Growing up, Kobe followed his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, everywhere. He’d sleep with his basketball clothes on so Joe couldn’t say no when he’d ask to go to practice with him. But as Kobe grew older, and learned of the disappointments of his father’s NBA career, it was harder to relate. Joe was a 6-foot-9 forward with the skill set of a guard.
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That would be en vogue in today’s NBA, but in the Eastern Conference of the late 1970s, he was miscast as a defensive specialist. According to Joe, his whole career would’ve been different if he’d been in a different system and able to play on the perimeter like Magic Johnson.
“When I hear those things,” Kobe says. “I don’t really understand them.”
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Why should the whims of fate — which system he played in — determine the success of a man’s career? How could his father accept that? There is always a way to bend things the way you want them.
He became obsessed with the legend of Achilles, the warrior from Greek mythology who chose a short life that would be remembered for eternity over a long life of little consequence.
Chopra said he noticed a real change after Kobe’s shoulder injury in 2015. It was his third straight season-ending injury.
“We were sitting in that exam room, and I think Kobe probably still thought he could will himself through anything,” Chopra said. “But the doctor was like, ‘This is about picking up your children and grandchildren for the rest of your life.’ I don’t know if he’d ever thought in those terms.
“He’d never thought beyond the next game or that the playoffs were coming.”
Vanessa and his daughters were too important to him. If basketball was over for him, he had to think of them now.