CHINA REAL TIME REPORT
Kobe Bryant recently retired from basketball but he took the game to new heights on Tuesday evening in Shanghai, headlining the first-ever event held atop China’s tallest building.
Appearing on floor 126 of Shanghai Tower for a TedX Salon talk, Mr. Bryant spoke of his upbringing in Italy and two decades and five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, then hinted at what the future holds for a 37 year old who, in his words, “was born to play basketball.”
But first, his momentous exit as a Laker: “It was the final event of a long and beautiful journey,” Mr. Bryant said. “There wasn’t any pressure. It wasn’t sad.” Indeed, he scored 60 points in the April matchup with the Utah Jazz.
Mr. Bryant is in Asia for a tour that includes speaking appearances and running basketball camps. A photo of him in Beijing grinning alongside action movie star Jackie Chan flew around the Internet this week.
On Tuesday evening, Mr. Bryant spoke to a small group at the highest point of Shanghai Tower, a 632 meter tall building that is China’s highest and No. 2 world-wide. The tallest is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.
Mr. Bryant’s back was against a soaring green sculpture that is affixed to the tower’s 1,000 metric ton “mass damper,” an engineering device of steel and cable designed to permit the building to sway with the wind but without discomforting residents. Mr. Bryant only shrugged when asked his opinion of the engineering marvel.
Though Shanghai Tower construction finished months ago, the circular building can’t be occupied until it completes fire inspections, which are ongoing this week. The event offered access to the 126th floor lounge where the only window is a glass sphere on the conical ceiling called a dragon candle opening (a public observation deck is on the 119th floor).
Explaining a philosophy he calls Mamba Mentality to his small professional audience, Mr. Bryant rarely veered from the lessons of basketball. “I love the smell of the ball,” he said, along with the swishing sound it makes falling through the net. “I was born to play basketball.”
Though a champion, Mr. Bryant talked at length about his stumbles, from losing in the NBA finals to the rival Boston Celtics in 2008 to fearing his career was over when he tore his Achilles’ heel in 2013, then fracturing his knee and injuring a shoulder. He recalled how at age 11 he returned to live in the U.S. from Italy where his father played ball and he was a child star, only to go an entire summer without scoring a point back in Philadelphia.
His recovery strategy: a bit of anger and self-pity, then acceptance that “I gotta fix this.”
Basketball is full of life lessons about communications, unselfishness, attention to detail and perseverance — “all those things are directly learned from the game of basketball,” he said.
Mr. Bryant describes himself on his Twitter account as “CEO Kobe Inc. Publisher. Investor. Producer.” During the evening appearance he only hinted at his future out of uniform.
“It’s always teaching the game through various ways,” he said. “How can you share stories with the rest of the world? Infuse that into entertainment?”
–James T. Areddy