“People Just Didn’t Know That”: Gary Payton Opens Up About a Different Side of Kobe Bryant

Published 09/02/2021, 1:09 AM EDT
Boston, Massachusettes–June 17, 2008 Lakers Kobe Bryant walks off the court as the Celtics celebrate the championship in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the TD Banknorth Center Tuesday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


The death of Kobe Bryant remains to be a heartbreaking moment for all fans. Although he retired after an incredible career, his future prospects came to a close after his untimely death. Bryant’s personality defined his greatness in what he wanted to become in life, i.e. an outstanding basketball player with a charismatic personality. However, former defensive player of the year, Gary Payton, spoke about Bryant from a different perspective and shed light on his beautiful personality.

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This defines the greatness of the Black Mamba.

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Gary Payton opens up on Kobe Bryant

Despite being one of the greatest players of all time, Bryant’s persona is influential to that of MJ. Most of the kids shout Kobe when tossing a paper into a wastebasket. That’s the influence he had on people. Thus, scoring 60 points in his last game made him immortal. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar retired from the game to focus on his family.

Gary Payton threw some limelight on his plans for the future.

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“I got to know him as a person. As a young man.”

“Off the court, I was the sweetest guy, but Kobe was the same guy. And people didn’t know that. And they didn’t get to know it. But they were about to get to know it. He had just taken over women’s basketball and he was gonna take over women’s basketball with his daughter Gigi, and it just couldn’t be. Right now, I think, it would have been a big difference in girl’s basketball right now as Kobe would have took over. He would have everything going over right now, programs everything.”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers waves to the crowd after passing Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list with a free throw in the second quarter of the game on December 14, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

“He was just about to start all this, and people didn’t just know it,” said Payton.

Even though he became emotional, he was right. Gary’s stutter speaks about the influence left by Kobe on different generations.

Bryant had other plans

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With his retirement from the game, Kobe’s intentions did not return to basketball. He started Granity Studios and wanted to enter the showbiz industry. Significantly, as his first production (Dear Kobe) got him an Oscar, he became the first person to win an NBA title and an Oscar. Not bad, eh?

But soon after, Gigi followed in her father’s footsteps to become a professional basketball player. Hence, The Mamba was back at it again. A guy who perfected the art of mid-range and fadeaways started rolling back some years to learn more about the game. For his daughter, Gianna Bryant.

IRVINE, CA – JULY 26: Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant watch during day 2 of the Phillips 66 National Swimming Championships at the Woollett Aquatics Center on July 26, 2018 in Irvine, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

But, Lord had different plans for the Lakers icon. The impact of his death remains in most of us because of the legacy he left on and off the court. Kobe Bryant is a legend and will always be the greatest personality to grace the game of basketball.

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Jacob Gijy

398 articles

Jacob Gijy is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. Gijy finished his Masters in Counselling Psychology and worked in a hospital for 2 years before his passion for sports compelled him to find his way to sports journalism. A fan of the great Tim Duncan, he is always ready to pick up a debate with anyone who does not offer the centre the respect he deserves.

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