Yesterday would have been Kobe Bryant’s 42nd birthday, and today is August 24th, the date that combines his two iconic jersey numbers. Bryant is being honored in several ways, from Nike’s release of Kobe-related items all week to Los Angeles and Orange Counties officially naming this “Kobe Bryant Day.” Over the past 20 years, Bryant has inspired countless thoughts and feelings, and thousands of sentences, about greatness, drive, fame, loneliness, and pain. Here are 24 excellent pieces of journalism about Bryant, covering him from as many angles as he was willing to show, and some others he tried to hide.
1. Kobe Bryant doesn’t want your love by Mike Sager for Esquire (2007)
Everyone has their favorite Kobe, or at least the part of his career they first think about when they hear his name. For me, it’s Kobe wandering through the wilderness, right before the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Pau Gasol, leading to Kobe’s fourth and fifth titles. That’s where Sager finds him. This one is raw.
2. Kobe Bryant: Teenager of the Year by Chris Mundy for Rolling Stone (1998)
3. Kobe Bryant: From Here to Infinity by Ralph Wiley for GQ (2001)
These are two Coming of Age classics. The Mean Streets and Goodfellas of Kobe profiles.
4. How Shaq and Kobe’s Rivalry Shaped the Lakers by Elizabeth Kaye for Los Angeles Magazine (2001)
Kobe and Shaq will always be linked as one of the most dominant and dysfunctional duos in the history of professional sports. This deeply-reported story, the product of months following the team, comes at their apex, after they’d already won two titles. It’s about glory, but also foreseeable basketball doom. A young, hungry Bryant wanted to be the best player in the world, and, despite L.A.’s success, felt like O’Neal was standing in his way.
5. Kobe Bryant Is In It to Win It by J.R. Moehringer for GQ (2010)
The first time I went through this profile, I remember reading the anecdote about Kobe’s helicopter and barely blinking an eye. For anyone else it would’ve seemed excessive, but with Kobe it made perfect sense. Nobody else could pull something like that off; it went so well with this quote: “If you’re afraid to fail, then you’re probably going to fail. You know what I mean? Fuck it.”
6. Kobe Bryant Will Always Be an All-Star of Talking by Chuck Klosterman for GQ (2015)
By the time you reach the midway point of this interview, you’ll wish it was two million words longer. Bryant was most entertaining when talking about himself: “Does my nature make me less enjoyable to play with? Of course. Of course it does. Is it possible that some top players in the league are intimidated by that? Yes. But do I want to play with those players? Does the Laker organization want those specific players? No.”
7. Kobe by Henry Abbott for ESPN the Magazine (2014)
In 2014, Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension that clearly made no sense even as it happened. Physical decline is an ugly prospect for every player, but it’s especially uncomfortable for the proudest ones, and nobody believed in themselves quite like Kobe. While so many writers have been in the business of crafting Kobe mythology, Abbott instead chisels away at it with an honest assessment of Bryant’s on and off-court bullying, selfish style of play, and more. Kobe stans have long dismissed this feature because it’s loaded with anonymous sourcing, but there’s no telling the whole story without it.