Kobe Bryant wants to be known as a storyteller
Kobe Bryant may be known for being the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer, but he hopes he’ll be looked at as “a storyteller” by younger generations, he told “CBS This Morning Saturday” co-host Dana Jacobson. The father of four has helped create books, podcasts, TV shows and films with his production company Granity Studios, which he launched in 2016 after 20 seasons in the NBA.
“Fifty years from now, how do you want the world to look at Kobe Bryant?” Jacobson asked.
“As a person that was able to create stories that inspired their children and families to bond together. And for the children to dream,” Bryant said. “Then have the initiative to wake up every morning and do all they can to help that dream become a reality, you know, that would be really, really cool.”
He said his 2-year-old daughter Bianka said it best: “I’m like, ‘Hey, way to get buckets.’ She goes, ‘Yeah, I’m going to get buckets like Gigi,'” her older sister, Bryant said. “Because she just doesn’t know. She has never seen me play basketball. … She’s too little, so in her mind, dad is just a person that puts out stories.”
“So the basketball side of you will be something for the older set?” Jacobson asked.
“If I’m doing everything right, that’s what will happen,” Bryant said.
Starting a production company wasn’t something Bryant always knew he wanted to do. “You know, as a kid, the main focus was just playing the game,” he said. “My last year, people asked me what I was going to do. And I’d say I’d go into storytelling. They were like, ‘All right, whoa. Like, what are you, man, that’s not real.'”
With his first project, the animated short film “Dear Basketball,” Bryant stunned the crowd — not with a game win but an Oscar win.
“I had a lot of practice on road trips, sitting on planes writing, writing, writing. ‘No, that’s not good. Let me restructure this. Let me write this story,'” Bryant said.
Like basketball — storytelling is a passion for Bryant, which began in high school. “I had a great speaking arts teacher … who taught how to structure story, how to write story,” he said. “The world revolves around storytelling … and so it … serves an important role in our society at large. I get excited to try to, you know, play my small part in it.”
Bryant creates with the idea of using sport and entertainment to educate. “For our studio, it’s important to build it where parents trust that your kids can enjoy our content. Novels, film, series, otherwise. And … trust that they’ll be gaining valuable information from that that’s going to help them be better,” he said.
His book “The Wizenard Series: Training Camp,” has been described by some as Harry Potter-meets-the-sports-world. It hit No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list.
“Where did the idea for the Wizenard Series come from?” Jacobson asked.
“It actually started from Mary Poppins,” Bryant said.
“The Julie Andrews version?” Jacobson asked.
“The Julie Andrews version, the Dick Van Dyke version. And I was saying, ‘Man, if there was a coach that was magical in that way, what would that look like?'” Bryant said.
Bryant created the fantasy world the books are set in along with the characters and their back stories. He then plots out the storylines before turning to a hand-selected author.
In September, Bryant published “Legacy and the Queen” about a young female tennis player, so for inspiration he called Serena Williams.
“It was really important for me in writing ‘Legacy’ to understand those emotional frustrations, and the ebbs and flows of playing the sport,” he said. “So I called Serena. And I said, ‘Serena, this is what I’m thinking. … I obviously don’t know nothing about tennis. So, like, you got to talk me through.’ … And we sat on the phone for about a good hour or so. And we talked about the challenges of playing the sport, the training aspect of it all … the emotion.”
Bryant started playing tennis after he stopped playing basketball, but he said he was “horrible” at it. “I was swinging a racket as if I was hitting a home run, you know? It was just … wrong sport,” he said.
The right sport is still a part of Bryant’s latest chapter — not as a player but the coach of his 13-year-old daughter Gigi’s basketball team.
“It’s a lot of fun. I mean, she’s really driven, very competitive … and we have a group of kids that love the game,” he said. “They have an appetite to learn more. And so, I enjoy being around them,” he said.
“What’s the biggest challenge in coaching your own daughter?” Jacobson asked.
“Making sure she knows that I love her whether she plays well or plays like crap. Doesn’t matter. … You know, you’re my daughter before you’re a basketball player. And it’s important that she knows that that’s how I feel,” he said. “And those aren’t words. You have to behave that way. You have to show her that … After a tough game, you get in the car and it’s forgotten.”
Bryant is admittedly a bit outnumbered at home. He and his wife, Vanessa, gave birth to their fourth daughter in June.
“In a group of six, Kobe, you’re the only guy,” Jacobson said.
“I get ganged up on quite a bit, but it’s fine,” he said.
Bryant said he sometimes misses basketball when he’s shooting with his kids, but “not enough to want to go out and play.”