comic books Lindol and OBIsessions.

Click here for more information on his work as a psychologist.

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