15x NBA All-Star, 11x All-NBA First Team, 9x NBA All-Defensive First Team, 5x NBA Champion, 4x NBA All-Star Game MVP, 2x NBA Finals MVP, 2x NBA Scoring Champ, NBA MVP, NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion, Lakers all-time leading scorer. Kobe Bryant. Underdog.
Wait, what? Yes, Kobe Bryant considers himself an underdog.
I had the privilege of sitting down with Kevin Ding, Lakers lead writer and NBA columnist for Bleacher Report, who has been covering Kobe in some facet since 1998.
From breaking the news of Kobe’s wedding, to reporting on Kobe’s sexual assault charges, to covering nearly every moment of the feud between Kobe and Shaq (and many moments in-between), Ding has been around the Lakers’ superstar, pen-and-paper ready, during his highest of highs and lowest of lows.
Behind the bright lights and media pandemonium, Ding’s found that Kobe’s just a guy with an underdog mentality who is not afraid to fail.
“He is bottom line a guy who is obviously genetically geared to be very good at what he does, but he also views himself as an underdog, which I don’t think people really understand about him… He’s a guy who came from overseas and had to earn his way onto the basketball court. He’s a guy who’s team went 4-20 when he was a freshmen at Lower Merion High School. He’s a guy who was written off as a guard who’s going to try to turn pro, this skinny kid, ‘like what is he doing?’ All these things… he views as his story, as his way to the top was ‘I have to fight and I have to overcome all these things…I have to work so hard to get there.’
“That’s the other thing I don’t think people get about him. He’s fearless because his whole mentality is to try… he’ll get in trouble with people because he tries so hard. He isn’t afraid to fail.”
Jerry Rice once famously said the exact opposite in his Hall of Fame speech – that the fear of failure was the “engine” that’s driven him throughout his entire life. Being great, though, isn’t about “what” drives you, it’s about holding on to whatever it is that does drive you and continuing to push the limits. And, everyone knows, not only does Kobe push the limits, he’s especially driven by those that think there is something he cannot do.
Full Interview with Kevin Ding will be posted tomorrow.