Kobe Bryant’s influence on the world transcended languages, borders and genders. The late Los Angeles Lakers legend made the Mamba Mentality not only a mantra, but a way of life for millions. He not only inspired millions to play ball, but hundreds of artists to reference his likeness in their lyrics as well to better tell their stories.
Bryant was an aspiring rapper himself too near the early aughts, but he ended up mastering basketball instead of bars. The five-time champion’s connections to the Hip Hop community were multifold throughout his life.
Bryant’s first connection to the Hip Hop community took place in 1996 when he was a high school basketball prodigy at Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia.
He befriended rappers in school, going as far as forming the startup group CHEIZAW, but the ensemble never really materialized throughout the years.
Then, like many before him, Bryant needed a date for the prom. In what was perhaps the first sign of killer confidence of his yet-to-be-developed career, Bryant courted platinum-performing R&B singer Brandy to chaperone him as his date for the high school formal dance on May 24, 1996. Thirty-three days later, the kid who had his No. 33 high school jersey retired was drafted by the Hornets and then traded the same night to the Lakers.
Brandy and Bryant both said they were nothing more than friends. Brandy was courtside cheering for Bryant as a rookie during the 1997 All-Star Game Slam Dunk Contest, which he won. Bryant later returned the support by appearing in an episode of Brandy’s television show Moesha.
All Eyez For Tupac
According to platinum songwriter Delray Richardson, Bryant and Tupac Shakur met each other in Los Angeles on August 11, 1996 at the House Of Blues.
The night was marked by a now mythical concert from LL Cool J and Outkast. A little over a month later, Tupac was gunned down and never got to see Bryant play in the NBA.
Kobe Meets Wife Vanessa On Set Of Snoop Dogg’s Music Video
Bryant rode a lot of pine for the first couple of seasons on the Lakers bench as the Shaquille O’Neal-lead Lakers failed to make the NBA Finals in their first three years together. Then came the addition of coach Phil Jackson, and suddenly, the Lakers operated at the peak of their powers and avoided languishing by winning three consecutive NBA titles from 2000, 2001 and 2002.
Turns out, the NBA’s fourth all-time leading scorer was winning off the court during this era as well.
In 1999, during the making of Snoop Dogg’s Hip Hop trio “Tha Eastsidaz” music video shoot for the song “G’d Up,” Bryant met Vanessa. Soon after they were engaged, then eventually married.
Kobe didn’t waltz into Snoop’s set my accident. At the time, much rival teammate Shaq did before him, he was actively trying to kick off a side career as a rapper.
For one three-month stretch in New Jersey for the summer of 1998, Bryant lived in the mansion of Steve Stoute, the legendary record executive who helped kickstart the careers of Will Smith and Nas. Stoute later signed Bryant (and CHEIZAW) to Sony Entertainment.