Remembering Kobe: Stories from coaching at Kobe Camp

Remembering Kobe: Stories from coaching at Kobe Camp

Many people have been sharing stories about Kobe. Brent Pella (@brentpella) used to coach at Kobe’s camp and shared a few that give us a peek behind the curtain. These are memories Brent shared in a Reddit post and agreed to share with our readers as well. 

I’m not sure where the best place would be to post this, but I wanted to share a couple of stories with anyone else who had ever met Kobe, seen him play, or felt inspired by him:

I had the privilege of being a coach at Kobe’s basketball camp every summer for five years in a row. A lot of players have branded summer camps, but Kobe wasn’t a guy who would put his name on the camp logo, show up once, and cash his check…he would show up daily – sometimes for the 8 am greeting to address the 700+ kids in the gym – and was a constant presence throughout the week.

He’d interrupt drills to make sure 8-year olds were running the triangle offense properly. He’d walk through team practices pulling kids aside to give them tips on their jab step. One time I saw him tell a kid “that was a lazy pass,” and for the rest of the week, the kid passed the ball so hard his teammates could barely catch it.

The younger kids wouldn’t hear a word he said; they were in shock that an actual God was speaking to them. But you could see in some of the older kids’ eyes that any time Kobe was nearby, something switched. They moved a little quicker, played a little harder like some higher level had just been found.

One year at camp I had a 10-year-old Japanese girl on my team who didn’t speak a word of English, yet still was the only person on the team to grasp the concept of ‘help defense.’ Kobe was walking by one afternoon, saw her take a perfect charge, and got so excited he ran on to the court to give her a high five DURING the game. He stayed and cheered for her the rest of the game (she ended up taking at least 20 more charges that week, was the biggest hustler on the team, and got awarded “best defense” for our division. She also couldn’t stop smiling and saying, “Kobe high-fived me!” after that day).

Another year I saw him get challenged by a gangly young white kid who walked straight up to him and said: “Bet you can’t beat me, I’m the WHITE Mamba.” Later that day, while speaking to the entire crowd of kids in the gym, Kobe called that boy out to center court. He played him one-on-one and with all 700+ campers watching, beat the kid 5-0.

Then one year, after the kids had gone to bed, a few of us were shooting around in the gym with Kobe. The side door opened, and we saw Lil Bow Wow walk in, unannounced, with a backpack full of cash (no idea why he was there, the camp was in Santa Barbara). He threw out a challenge; he wanted to play Kobe 1-on-1 for a thousand dollars. Kobe let Bow Wow start the game up 10-0, then proceeded to play harder than anyone I’ve ever seen at ANY level. It didn’t look like he was playing one-on-one with the 5’7” rapper of ‘Shortie Like Mine’ – it felt like he was playing for a championship. Kobe scored 11 straight points, took the stack of cash, turned to us coaches, and said: “give this to my people.” I got handed $100 and immediately bought new Kobes.

In the last year of camp, we had our photo session, coaches each got their own pic with Kobe. I could tell he was tired from the day-long photoshoot when he yawned and said “wassup b” as I walked over. I said, “man we’ve been getting the same photo for five years; can we mix it up?” hoping I could find a way to get a laugh out of this overworked exhausted dude who gave so much to the camp every year. He chuckled and said, “let’s do it,” then immediately cocked his head to the side, crossed his eyes, and as if he hadn’t done enough already, made everyone in the room burst out laughing. To this day, it makes me smile every time I see it.

Between the moments of hanging with him on the sidelines, listening to his Q&A sessions, and watching how he interacted with kids on a daily basis you could tell this guy had some crazy fire that drove him to not only be better on and off the court but make everyone around him better too. That’s a pretty amazing legacy to leave behind, and I’m beyond grateful to have been influenced and inspired by a man who put so much love into the world.

Oh, and I still wear those Kobes. Thanks, Bow Wow.