Basketball great Kobe Bryant put high premium to music and intended to launch his debut album called Visions in 2000 when he first won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers. But fate intervened and the novelty of athletes moonlighting as musicians was on the way out.
But then his triumph at the 2018 Oscars as executive producer for the short film Dear Basketball saw traces of his musical inclination. In fact, he bonded with animator Glen Keane through their “shared love for Beethoven.” It was reported that in one important game, Kobe “structured his performance and strategy to the rhythms of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.”
He then asked famed musical scorer John Williams to put music to Dear Basketball partly because he made use of Williams melodies as lullaby for his kids.
Kobe was a two-time scoring champion in the NBA, chosen to start in an All-Star game 18 times and winning MVP honors on four occasions. He was even quoted pointing out, “As a basketball player what I found myself doing a lot was essentially conducting a game.”
At the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards held only hours after Kobe and eight others including his daughter Gigi perished from a helicopter crash, some of music’s biggest stars paid tribute to the man who won five rings in the NBA and became a global ambassador of the sport, even serving as the face of last year’s World Cup in China.
Referring to Staples Center which is home to the L.A. Lakers, singer Alicia Keys poignantly said, “We’re literally standing here in the house that Kobe Bryant built. Los Angeles, the America, and the whole wide world lost a hero.”
Keys emphasized how much Kobe loved music and thought he would have wanted to “keep vibrations high.”
In 2009, the late King of Pop Michael Jackson was also given tribute at the same venue, with Kobe in attendance. It had been written that a phone call from Jackson motivated a then-teenage Kobe who eventually developed his famed Mamba mentality.
The iconic Gloria Gaynor, who won a Grammy for Best Gospel Album, said she was shocked to learn that a “wonderful life was snuffed out way too fast.”
Keys and Boyz II Men sang “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” as others who paid honor to the Michael Jordan of his generation included Lizzo and DJ Khaled.
In 2017, his first year off a 20-year NBA career, he noted that “every game has a structure like a piece of music.”
No doubt the most accomplished NBA draftee from the stellar class of 1996, Kobe won league MVP in 2008 and was named Finals MVP in 2009 and 2010. At his peak, he famously scored 81 points in a game versus the Toronto Raptors, and then left the NBA in 2016 after a 60-point regular game finale heroics.
Challenged throughout his colorful yet brief 41 years of life, Kobe was always ready to face the music.
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