Monday, May 25, 2015
By TIM DAVID HARVEY.
Like father, like Bean. This is a league full of extraordinary gentlemen...and the fathers that raised them. The Curry's. The Ewing's. The Hardaway's. So many like the Barry's. The Jon's, Rick's and Brent's. The Dell's. The Seth and Steph's...and of course the Riley's. Who one day could have a life in the WNBA, the way she looks like her dad and the same way this family shoots from three. But what about the Bryant's? Kobe's got a couple of girls himself, but the casual fans among us may forget about his true parentage. Like one of the greatest the rap game has ever seen, Nas having the hip-hop jazz roots of his father, Olu Dara, one of this games greatest came from another hardwood classic. The world may be his now, but one day Kobe 'Bean' Bryant was watching from the sidelines (complete with court sweeper like rapper Common back in Chicago for the Bulls) as his father Joe Bryant, know to most as 'Jellybean' was popping with his sweet hops and shot. Now, hey Joe! How about a taste?
Kobe used to be on his dads back all the time...literally. Or so the 'Muse' says, in Kobe's latest career documentary for 'Showtime' which is really the curtain call review of quite the champion and competitor. Kobe tell us straight up to the camera that when his father would come home with a training table list of injuries and ailments and more cramps than 80's style after a game, he and his siblings would walk up and down their daddy's back to work that stuff out. Who needs Gary Vitti hey? Not when you've got what then was a young Kobe's favorite nightly ritual. Watching his hero come home after a night fighting for his dream and looking up to him with pride and awe. Young Kob' was used to doing whatever it took to help his dad and his hoops career. Philadelphia 76er born and raised, it would be in Europe however that Kobe would spend most of his childhood days. Chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool. Shooting some bball outside of school. Until this Fresh Prince of L.A.'s life got flipped-turned upside down. But still, Kobe wouldn't go live with his auntie and uncle in Bel-Air, or West Philly? Instead when the plane landed and he came out, it was Europe where his new throne would belong. An Italian job and wherever else his fathers great game and time would take him. 'Hang on lad...I've got an idea'. If the NBA wasn't going to give pops his props, he was going to scour the earth to find it. Taking this game overseas and revolutionizing and doing what all the young Jennings and WNBA stars he coached are doing today. Adding more stamps and approval to his passport and scouting report. Basketball without borders...only blowing more than the doors off.
And we all know what that European exposure and soccer skill did to Kobe and his game. From the savvy way he see's the floor, to the lost in translation way he play-call communicates on it. Like basketball's equivalent of baseball's facial-gesture and grimace, sign-language play-calling. Even if he doesn't have as much of a nose and ear for it these days now the likes of Gasol and Vujacic are gone. Maybe it's time to learn Chinese with Lin? A little bit of culture is good for anyone...even if at the beginning it does seem like too much of a permanent vacation and not just a world tour that the likes of Aersomith would rock and roll with. Still, before Bean senior took the seed of his junior overseas he gave NBA basketball a little bit of his own culture on these high seas of National Basketball. At 6, 9 and a star at Philly's John Bartram high and La Salle University, the Golden State Warriors drafted Joe Bryant in 1975 when Kobe was barely three years old with the 14th pick in the first round. Still after Golden State's lottery ball came up big, they switched tickets with Philadelphia as young Joe himself was given a Sixer cap on his way to career averages of 14.8 points 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists capped off per contest. After hitting the big stage, Bryant was going home...and boy did it feel so good. To play in front of his family and friends for four years alongside some of the games greatest like Doug Collins, George McGinnis and some doctor called Julius. It was just the prescription for J.B and on Ering's unit he was the right tonic for an operation that took it all the way to the lifeline of the NBA Finals, where they eventually flat lined against the Portland Trail Blazers 4 game to 2.
Still this Joe was one hell of a smoothly skilled player, running and dunking the floor with American abandon. Especially for his tweening Power Forward and Center position. When he headed to the West Coast-like his own son did on his 1996 draft day, over 20 years later when the Charlotte Hornets stupidly shipped him to some team in Hollywood-Bryant senior played for the Lakers neighbors Clippers. Still, he'd never see Los Angeles as a player, because this was back when the Clips where in San Diego and probably having their nightly sports bulletins read by Champ Kind of the 'Anchorman' Channel 4 New Team or something to that effect. After a "whammy" of a play-by-play each night, Bryant ended up flying high with the Rockets for a few years in Houston, before he'd really take flight. To Europe that is. Seven seasons in Italy made Bryant senior fluent in the European game and Bryant junior fluent in the culture. Just listen to the way he pronounces the names of the places he'd grow up in across the Italian A1 and A2 leagues. Playing for AMG Sebastiani Rieti, Viola Reggio Calabria,, Pistoia, and Reggio Emilia a decade after his NBA draft, from 1984 to 1991 this guy was a star that brought the peach to the vines of Europe as a young Vino was fermenting. If you thought this was just about collecting the zeroes on the end of a cheque, than the numbers of two 53 point games will read you differently. The 60 year old would play into his fifties as smooth as the day he rocked the young mans beard and fro. From a quick bonjour in France (for FC Mulhouse Basket) to a series of stints in the ABA that his early, Sixer game seem catered for (with the Boston Frenzy). Coaching is now this dads staple as he one day may head back to the NBA he's still connected to by being married to Pam Cox (sister of former player Chubby (Joe's nephew John Cox IV also plays pro in France)). In fact he's been in STAPLES with Los Angeles sister team the Sparks of the WNBA two times. Leading them to a 25 and 9 record (before a certain 80's legend called Michael Cooper ran the show), as well as coaching his resume in the ABA and now Japan (you're all familiar with the Tokyo Apache). Where he is the current coach of the Rizing Fukuoka. No wonder Kobe keeps coming back to Asia each Summer. He'll always have the inspiration of his elder statesman as well as his own pride and awe...even in his own winding down father time. This folks, is how number 22 and 23 influenced 24. Because without Jelly, there's no Bean.