Kobe Bryant was known as one of the hardest-working and most driven players in basketball during his 20-year Hall of Fame career with the Los Angeles Lakers, and that work ethic has helped make him a massive success off the court as well.
On the heels of winning an Academy Award last year for best animated short with Dear Basketball, Bryant is immersed in multiple projects meant to spread positive messages to children through the filter of sports, and he discussed them with Bleacher Report in a recent interview.
The 41-year-old is especially excited about the release of his new book, Legacy And The Queen, on Tuesday under the Granity Studios umbrella. The book, which is the brainchild of Bryant and written by Annie Matthew, tells the story of a young girl named Legacy who learns important life lessons through her gift in the sport of tennis.
Kobe noted that one of the greatest inspirations for the book was his desire to indirectly impart wisdom on his four daughters (ages 16, 13, 2, two months).
"What goes into creating all of the stories that come out of our studio centers around our own personal experiences with our own kids, generally," he said. "And me certainly in particular, having young girls at home and trying to figure out how to communicate positive messages to them, they get tired of hearing me and [Bryant's wife] Vanessa talk about it all the time, so it's important to put it in different forms of media so it seems like it's not coming from us. That tends to be the inspiration behind most of the ideas that come out of our studio."
Bryant is a big tennis fan, and he believes it is the perfect sport to use as a vehicle to teach young people about overcoming obstacles.
"Tennis is such a wonderful sport," he said. "In tennis you can really send a powerful message to young readers about the challenges that we face internally. When we face adversity or we face triumph to be able to move on beyond that, to be able to stay focused, being able to stay in the moment, how to deal with injury, how to deal with criticism and all those things, which are very valuable life lessons. So, we just try to do a good job of hiding those life lessons within the sport."
Kobe took in some of the action at the U.S. Open last week in New York and was especially invested in the performance of world No. 1 Naomi Osaka prior to her elimination. Bryant and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick watched from Osaka's player box as she beat Magda Linette in the second round.
Bryant revealed that the two-time Grand Slam champion is a backer of Legacy And The Queen, and expressed his hope that the 21-year-old would add a second U.S. Open title to her resume: "We had a great time watching Naomi play and do her thing, and she's a big supporter of the book, so it's been fun going out there and watching her do her thing up close and in person. So I'm sitting here pulling for Naomi to get this thing done."
In addition to Legacy And The Queen, Bryant is occupied with Season 2 of The Punies, which is a youth sports podcast that hit iTunes on Aug. 31.
The Punies features voice actors who play children navigating their way through scenarios with the use of teamwork in sports environments. Bryant discussed what makes The Punies so unique and effective in communicating messages.
"The show is really about the bantering between the kids and how they're able to learn from each other," he said. "I think that's really important. There's an absence of grown-ups within the series and that's intentionally done. I think it's important for the children to have imagination, to go out and play, and to go out and understand that they can learn from each other and support each other, which I think is extremely important. We're really excited."
Kobe also noted that the first season was so well-received that he is starting to get asked about it rather than his basketball career.
"The first season got a lot of really great, positive response," he said. "When I was home and I was driving—I generally get guys pulling up to me at a stoplight, rolling down a window and saying, 'Hey Kobe, we need you on the Lakers,' and that sort of stuff. I get that a lot. So this time, I pull up to the stoplight, car pulls next to me, rolls down the window and I'm like, 'All right, here we go again,' and he goes, 'Hey, when's Season 2 of The Punies coming out? My kids love it.'"
Bryant also looked ahead to other projects he has on the horizon.
"We have our third novel in our fantasy series coming out called Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof [on Nov. 12], which we're really excited about, and then look for us to take The Punies series and convert that into an animated series," he said. "Also, working on converting the Legacy book into an animated feature film. We're gonna be extremely busy, but there's more of that work ahead."
Given Bryant's commitment to excellence as an 18-time NBA All-Star and five-time NBA champion, it comes as little surprise that he has broken into and succeeded in so many different arenas in retirement.
Kobe acknowledged that while retirement has been busy, he has enjoyed the opportunity to branch out and do things that are fulfilling.
"I've enjoyed it tremendously," he said. "I think I've been very, very fortunate to be able to find something that I love to do with a passion. So, the transition from playing to retirement has been awesome. It's not really retiring; it's just kind of changing focus. The good thing about it is I am extremely busy, but I control my own schedule to a large extent. And I get a chance to be around my family consistently and spend a lot of time with them, so it's been great."
One thing that hasn't been a significant part of Bryant's retirement is basketball. Recently retired stars are constantly the subject of speculation regarding a return to the game in some capacity, but Kobe has no interest in such a venture.
When asked if he would be interested in following the footsteps of former Lakers stars like Jerry West and Magic Johnson by accepting a front-office position, Bryant was emphatic in saying he wouldn't: "Nope, I'm good. I love what I'm doing now. It lights me up every day. I look forward to creating more. I look forward to diving into creative projects every single day. Writing and directing and producing and all that fun stuff, so I love where I'm at right now, man, so I don't see myself doing that ever."
Bryant also shot down the idea of becoming an owner a la Michael Jordan, saying: "No, I don't see it."
While basketball is no longer the biggest part of Kobe's life, it doesn't mean that he isn't aware of what's going on with his former team.
The Lakers have been the talk of the NBA during the offseason, as they acquired All-Star big man Anthony Davis in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans and signed several free agents including Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Quinn Cook and Avery Bradley.
L.A. also inked center DeMarcus Cousins, but he is expected to miss the entire 2019-20 season with a torn ACL. Kobe acknowledged that while the injury was a tough break, the Lakers have still put together a formidable squad.
"I think they've had a fantastic offseason," he said. "The thing that happened with DeMarcus, that's tough. It's a tough injury. But they have the right pieces, so now it's just about the players going out there with the coach and figuring out how to play to their potential every single night and go into the season with a little momentum and see what they do."
The Lakers haven't reached the playoffs since 2013 when Bryant was still playing; however with LeBron James leading a strong group, that drought should come to an end during the upcoming season.
Bryant will likely be rooting them on from afar, but given all the enterprises he is involved with, the future Basketball Hall of Famer will have even more of a vested interest elsewhere.