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“At that point, I knew he would be great”

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The word “confidence” is often associated with Kobe Bryant. As a five-time Los Angeles Lakers champion, Kobe has never been afraid to take the plunge and face whatever challenges in his path. His abilities are believed to date back to his high school years, where a 15-year-old Bryant was so disappointed that he didn’t win the MVP award at a basketball camp, he apologized to the camp founder. .

Kobe Bryant was invited to ABCD National Camp

Bryant was a great high school basketball player, but he was not yet known. However, his father Joe had carved out a solid career in the NBA and abroad. More importantly, his career had helped him bond with people who could help put his son on the map.

Joe contacted Sonny Vaccaro, an old acquaintance who was in charge of ABCD basketball camp. The camp, which began in 1984, featured the nation’s top 125 high school basketball players. Throughout its history, Camp ABCD has showcased high school talent and future lottery picks like LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, and ultimately Kobe Bryant. But Kobe’s entry into the camp was far from a slam dunk.

“I had never heard of Kobe Bryant,” Vaccaro said in the book Three Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil and the Roaring Twenties of the Laker Dynasty. “No one knew who he was, what he could do. But I felt like Joe and I had a story, and maybe he was telling the truth [about Kobe]. So I said, ‘Okay, I’ll let him in.’ “

Vaccaro tried his luck with Bryant, who showed up at the Fairleigh Dickinson University campus in Teaneck, New Jersey in July 1994. He was one of four high school students in attendance and at 15 he was among the youngest. players at the national level. recognized camp. But that didn’t stop Kobe from believing he was destined to win the coveted Camp MVP award.

Bryant apologized for not being named MVP

At Camp ABCD in 1994, most of the attention was focused on two New York guards. The first was Stephon Marbury, an Abraham Lincoln High School star in Brooklyn and possibly fourth overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. The other was Shammgod Wells of La Salle Academy in Manhattan, another player who turned pro in 1997. But Bryant did all he could to outdo them.

Bryant faced off against Marbury and Wells, as well as future lottery pick Tim Thomas of Paterson, New Jersey. He fought against future NBA players for a full week, but that wasn’t enough to earn MVP honors. Marbury won the Senior MVP award, while Thomas won the MVP for Underclassmen. After the camp was concluded, Bryant walked over to Vaccaro and patted him on the shoulder (h / t: Circus with three rings).

“Monsieur. Vaccaro”, [Kobe] noted. “I want to apologize to you.”

“What do you mean?” said Vaccaro.

“I’m just telling you that next year I’ll be the MVP here. I’m sorry I let you down.

Jeff pearlman

Kobe’s gesture stuck with Vaccaro for years. It was also a big reason why the former Nike executive and the current Adidas executive knew he had to sign Bryant for a sponsorship deal with his brand.

“His state of mind was not, ‘Hey, thanks for having me,'” Vaccaro said later. “It was ‘F *** that, I’m going to be an MVP.’ Call it that: confidence, arrogance, self-assurance. He knew he would be great, and at that point, I knew he would be great.

Kobe kept his promise to win the MVP

After a productive camp, Kobe dominated his freshman year at Lower Merion High School. He averaged 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists en route to becoming Pennsylvania’s Player of the Year. The following summer, Bryant was invited to return to Camp ABCD … without his father’s help.

The ABCD camp in 1995 welcomed Thomas’ return and featured future NBA All-Star Jermaine O’Neal of Eau Claire High School in South Carolina. But Kobe was ready for whoever stood in his way. The 16-year-old averaged 21 points and seven rebounds to earn MVP honors for the senior class.

Winning MVP at camp meant a lot to Bryant. In fact, he held the ABCD camp in such high esteem, his uniform number ‘143’ was the inspiration for his decision to wear the number 8 (1 + 4 + 3) by joining the Lakers.

It’s clear that while campers weren’t aware of it at the time, # 143 knew he was destined for big things.

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