Personal Branding Lessons from Kobe Bryant

Personal Branding Lessons from Kobe Bryant

Personal Branding Lessons from Kobe Bryant

It's normal to see a lot of people "crying more than the bereaved" when celebrities die but this one is different. Everyone who had any kind of admiration or respect for Kobe Bryant would be pained by his passing. His impact on basketball, sports, entertainment, fashion and culture is broad, and that's why so many people are deeply stunned and saddened by the news of his death.


Many times when people die, we don't know what to say; especially because the tragedy is shocking. Nobody expects the intense emotion or plan their response ahead of time. In the case of Kobe's death, I didn't know how to respond either and I can't imagine how hard this must be for his family and those who knew him personally.

One thing we can do with this tragic loss however is to reflect on his life and accomplishments, and learn from him how to live a life of impact.

Why does this matter to me:

Simply, I loved Kobe's personality and dedication to his game. I only watched basketball when Los Angeles Lakers had a game because that was Kobe's team for his entire basketball career. Kobe was my favorite basketball player and I remain a fan.

Here are 5 lessons we can learn from the life and times of Kobe Bryant:

#1: Success starts with showing up.

Even though his father, Joe, was a former NBA player, Kobe knew that success wouldn’t be handed to him. He didn't simply wish to be a basketballer or write it down on his list of goals. He showed up and put in the work, every single day.

"For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning," - Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner

What does this mean for you?

  • Fear shouldn't stop you from trying. In Kobe's words "If I wanted to implement something new into my game, I'd see it and try incorporating it immediately. I wasn't scared of missing, looking bad, or being embarrassed. That's because I always kept the end result, the long game, in my mind. I always focused on the fact that I had to try something to get it, and once I got it, I'd have another tool in my arsenal. If the price was a lot of work and a few missed shots, I was OK with that."
  • You don't have to be special. Gary Vitti, longtime head trainer for L.A. Lakers once said on the Legends of Sports podcast “There’s nothing really special about Kobe.. I mean, there were other players that had more talent than he did, so what was there about him that more talented players had zero rings and he ended up with five?" He was referring to the fact that even though Kobe Bryant was big and quick, there were people bigger and quicker. Kobe was powerful, but not the most powerful player that coaches had ever seen. The answer is clear from the flood of stories now being shared about Kobe: Even though he wasn't the best on paper, he decided early on that failure was not an option and figured out how to win.

#2: Get Personal.

Kobe Bryant was an international superstar no doubt, but I'll like to spotlight how he - an American-born NBA player became the most popular global athlete in China.

He had the foresight to leverage his stardom to build strong relationships with Chinese basketball fans and made strategic effort to grow his personal brand in the region.

First, he visited China to host a basketball clinic in 1998, then returned on a promotional tour three years later, when he climbed the Great Wall of China and performed a slam dunk on it. Kobe visited China every year from 2006 through 2015 on promotional tours for Nike. 

Also, he competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, winning a gold medal, and visited China with the Lakers for two exhibition games against the Golden State Warriors in 2013.

Now, Kobe was not the only foreign player who visited China, but he activated his brand in China on a magnitude that far exceeded what any American-born player before him had done. And for that, he'll always be a pioneer.. 

In 2013, a statue of him was erected in front of the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts' Sculpture Museum in Guangzhou.

How can you do same?

Kobe Bryant's vision, intelligence and willingness to engage the people of China shows us that those who invest their time into engaging their fans will produce the most loyal followings.

  • Your followers on social media and subscribers to your email list are real people. Give them attention, especially the engaged ones.
  • Reply to their messages. Respond to their comments. Don't be afraid to take the conversation into the DM.
  • Go where they are. Kobe knew he had fans in China, but took it even further by identifying with them and speaking their language. He partnered with Alibaba to release a documentary called "Kobe Bryant's Muse." He appeared in a Chinese reality show called "Kobe Mentu" and launched the Kobe Bryant China Fund to raise money for education and sports in the country.
  • For you, this may mean joining the social media platforms they use, and addressing specific problems they face through your content. When you do this, you end up having not just followers, but loyal advocates, repeat customers and raving fans.

#3: Teach what you know.

Kobe was huge on passing on his wisdom. He once posted about his multimedia business "I built Granity Studios as a platform to create and share original stories to inspire today's young athletes."

Reading through his comments online, you'll see that Kobe was very particular about passing on courage and knowledge to those coming behind him.

"He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna." - Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner

Kobe and his daughter Gianna Bryant

Although he was a fierce competitor, Kobe Bryant wanted to see people be the best version of themselves and served as a mentor to so many athletes, including stars in other sports like Alex Rodriguez.

Kobe is not being celebrated today just because he was good at his sport, but also because he impacted people's lives by sharing his wisdom

How can you do same?

Create educational content that helps your audience do something well. This could be in the form of articles, social media posts, or even videos. When you go out of your way to share your knowledge, people notice and share your work with others. 

  • Share how you overcame common challenges. Like I did here
  • Talk about traps or mistakes to look out for
  • Document and share your process

#4: Keep going for the ball.

There are two phrases here actually "Keep going" and "Go for the ball"

In every sport, there are people who hide. They are in the game but you don't see them. They just play their bit and keep it moving.

But there is another set of people: The ones who go for the ball.

We know these ones; they take every opportunity to shoot their shot - whether it's a free kick, or a penalty opportunity. Kobe was not one to hide. He showed up, stuck around and never quit his own show.

Also, Kobe Bryant was one of the most dominant basketball players in history, racking up 5 NBA titles, 18 straight All-Star Game selections and 4 All-Star Game MVP Awards. But despite all his accomplishments, he never lost his edge. He was as desperate to win at the end of his career as he was at the start.

"I had a different drive. The kind that made people uneasy. Some people wanted me to come back down to earth, to come down to their level, to relax. But I couldn’t. It wasn’t in my DNA. Because to go where others have never gone, you have to do what others have never done. We don’t quit, we don’t cower, we don’t run. We endure and conquer." - Kobe Bryant


How can you do same?

  • Create something even when it's not comfortable. Kobe had a ferocious work ethic. He’d practice the same shot 1,000 times, regularly work out in the middle of the night, train harder than anyone else, and do whatever it took to win. He once explained "I have nothing in common with lazy people who blame others for their lack of success. I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.
  • Keep learning, keep improving and pay attention. To Kobe, life was one continuous lesson. "Everything I saw, heard, read, or felt was viewed through the lens of growing as a basketball player. This perspective makes me curious about everything, makes everything interesting, and means that life is a living library where all I need to do is pay attention."
  • Remain a student of successful people. Kobe was known for constantly asking other legendary players like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson for advice, as well as champions from other fields like Michael Jackson or Tiger Woods. He constantly strived for improvement, even when he had made $1 billion and won everything in the game.
"Great things come from hard work and perseverance. No excuses. Dedication sees dreams come true." - Kobe Bryant

#5: Reinvent yourself.

How many other sports stars have won an Oscar for a poem they wrote about their sport upon retirement? Kobe did, writing and producing an animated short film based on his poem, 'Dear Basketball'.

In 2016, Kobe Bryant founded Granity Studios, a media company focused on creative storytelling about sports. Through this company, he wrote and narrated the short film "Dear Basketball," which won the Academy Award for best animated short film in 2018.

Granity has also released a set of books for young adults, along with Bryant's autobiography, "The Mamba Mentality: How I Play."

Kobe diversified his career by breaking into the investing world even before leaving the NBA. In 2013, he co-founded venture capital firm Bryant Stibel & Co., along with Jeff Stibel founder of

As at September 2019, their investment firm, had more than $2 billion in capital under management.

What does this mean for you?

  • Your reputation is an asset. Your personal brand is your professional reputation and identity. On the court or off the court, Kobe remained Kobe. He had his creativity, thirst for knowledge, and work ethic which he carried with him throughout his life. Regardless of what he diversified into, he didn't have to start from scratch but built upon his previous reputation. You may not remember the name of all his companies, but we all know his name and who he was. That credibility was an asset to his companies.
  • You don't have to be just one thing all your life. Kobe wasn't just another wealthy high-profile athlete. He was a winner, iconic businessman and venture capitalist who owned and grew brands in the sports industry and invested in different businesses including media, data, gaming, and technology.

There you have it!

During Kobe Bryant's 20-year basketball career with the Los Angeles Lakers, he racked up five NBA championships, two NBA finals MVP awards, and two Olympic gold medals. He's also the third-highest all-time career regular season scorer for the league.

After all of that, he set off as a Business Executive and venture capitalist with more than two dozen investments in a portfolio focused mainly on tech, media and data companies.

What can we learn from him?

  • Success starts with showing up.
  • Get personal.
  • Teach what you know.
  • Keep going for the ball.
  • Reinvent yourself.
"We can always kind of be average and do what’s normal. I’m not in this to do what’s normal." - Kobe Bryant

You don't have to be an international superstar to show up to life and live a life of impact. Greatness isn't reserved only for the naturally talented. Kobe Bryant's work ethic and mentality prove that anyone can achieve greatness, if you're willing to work for it.

What's Next...

As tributes to Kobe fill your social media timeline and dominate the media, pay attention to what they’ll all have in common—Kobe’s unwavering confidence and his commitment to showing up for the hard, unseen work that success requires.

It is great to show up on day one, but let Kobe's life inspire you to keep showing up and keep shooting your shots till the very end.


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