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Basketball Legend Kobe Bryant on Life After the NBA: How He’s Inspiring a New Generation to Dream Big

by CYDNEY WEINER

NBA champion Kobe Bryant is an Academy Award winner, New York Times best-selling author and CEO of Granity Studios, a multi-media content creation company.

His main focus these days is sharing what he’s learned with young athletes around the world. He’s also written a series of what he calls “sports fantasy.” His latest book, Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof, is the story of two children: the lowly born Rovi and the crown princess Pretia who uncover and battle terrible evil and discover their inner strength along the way.

1. Since your retirement from the NBA, you’ve really thrown yourself into passion projects centered around kids and sports. How has life changed for you since playing for the NBA? What is it about sports that has the ability to build confidence in young people?

I’ve had more time to focus on my other, more creative passions, like storytelling. My drive and work ethic is the same, but my energy and time are directed at crafting these inspiring and magical stories for kids.

Sports is the greatest metaphor for life. Through sports, kids learn key lessons such as teamwork, failure, and perseverance. Those are all things people experience early on and carry through in their lives. If being coached and taught the right way, sports can build confidence in kids because they learn to make mistakes, learn to get better and eventually have successes along the way.

2. You’ve recently authored a series of books for young adults (including your newest release, Epoca), with the intention of putting imagination back into sports. What’s the core message at the center of your books and why was it important to you to write them?

I created Granity Studios as a way of teaching valuable life lessons to the next generation–whatever they hope to do. The goal is to encourage children to develop their own inner magic and believe they can achieve the impossible. We aspire to do that in a fun way. If kids aren’t having fun, they’re also not tapping into their imagination. And that’s what we hope this new genre of storytelling–Sports Fantasy–can help tackle. By making sports more “fun,” we open up an entire world of valuable life skills for our children. Our stories center around sports but represent a competitive mindset about being the best at whatever it is you choose to do.

The messages at the core of the books are about determination, sacrifice, confidence, overcoming adversity, and identity. Each book is different and has its own unique set of messages, but these themes are central to all of our Granity titles. It’s important that young athletes and readers feel represented and have stories they identify with and can relate to. It’s more difficult to feel inspired by a story that has nothing in common with a person’s circumstance or situation. So, our books entertain and bring imagination back into sports, while guiding young people with characters who may be experiencing similar pressures, fears, and dynamics.

3. You’re also coaching one of your daughter’s basketball teams. What do you tell your players about pursuing their sports dreams? How can we support equality for women in sports?

Yes, it’s such a privilege to be able to coach the girls’ team. I tell my players that it takes commitment, determination, and a lot of patience, but I also encourage them to have fun and connect with that fun while playing. Youth sports have become too structured and the pressures kids face are too much. Sixty-two percent of children retire from sports early because they are no longer “fun.” I’m focused on changing that mentality with everything I’m building now, including coaching.

Equality for women in sports needs to start at the storytelling level. We need to provide opportunities to highlight the talent exhibited in women’s sports every day in order to help people better understand the athletes, their motivation and their vision. Once we can amplify their voices and better establish a connection to the players, we can start building better businesses around them–from salaries to sponsorships to post-playing careers.

4. What has being a father to four girls taught you about yourself and about family? About sports?

Being a father is the thing I am most proud of in this world; it’s my greatest accomplishment. I’ve learned so much, but perhaps the most profound thing has been the fierce, unconditional love you have for your children when you become a parent. I’m blessed to have had that experience four times now and there’s nothing more powerful in this world.

Being a dad has given me a different perspective on sports. I can see the effects on players who haven’t been taught the right way – physically, mentally and emotionally – and I want something better for my children. It goes back to why I’m so focused on storytelling in sports, as well as coaching. The passion for it all stems from my four girls.

5. What’s coming up for you? How are you planning to use your voice and your platform next?

In addition to our latest book, EPOCA: The Tree of Ecrof, we’ll publish new titles in 2020, including the second book in the Wizenard Series, titled SEASON ONE and our first official YA novel, GEESE ARE NEVER SWANS, will be published in the summer of 2020.

I plan to continue using storytelling as a vehicle to inspire and encourage today’s young people, particularly athletes, to persevere, follow their passions, have fun, work hard, and be the best version of themselves they can be.

CYDNEY WEINER

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