Celebrating the life and languages of Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant was one of the most talented players to ever grace a basketball court. Playing for the Los Angeles Lakers for his entire 20-season career, Bryant earned himself a wealth of accolades; from being an 18-time All-Star to ranking fourth in the NBA’s all-time regular-season scoring. Bryant was also a philanthropist and a polyglot, and so as we mourn his loss to the basketball world and beyond, we can celebrate a life surrounded by languages and culture. 


Photo via Wikimedia



Basketball was a part of Bryant’s world his entire life. Son to former NBA player Joe Bryant and nephew to John “Chubby” Cox, it seems clear his career path was decided from an early age. Imagine a tiny Kobe Bryant starting to play basketball at the age of three! He played throughout his time at school, declaring for the 1996 NBA draft once he had graduated. Bryant played as shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, earning 33,643 career points. He played his final season in 2015-2016.


Other achievements

Later in his life, Kobe established the company Kobe Inc. with the aim of growing sports brands within the industry. With business partner Jeff Stibel he also launched Bryant-Stibel, a venture capital company. Kobe Bryant had various endorsements throughout his career including Adidas, Coca Cola for Sprite, and Nike. He appeared as cover athlete for a number of video games such as NBA 2K17. 

Early in his life Bryant was part of a rap group in school, and went on to record an album with Sony that, owing to the lack of response to his single K.O.B.E. was never released. Though that never stopped him singing; Bryant lent his voice to The Heaven and Earth Challenge by Taiwanese singer Jay Chou, the proceeds of which went to impoverished schools to spend on basketball facilities and equipment.

Turning then to his philanthropist roles, Bryant was the ambassador for After-School All-Stars (ASAS), and started the Kobe Bryant China Fund in partnership with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation. This charity raised money for education and health programs in China. 

With Zach Braff, Bryant presented a $1 million cheque to the Call of Duty Endowment, a non-profit that helps veterans transition to civilian careers. And with his wife Vanessa, Bryant founded the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation (KVBFF), which aims to help the young in need. In short, Kobe Bryant had a lot to contribute to this world besides a successful basketball career. 


Photo via Wikimedia


Language skills

Bryant was fluent in English, Italian, and Spanish. He learned Italian when his family moved to Italy when his six so his father could play professional basketball. Over the eight years he lived in Italy Bryant became fluent in Italian and also picked up a little Spanish. Bryant’s Spanish was further reinforced with his marriage to his wife Vanessa, who is Mexican-American. Bryant cited wanting to connect with his Latino fans as a further reason to become fluent in the language, claiming that watching a lot of Spanish telenovelas helped. See? The perfect excuse to pick up your language skills by watching TV! 

Bryant also picked up some French and Serbian along the way from his teammates, meaning he could cuss pretty well in both languages! Bryant said he learned these languages to let out his frustration at officials by cursing in another tongue than English. In fact, many opponents over the years said Bryant managed to throw them off their game by cursing at them in their native tongue! Now if that isn’t a motivating reason to learn a language, we aren’t sure what is.

Here is Bryant speaking English, Italian, and Spanish during his final press conference. And here he is again after heckling Luka Doncic in Slovenian while watching a Lakers game. What an inspirational role model to all language learners Bryant was. If he could learn multiple languages throughout a long, busy basketball career while doing everything else he did, we are pretty sure any of our reasons for not learning languages would sound like poor excuses!


Photo via Flickr


Feeling inspired to learn languages after reading about Kobe Bryant? We don’t blame you! There is a lot to be said for our celebrated athletes speaking multiple languages, inspiring those watching at home, or courtside, to become multilingual. If you need some guidance with your chosen language, our native speaking tutors can guide you through a tailormade programme of study. Drop us a quick enquiry to see how our courses work.