Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was killed Sunday, January 26 in a helicopter crash that took the lives of eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The former Los Angeles Laker leaves behind a legacy of astounding basketball talent, off-the-court philanthropic work, being a devoted husband and “girl dad,” and inspiring all the athletes that played both alongside him and against him.
With that in mind, as the Lakers take to the court Friday, January 31 for their first game since he was killed, here are some of the legendary athlete’s most inspiring quotes.
His Advice to D’Angelo Russell
“I told him, ‘If you love the game, then you’ve already won,” Bryant said to Sports Illustrated in a 2015 interview. “You can’t be beat. Because the reality is, a lot of guys don’t love it. When I came here in 1996, I had the butterflies, and then when I got around everybody, it was like, Oh, I’m fine. Some of these guys don’t love the game. I thought they did. They don’t. It’s a job for them. And when something is a job, you can have success for a week, two weeks, a month, maybe a year, maybe even two. Then you’ll fall. It’s inevitable. But if you love it, you can’t be stopped. Because when you love something, you’ll always come back to it.”
On Wanting to Be the Best
“Either you want to be one of the greats, and you understand the sacrifices that come with it and deal with them, or you don’t want to deal with them and you want to be in the middle of the pack.”
On Having a Passion Outside of Basketball
“What I love is storytelling. I love the idea of creative content—whether it’s mythology or animation, written or film—that can inspire people and give them something tangible they can use in their own lives. I call it creative education. The best way to teach isn’t by preaching to somebody. It’s by sharing stories. I’m trying to build my whole business off that concept.”
In 2016, Bryant founded Granity Studios, a company focused on creative storytelling around sports. Through Granity Studios, Bryant wrote and narrated a short film called “Dear Basketball,” which won the Best Animated Short Film Academy Award in 2018. He has also written a series of young adult books called The Wizened Series.
On Inspiring People
“People who have very limited knowledge of sports always say, ‘Passing the ball makes everyone better. No. That’s not it. That’s not making them better. That’s giving them an opportunity to be successful. If you want to make them better, you don’t just hand them the ball. You inspire them to be the best version of themselves, and I do that by sharing things which are very personal to me, things I’ve struggled with, and letting them relate that to their own journey.”
On Being a Team Leader for Guys Who Don’t Work as Hard as They Should
“In the past, in my younger days, I’d just run all over them,” Bryant told Sports Illustrated in 2014. “I’d tell them to go sit down, or stand over in the corner, we’ll figure it out without you. Over the years, particularly starting in 2008 on, I started to understand more that we all have [that drive] in us, but those buttons haven’t been pushed yet. There’s something in that communication that you have to learn about that person, that can maybe trigger that focus and trigger that passion for those areas. Maybe they won’t be able to carry it for an entire season, but maybe you can trigger it for important stretches of the season. So it became more about, ‘We all have it, it’s my job as a leader of this team to figure out how to pull it out of everyone’…as opposed to going, ‘Oh it’s his dumbass fault! [laughs].”
On Having Confidence In Yourself
Gotham Chopra, the director of “Kobe Bryant’s Muse”, a 2015 documentary on Bryant, told SI a story about being with Kobe and watching the Nets and the Heat play.
“Deron Williams went like 0-for-9. I was like, ‘Can you believe Deron Williams went 0-9?’,” recounted Chopra. “Kobe was like, ‘I would go 0-30 before I would go 0-9. 0-9 means you beat yourself, you psyched yourself out of the game, because Deron Williams can get more shots in the game. The only reason is because you’ve just now lost confidence in yourself.’”
On His Daughter Gianna’s Talent and Moxie
“The best thing that happens is when we go out and fans will come up to me and she’ll be standing next to me and they’ll be like, ‘Man, you gotta have a boy! You and V gotta have a boy, somebody to carry on the tradition and the legacy!’ And she’s like, ‘Oi! I got this. You don’t need no boy for that!’ And I’m like, ‘That’s right. Yes, you do, you got this.'”