Among the influences in Kobe Bryant’s remarkable life were icons such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jackson.
From the King of Pop’s surprise phone call to teenage Bryant to his ongoing words of wisdom for the NBA star, Jackson left a lasting impact. Like many who met the late singer, Bryant had his own share of Michael Jackson stories to tell, and one of his memories involved his future wife, Vanessa.
Michael Jackson was a friend and mentor figure to Kobe Bryant
In an old interview with HBO’s Real Sports, Bryant spoke of the time Jackson called him when he was a rookie on the Lakers and encouraged him to be himself, in spite of those complaining he was too introverted.
Bryant often cited Jackson’s work ethic as an example of what he applied to his court game. He once told Jimmy Kimmel that Jackson showed him how he composed music and trained for performances by studying those before him. “I thought I was working hard until I met him,” said Bryant.
He also shared a story about hanging out with Jackson at Neverland Ranch. They did the zoo, watched movies in Jackson’s theater, and had dinner, but the onsite gas station amazed him.
And Bryant stated on multiple occasions that Jackson was a generous, kind, and funny guy. Additionally, he gifted him books and movies for Bryant to learn from, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.
That time Michael Jackson offered his ranch to Kobe Bryant
Shortly after Jackson’s death in 2009, Time magazine tapped Bryant and a few other celebrities for a “Remembering Michael” feature piece. The late basketball great just won the NBA Finals MVP award approximately two weeks prior and spoke fondly of his friend.
“Beyond the genius of what he was, he was just a genuinely, genuinely nice person. He got me hooked on movies that I would normally never watch. Fred Astaire movies. All the old classics. I would never, never watch those,” Bryant said.
He added that Jackson made a nice offer to him and his then-fiancée, Vanessa Laine.
“I remember my fiancée and I telling him we were getting married, and him just being really excited and actually just offering up the ranch to have our wedding there, because privacy was going to be an issue. We wanted to get married in a church, so that’s what we wound up doing. But he made the offer. He was just a genuinely nice person who was exceptionally bright, exceptionally bright, and driven and talented. You mix those things together, man, you have Michael Jackson.”
Bryant married his wife in 2001
Kobe and Vanessa Bryant tied the knot at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in 2001. The couple had been together for 20 years before Bryant’s tragic passing in January.
It’s unclear whether Jackson attended the ceremony, but Bryant did tell ESPN that the phone call he received from the singer during his rookie year changed his life. “Michael Jackson was probably the biggest mentor I’ve ever had. That phone call in Gold’s Gym literally changed my life,” Bryant said.
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