I Am Kobe

iHeartRadio and Diversion Podcasts

How did Kobe Bryant craft the passion, the determination, and the strength to become a legend? This remarkable series reveals intimate, never-before-heard tapes of Kobe as a teenager, exploring his thoughts, his dreams, and his goals. Philadelphia journalist Mike Sielski tells the story of Kobe Bryant’s early years, weaving together these tapes and speaking with Kobe's high school coaches, his friends, his family, and the figures who knew him in his youth, to paint an enthralling documentary portrait of the making of an icon. Before he was an outsized global basketball celebrity for the Los Angeles Lakers, a 5-time NBA champion, an 18-time All-Star, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, a children’s-book author, a husband, a father, and sometimes a lightning rod for controversy, Kobe Bryant was a kid from Philadelphia. Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK

Introducing: I Am Kobe
Trailer 1 min 36 sec

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Coming 11/16/21: What if we could go back in time, before he became the icon, and ask him: how did you become Kobe Bryant? “I Am Kobe” tells the story of Kobe Bryant’s early life through his coaches, his family, his friends. With never-before-heard intimate tapes of Kobe himself. His thoughts, his dreams, his goals from his teenage years, revealed for the first time. Listen to “I Am Kobe” for free on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, and all the places you get podcasts. Listen to his voice. November 16, 2021. Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

Nov 3

1 min 36 sec

Kobe Bryant: basketball superstar for the Los Angeles Lakers, five-time NBA champion, 18-time All-Star, Academy Award-winning filmmaker, children’s-book author, husband, father, sometimes a lightning rod for controversy and conflict, always a competitor beyond compare, a global icon. The tapes journalist Mike Sielski plays in this podcast series aren’t from the later years of Kobe's Lakers career when he was already a celebrity. They’re from 1996 and 1997, from when Kobe was a senior at Lower Merion High School, near Philadelphia. Some are from the weeks just after he graduated. And some are from his first season with the Lakers. All of them are from when he was still just 17 and 18 years old, when he was just beginning his path to glory. No matter what your perspective is on Kobe Bryant, you have to admit that he was more than just famous. He was a fascinating figure. These tapes provide a glimpse of Kobe that few people had while he was alive. This is Kobe as he was. But more than that, this is Kobe as he was figuring out who he would be. When Kobe, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people died in a helicopter crash in January 2020, Kobe was as famous, as recognizable, as any athlete on the planet. Over his two decades with the Lakers, he scored 33,643 points. That’s more than Michael Jordan scored, more than Wilt Chamberlain scored, way more than Dr. J or Shaquille O’Neal or Larry Bird scored. Kobe also won five championships and two Olympic gold medals. His nickname was the “Black Mamba,” because he was so deadly when the game mattered most. And you know what’s funny about that nickname? Kobe gave it to himself. Which kind of tells you everything you need to know about him. Join the conversation about “I Am Kobe” on social media: on Twitter and Instagram: @diversionpods Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK “I Am Kobe” is a production of Diversion Podcasts, in association with iHeartRadio. This season is written and hosted by Mike Sielski. Produced by Jacob Bronstein and directed by Mark Francis. Consulting Producer: Andrew Kalb. Story editing by Jacob Bronstein with editorial direction from Scott Waxman. Editing, mixing, and sound design by Mark Francis. Production Assistant: Stephen Tompkins. Our theme music is “Create Yourself” by Grover Braam and Justin Starling. Music Supervisor: Scott Velasquez, for Frisson Sync. Executive Producers: Mark Francis and Scott Waxman. Thanks to Oren Rosenbaum, Susan Canavan, and Jeremy Treatman. Special acknowledgment to the Bryant family and those who knew Kobe for making this series possible. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

Nov 16

36 min 55 sec

If you want to get to the heart of the Kobe Bryant story, you have to start with the Joe Bryant story, and that means you have to start with Philadelphia. One of the pieces of Kobe’s story that tends to get glossed over is that his dad also played in the NBA. Joe Bryant spent eight years in the league. But throwing out that fact and then moving on doesn’t capture the full picture of Joe’s career. Because long before Kobe Bryant was a high school legend around Philadelphia, Joe Bryant was a high school legend in Philadelphia. And his legend was every bit as grand as his son’s. When Joe Bryant was a kid, Earl the Pearl Monroe was his hero, his biggest basketball influence. Which made Joe different from just about every Philly high school star who had come before him. See, “The Pearl” was 6-foot-3, and Joe wanted to play just like him. Joe put the ball behind his back. He worked on his spin moves. He aspired to be as creative and flashy as The Pearl. There was one big difference, though: Joe wasn’t 6-foot-3. He was 6-foot-9. And 6-foot-9 players didn’t do the kinds of things that Joe could do. There was a difference between Joe and Kobe, between father and son. Joe ratcheted up his competitiveness, his will to win, only sometimes, when he absolutely had to. But, of course, this is the quality that Kobe is probably most well-known for—he was at that peak level all the time. Joe Bryant was arrested in 1976. Joe was charged with drug possession, reckless driving, and two counts of resisting arrest. The aftermath of Joe’s arrest wasn’t all that different from the aftermath of Kobe’s arrest for sexual assault all those years later. The charges and alleged crimes were different, of course, Kobe’s more severe than Joe’s. But just like with Kobe, there was public shock over Joe’s incident with the police, disbelief that he could do something so dumb, that he could put his career at risk. His actions had threatened his marriage — or seemed to, anyway — and led to speculation that the scandal would tarnish him forever. For some people, that’s certainly still the case with Kobe. The difference was, nothing much about Kobe’s career changed once the public interest in the scandal started to fade. The Lakers didn’t trade him. He didn’t decide to play somewhere else, though there were times he considered it. He was a Laker, and he remained a Laker. But even though Joe stayed out of legal trouble from then on, he was never able to establish a specific role with the Sixers — or with any other NBA team for the rest of his career. Join the conversation about “I Am Kobe” on social media: on Twitter and Instagram: @diversionpods Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK “I Am Kobe” is a production of Diversion Podcasts, in association with iHeartRadio. This season is written and hosted by Mike Sielski. Produced by Jacob Bronstein and directed by Mark Francis. Consulting Producer: Andrew Kalb. Story editing by Jacob Bronstein with editorial direction from Scott Waxman. Editing, mixing, and sound design by Mark Francis. Production Assistant: Stephen Tompkins. Our theme music is “Create Yourself” by Grover Braam and Justin Starling. Music Supervisor: Scott Velasquez, for Frisson Sync. Executive Producers: Mark Francis and Scott Waxman. Thanks to Oren Rosenbaum, Susan Canavan, and Jeremy Treatman. Special acknowledgment to the Bryant family and those who knew Kobe for making this series possible. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

E

Nov 16

53 min 44 sec

Kobe Bryant wasn’t quite flashing The Mamba Mentality yet. He was 13 years old and he was jumping into the middle of the school year at Bala Cynwyd Middle School. Then after a few more months, boom, he was heading to Lower Merion, a public high school in the suburbs just outside Philadelphia, a school where about 10 percent of the students were Black. This podcast project came out of writer Mike Sielski's related book: The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality (1/11/22). Pre-order from your favorite retailer: TheRiseOfKobeBook.com Joe Bryant got a job at Akiba Hebrew Academy, a Jewish day school on the Main Line. You might have heard of Akiba, or at least some of its alumni. Jake Tapper, from CNN, went there, and so did the best-selling author and media personality Mitch Albom. Joe Bryant was the girls basketball coach there, but it wasn’t like Akiba’s players were all ticketed to play for UConn or Baylor someday. These girls were just learning the game, trying to master its fundamentals, and Joe was happy to teach them that and a few other things. He’d have the players practice dribbling behind their backs and between their legs, stuff that to him was just fun. That’s kind of what the job was to Joe: just fun. He’d even bring Kobe to practice from time to time, and it was there where both Joe and Kobe Bryant met Jeremy Treatman, the man who would become their friend and confidant, for the first time. It’s a rare thing to have a genuine epiphany, to be able to pinpoint the instant when you know you’ve uncovered something or come across someone who will be famous or special in some way. There’s a story about a man named Jon Landau, who was a music critic and became an influential record producer. In 1974, Landau went to a concert for an up-and-coming band at the Harvard Square Theater in Massachusetts, Afterward, he wrote this, "I saw my rock and roll past flash before my eyes. I saw something else: I saw rock and roll's future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Well, Jeremy Treatman had just had his Bruce Springsteen moment. He saw the future of basketball, and its name was Kobe Bryant. Join the conversation about “I Am Kobe” on social media: on Twitter and Instagram: @diversionpods Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK “I Am Kobe” is a production of Diversion Podcasts in association with iHeartRadio. This season is written and hosted by Mike Sielski. Produced by Jacob Bronstein and directed by Mark Francis. Story editing by Jacob Bronstein with editorial direction from Scott Waxman. Editing, mixing, and sound design by Mark Francis. Production Assistant: Stephen Tompkins. Our theme music is “Create Yourself” by Grover Braam featuring Justin Starling. Music Supervisor: Scott Velasquez for Frisson Sync. Executive Producers: Mark Francis and Scott Waxman.  Thanks to Oren Rosenbaum, Susan Canavan, and Jeremy Treatman. Special acknowledgment to the Bryant family and those who knew Kobe for making this series possible. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

Nov 23

40 min 56 sec

In 1995 high school basketball coach Gregg Downer created a staff of assistants for the purpose of coaching Kobe Bryant. Downer knew what he had in Kobe, and he knew what kind of attention Kobe would draw from opponents, from the media, from everywhere. So he did a really smart, really innovative thing: He brought on four assistants, and each coach would have his own specialized role. This podcast project came out of writer Mike Sielski's related book: The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality (1/11/22). Pre-order from your favorite retailer: TheRiseOfKobeBook.com Mike Egan, who had been a college coach in Delaware, was already on board as Lower Merion’s defensive coordinator. Downer’s older brother, Drew, had a way of talking to people, even teenagers, that put them at ease, so he would be the team’s amateur sports psychologist. Jimmy Kieserman was 26 at the time, had played Division I ball at Miami University and at Rider, and had played professionally in Israel. He was quick. He was tough. He could dunk. And he saw a news report about Kobe one night, and he called up Gregg and volunteered to help in any way he could. He became Kobe’s foil, guarding and harassing him every day at practice. Jeremy Treatman would be the team’s media-relations coordinator. He’d take care of all the interview requests, the reporters, the outside noise. And Gregg would oversee the whole operation. All this because of one 17-year-old kid. Because of Kobe. Join the conversation about “I Am Kobe” on social media: on Twitter and Instagram: @diversionpods Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK “I Am Kobe” is a production of Diversion Podcasts in association with iHeartRadio. This season is written and hosted by Mike Sielski. Produced by Jacob Bronstein and directed by Mark Francis. Story editing by Jacob Bronstein with editorial direction from Scott Waxman. Editing, mixing, and sound design by Mark Francis. Production Assistant: Stephen Tompkins. Our theme music is “Create Yourself” by Grover Braam featuring Justin Starling. Music Supervisor: Scott Velasquez for Frisson Sync. Executive Producers: Mark Francis and Scott Waxman.  Thanks to Oren Rosenbaum, Susan Canavan, and Jeremy Treatman. Special acknowledgment to the Bryant family and those who knew Kobe for making this series possible. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

Nov 30

42 min 15 sec

In 1995, when Kobe Bryant was making his rise through the high school basketball ranks, it would have been a miracle for Philadelphia's La Salle University to win an NCAA championship. It didn’t take long for people around La Salle to start thinking that maybe Kobe was going to choose to go to La Salle and become their savior. Kobe played a ton of pickup games in La Salle’s little sweatbox of a practice gym. Kobe could come to La Salle, stay for a year or two, and dominate. The school had won a national championship in 1954 and had been great in the late 1960s. If La Salle basketball was going to have any kind of renaissance, it needed Kobe bad, and everyone knew it. As for Kobe, he was keeping most of these plans to himself, and even though his dad was in a tough spot, being an assistant coach at La Salle, he and Kobe were kind of stringing La Salle men's basketball coach Speedy Morris along. La Salle might have a chance to get Kobe. Their school might be the one that Dick Vitale was screaming and shouting about on ESPN. Their school would be in the spotlight for a change. Pre-order Mike Sielski's related book: “The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality" (1/11/22): TheRiseOfKobeBook.com Join the conversation about “I Am Kobe” on social media: on Twitter and Instagram: @diversionpods But Kobe was at the vanguard of a new generation of players, young men who knew how much power they had and knew that they could wield it. Kobe could choose any path he wanted: college, the NBA, whatever. He could do what was best for him; he just had to be bold enough to follow through on it. Kobe’s future wasn’t dependent on Speedy Morris. If anything, it was the other way around. And Speedy Morris’ future wasn’t exactly a high priority for Kobe. It got to the point that Kobe started mocking the idea that he’d choose La Salle. Cover photo © Eileen Blass – USA TODAY NETWORK “I Am Kobe” is a production of Diversion Podcasts in association with iHeartRadio. This season is written and hosted by Mike Sielski. Produced by Jacob Bronstein and directed by Mark Francis. Story editing by Jacob Bronstein with editorial direction from Scott Waxman. Editing, mixing, and sound design by Mark Francis. Production Assistant: Stephen Tompkins. Our theme music is “Create Yourself” by Grover Braam featuring Justin Starling. Music Supervisor: Scott Velasquez for Frisson Sync. Executive Producers: Mark Francis and Scott Waxman.  Thanks to Oren Rosenbaum, Susan Canavan, and Jeremy Treatman. Special acknowledgment to the Bryant family and those who knew Kobe for making this series possible. Learn more about your ad-choices at https://www.iheartpodcastnetwork.com

Dec 7

38 min 6 sec