MANILA — Unlike other former colleague-sportswriters, I didn’t have the rare opportunity to personally interview one of NBA’s most loved star Kobe Bryant.
And as a basketball-loving nation, the NBA star is hugely popular in the Philippines, where basketball is the national sport and obsession.
Would you believe, Bryant visited the country seven times over the years, winning him the affection of Philippine basketball fans, who until now, still mourns the untimely passing of the 41-year-old basketball demigod a.k.a., “The Black Mamba.”
Kobe Bryant died Sunday morning of January 26, 2020 along with 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others after the Sikorsky S-76 they were riding malfunctioned and slammed to an Orange County hillside in California killing them instantly.
Pilot of the aircraft that took off at 9:06 a.m. local time that Sunday was Ara Zobayan, the same pilot who flew Bryant to his final Lakers game in 2016.
Since that fateful day, a lot has been written about Kobe. Some touched on Bryant’s first visit to the Philippines in 1998 for a special appearance at an Adidas 3-on-3 basketball competition held at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong. He was only 20 that year month of August.
While some writers recounted their unforgettable and rare opportunity of having interviewed the man, who also had his own share of infamy on allegations of sexual assault just like golf’s demigod Tiger Woods, a big part of the man remains unwritten.
And before we get into the “unwritten or unpublicized” part of Kobe Bryant, it is noteworthy to mention 12 major NBA records that are still held by KB courtesy of Business Insider:
Bryant was just 18 years and 158 days old when he made his first NBA start against the Dallas Mavericks in January of 1997. He scored 12 points as the Lakers won 102-83.
Barely a year after, he became — and remains — the youngest ever player to feature in an All-Star game.
He was just 19 years and 170 days old in 1998 when he played on the West Conference team alongside Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, and Tim Duncan, amongst others. However, he couldn’t prevent a 135–114 defeat.
Bryant may have lost his first All-Star game, but would go on to have a further 17 shots at victory throughout his career. During that time, he picked up a joint record four MVP awards, which is matched only by Bob Pettit.
He scored the most points in a single game of the modern NBA era.
Bryant hit an incredible 81 points in a single game against the Toronto Raptors in January of 2006 — 10 more than anyone had ever scored before.
He has also scored more points, more free-throws, and made more turnovers than any other guard in history.
During his career, Bryant hit 33,643 points, made 8,378 free throws, and completed 4,010 turnovers. All three are records for his position.
He’s one of only four players to win 15 All-NBA team honors.
Bryant made the cut 15 times. LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Tim Duncan are the only others who have done the same.
He was also one of only four to win nine All-Defensive First Team honors.
Like the All-NBA team, the All-Defensive First Team is the annual squad of the division’s best defenders. Bryant was named within it a record-equaling nine times. The others to have achieved that feat are Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, and Kevin Garnett.
No player in NBA history has dominated one court like Bryant. In 20 seasons with the Lakers, he hit 16,161 points at the Staples Center, just under half his career total.
At 37, he became — and still is — the youngest player ever to reach 33,000 points.
Only four players in NBA history have scored 33,000 points, but no one did it faster than Bryant. He was aged 37 years and 138 days when he hit that landmark against the Sacramento Kings in January 2016.
Soon after, he became the oldest player ever to score over 60 points in a single game.
Bryant didn’t slow down as he got older. In his final game for the Lakers in 2016, he hit 60 points against the Utah Jazz, in turn becoming the oldest player in the division’s history to hit such a score in a single game.
Now the “under-publicized” part of Kobe Bryant.
Unknown to many basketball fans and non-basketball fans, Bryant and wife Vanessa are active in charity works.
Bryant feels satisfied granting wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses having appeared for Make-A-Wish Foundation for more than 100 times over 20 years.
Many actually believe playing basketball is the source of energy from which KB drew philanthropic work through the Lakers team and the NBA but more often on his own.
Basketball was also part of his charity work. He volunteered for the Boys & Girls Club of America, often hosting basketball camps.
He participated in the league’s NBA Cares initiatives, where he helped build homes and basketball courts, stocked food pantries and supported reading initiatives.
Husband wife tandem put up their own charitable foundation in 2007, the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation or KVBF which provides scholarships and operates Mamba FC, a youth soccer club that teaches young athletes how to become leaders and independent thinkers through sports.
Bryant was the official spokesman for After-School All-Stars, a national children’s charity that provides after-school programs to 72,000 kids.
In 2008, he was named a spokesperson for Aid Still Required, which helps people left behind after natural disasters and other crises.
Besides his work with sick kids through Make-A-Wish, Bryant also supported cancer initiatives.
For instance, he participated in a fundraising effort for Stand Up To Cancer in 2012 that raised more than $80 million for cancer research.
From 2012 to 2017, the KVBF reported revenue of more than $2.5 million, with $1,035,472 reported in 2012, according to IRS tax filings.
They sponsored international enrichment experiences for minority college students and provided domestic and international youth scholarships for the Kobe Bryant Basketball Academy.
Combating youth homelessness was another cause that Bryant felt strongly about and the family foundation partnered with Los Angeles organizations Step Up on Second and My Friend’s Place to combat homelessness in the area.
The Bryants are also founding donors to the National Museum of African American History and Culture with a $1 million pledge in 2017.
Besides making donations, Bryant used his presence to highlight causes. On April 4, 2016, the Lakers’ community relations department did a 10-day campaign on its Instagram account titled #KobeintheCommunity that highlighted such moments over his 20-year career. (Ismael Amigo)