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Kobe Bryant x The World’s Game

Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Kobe Bryant (C L) and Barcelona team captain Andrés Iniesta Luján (C R) pose with other members of the FC Barcelona football team before a training session at the StarHub Stadium in Carson, California, on July 20, 2015. Barcelona will play the LA Galaxy in an International Champions Cup match on July 21. AFP PHOTO/MARK RALSTON
Kobe Bryant x The World’s Game

Kobe Bryant is retiring this season. Bryant is without a doubt one of the greatest basketball players of all time. A five-time champion, perennial All-Star, MVP and a gold medalist, and is leaving the game with a remarkable legacy of success (despite recent Lakers struggles).

One of the things that I have always found so interesting about Kobe and one of the reasons he’s been so successful is his athletic background. Kobe was born in Italy and played soccer the first seven years of his life before moving to the states and learning about basketball. Kobe always harbored sentimental feelings for his first love. A childhood fan of AC Milan, Bryant is also a noted fan of FC Barcelona and has even gone so far as to visit them in training when the team is in the area.

 

Kobe has done everything from play in celebrity matches with USWNT stars Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach, to feature in Nike’s social media campaign for the Magista boots alongside Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta to even draining half-court shots for EA’s FIFA 16 commercials with his foot.

Another thing to be noted is Kobe’s relationship with soccer stars such as Ronaldinho, Sydney Leroux, Neymar, Lionel Messi and countless others.

What’s most telling of Kobe’s relationship with soccer is the way his soccer background influences his basketball game. Any fan of the two sports can note that Kobe, especially in his prime, does things like nutmeg Kevin Durant, to passing the ball in sort of Tiki-Taka way similar to Barcelona on any given day.

Having played soccer has also positively affected Bryant’s vision on the court. He’s not always been a pass-first type of guard but has always had the ability to pick out a pass to an open teammate. Often times with the path being in his peripheral similar to the way a center-midfielder will pick out an oncoming forward.

“In playing soccer growing up, you really see the game in a combination of threes, sometimes fours – and how you play within triangles.” Bryant told Yahoo Sports’ Shahan Ahmed. “And growing up playing (soccer), my eye and my brain became accustomed to seeing those combinations in threes and fours versus one and two.”

Kobe’s greatest skill has always been his footwork. Even now, Kobe will put a marker on skates with just a jab-step and spin before hitting a jumper or driving through the paint.

With the Black Mamba’s days as a basketball player coming to an end, both of Bryant’s daughters play soccer and he cited the USA women’s national team as huge inspirations to them. If Bryant’s daughters are half as good at soccer as he was at basketball…well that’s an amazing (and scary) thought.

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@Osandoval8

Sports Psychology student writing my perspective on different topics revolving around the beautiful game. I also work as a soccer coach for kids as young as 12 months to as old as 14 years of age in both competitive and non-competitive environments. In my spare time, I love playing FIFA, reading and of course, playing soccer.

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