For those looking to take a walk down memory lane through Kobe Bryant's career, there are few better tour guides than Kobe Bryant: Laker for Life. A collection of stories from the Los Angeles Daily News published by Triumph Books, KBLL takes fans on a journey through Bryant's legendary 20-year career.
Sitting at 127 pages, KBLL is just beefy enough to justify it's around $16 dollar price tag for a die-hard Lakers fan, or for those too young to remember the early years of Kobe's career that want to know how it appeared in real time. The text is almost like a giant magazine, both from the print-writing style to the light and glossy material it's printed on. An assemblage of the L.A. Daily News' best photographs pop off of the pages.
The first half of KBLL is a step-by-step walkthrough of Bryant's career using previously printed L.A. Daily News stories, with the oldest ones from before the internet serving as particular highlights. After opening with this introduction from Mark Heisler, the book segues into a report from Marc Stein on the Lakers imminent trade for the little-known 17-year old. Sure, most know that Bryant was traded for Vlade Divac, but did you know Lakers management was leaking (before the trade even went down) that Bryant had "more talent than anyone on the present roster?"
Fun, lost to the passage of time anecdotes like that are peppered throughout the book. From Magic Johnson calling Bryant after his 81-point game to Kobe and Pau exchanging 3 a.m. text messages about strategy during the NBA Finals, reading KBLL is akin to mainlining nostalgia. The photographs amplify the effect, with Bryant holding his youngest daughter Natalia as a toddler on the Lakers championship parade float serving as a jarring contrast to the tall, nearly ten-year-old girl trailing him around on his current farewell tour.
Around halfway through, KBLL shifts into a collection of the L.A. Daily News' most memorable features about Bryant. Again, most Lakers fans remember bits and pieces of these stories, but the details from the time make them a fun look back.
Mark Medina's trip back to Lower Merion High still stands out as one of the most informative looks into Bryant's early days ever written (an experience he spoke about on our recent podcast). Medina's pieces take center-stage for most of this half of the book, from his feature on Bryant and Tony Allen's mutual respect for each other's crafts to a story comparing Bryant and Jordan's careers when Kobe was on the verge of passing MJ in scoring. In the latter story, one of Kobe's high school teammates reveals that the 17-year old future Lakers great used to tell them that even Jordan couldn't stop him.
It's forgotten particulars like this where the book really shines, and these are merely a handful of what readers can expect to find.
In one of the first stories in KBLL, reporter Doug Krikorian asks a 19-year old Kobe if he regretted not attending college. The future Lakers superstar's answer was a fitting summary of his career-long approach to basketball.
"Yeah, once in a while it crosses my mind," said Bryant. "But not often. I took a three-unit course last summer at UCLA, and it was really difficult. The only course I'm taking right now is basketball. NBA 101."
It's safe to say Bryant passed that course with flying colors, and KBLL serves as a wonderful yearbook for anyone wanting to reminisce.