13 Degrees of Kobe Bryant

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3rd Degree: The Beef

Let’s back up a little … Kobe Bryant, who was named after the prize beef of Japan, was born on August 23, 1978, in Philly to Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and his wife Pamela. His parents were, apparently, internationalists. When Kobe was 6, Jellybean moved his family to Italy, where he began to play pro basketball. Kobe learned to speak Italian and Spanish fluently.

4th Degree: Man of La Mamba

Bryant nicknamed himself the Black Mamba, after one of the world’s deadliest snakes, not exactly a kid-friendly name. His reason? “The mamba can strike with 99% accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession. That’s the kind of basketball precision I want to have.”

The black mamba, which can grow up to 14 feet, is the fastest snake in the world and is known for traveling with about a third of its body off the ground. If threatened, it will hiss and then strike repeatedly – which is sort of what Bryant does on the court. The snakebite can kill within 20 minutes – or in Bryant’s case, well before the half-time buzzer.

5th Degree: Danger! Danger!

Deadly snakes aren’t his only attraction to danger. In 2008, Bryant completed videos showing him in dangerous stunts. One was a Nike promo for Hyper Dunk shoes. He jumped over a speeding Aston Martin. In the second video, Bryant leaped over a pool of snakes (hopefully no black mambas). The videos, both posted on YouTube, became Internet sensations with 4.5 million hits apiece. (Bryant later hinted he was never in danger while filming the videos.)

After filming the Aston Martin stunt, the fourth edition of his signature line, the Zoom Kobe IV, launched, then in 2010 the Nike Zoom Kobe V launched.

6th Degree: These Nikes Aren’t Made for Walking

When it comes to arriving at the Staples Center, Bryant goes to great lengths to avoid snarling LA traffic and arrive fresh and ready for a game. He takes a private helicopter a distance of 49 miles from the Orange County home where he lives with his wife and two children. With his salary, he can afford to commute like a Hollywood mogul.

Bryant claims, however, that his manner of arrival is just his way of maintaining his body. The copter is a practical tool he uses as he would weights or whirlpools. That might be true, but in a sense his custom-made size 14 Nikes wield a hefty carbon footprint.

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