Kobe Bryant: basketball superstar for the Los Angeles Lakers, five-time NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, children’s-book author, husband, father, sometimes a lightning rod for controversy and conflict, always a competitor beyond compare, a global icon. The tapes journalist Mike Sielski plays in this podcast series aren’t from the later years of Kobe's Lakers career when he was already a celebrity. They’re from 1996 and 1997, from when Kobe was a senior at Lower Merion High School, near Philadelphia. Some are from the weeks just after he graduated. And some are from his first season with the Lakers. All of them are from when he was still just 17 and 18 years old, when he was just beginning his path to glory.

No matter what your perspective is on Kobe Bryant, you have to admit that he was more than just famous. He was a fascinating figure. These tapes provide a glimpse of Kobe that few people had while he was alive. This is Kobe as he was. But more than that, this is Kobe as he was figuring out who he would be. When Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, Kobe was as famous, as recognizable, as any athlete on the planet. Over his two decades with the Lakers, he scored 33,643 points. That’s more than Michael Jordan scored, more than Wilt Chamberlain scored, way more than Dr. J or Shaquille O’Neal or Larry Bird scored. Kobe also won five championships and two Olympic gold medals. His nickname was the “Black Mamba,” because he was so deadly when the game mattered most. And you know what’s funny about that nickname? Kobe gave it to himself. Which kind of tells you everything you need to know about him.

Pre-order Mike Sielski's related book: “The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality" (1/11/22): TheRiseOfKobeBook.com

Join the conversation about “I Am Kobe” on social media: on Twitter and Instagram: @diversionpods

Our theme music is “Create Yourself” by Grover Braam feat. Justin Starling: Listen to Create Yourself on Spotify

Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK

“I Am Kobe” is a production of Diversion Podcasts, in association with iHeartRadio. This season is written and hosted by Mike Sielski. Produced by Jacob Bronstein and directed by Mark Francis. Consulting Producer: Andrew Kalb. Story editing by Jacob Bronstein with editorial direction from Scott Waxman. Editing, mixing, and sound design by Mark Francis. Production Assistant: Stephen Tompkins. Music Supervisor: Scott Velasquez, for Frisson Sync. Executive Producers: Mark Francis and Scott Waxman.

Thanks to Oren Rosenbaum, Susan Canavan, and Jeremy Treatman.

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