It’s 2001, and the Lakers just finished beating a scrappy Philadelphia 76ers squad in the NBA Finals.
Kobe Bryant, now a two-time NBA Champion, is seen holding the Larry O’Brien trophy in the shower and crying. Most people assume it was out of joy or relief. Rather, it was about something a little deeper. Check out this quote by Chris Ballard:
“The falling out occurred in 2000, though neither Joe nor Kobe talks about it publicly anymore. At 21, Kobe got engaged to 18-year-old Vanessa Laine, whom he had met on the set of a video shoot when she was a high school senior. Joe did not approve. The problem, according to the Los Angeles Times, was that Joe was “uncomfortable that Vanessa, a Latina, is not African-American, and he is uneasy with [Kobe’s] selfless devotion to her.” When Kobe and Vanessa got married the following year, Joe and Pam didn’t attend the wedding. When the Lakers played three games in Philadelphia during the 2001 NBA Finals, Joe was nowhere to be found. When, at the end of that series, the Lakers triumphed and Kobe was spotted holding the trophy in the shower and crying, everyone assumed it was out of joy, or relief. But he later told the Times, ‘That was about my dad.’
Back then, Kobe’s dad (Joe) failed to show for his son’s Championship game out of disapproval for who Kobe was dating.
Now, Kobe and Vanessa are happily married, and things appear to be better on all fronts. Still, with stories and moments like these, it reminds us that athletes are more than players… they’re people dealing with things and emotions just like everyone else.