Investor, author, filmmaker: the entrepreneurial second act of Kobe Bryant
When he retired from a championship-studded, two-decade reign in the NBA, Kobe Bryant made one thing crystal clear: he was not done competing.
Bryant's second act revealed the basketball legend to be a savvy entrepreneur, whose tireless work ethic and wide-ranging interests propelled him to success as an investor, author, and film and podcast producer.
"I've always been told that as basketball players the expectation is that you play. This is all you know. This is all you do," Bryant told USA Today in 2018 after winning an Oscar for his animated short film, "Dear Basketball." "Don't think about handling finances. Don't think about going into business. Don't think that you want to be a writer - that's cute. I got that a lot."
Bryant, 41, was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday in Calabasas, California, alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
"The Black Mamba," as Bryant was known, began plotting his post-basketball life years before his 2016 retirement from the Los Angeles Lakers, where he spent his entire 20-year career. Among the highest-paid basketball players in NBA history, Bryant multiplied his millions through a lucrative slate of endorsements, including Nike, McDonald's, Nintendo and Sprite. He set his sights on becoming an investor, approaching billionaire Chris Sacca for advice on how to become a mogul.
Sacca was skeptical, he told the Los Angeles Times, but he gave Bryant a list of books, TED talks and podcasts to nurture his interest, thinking little would come of it. But over the next few months, Bryant was blowing up Sacca's phone at all hours, hungry to discuss what he'd read and dig into ideas.
"Literally at 3 a.m. he would be on his physical therapy treadmill and call me," Sacca told the Times. "His obsession with learning this stuff was so 24/7."
"Not sure I will ever know anyone else with his work ethic," Sacca tweeted Sunday after news of Bryant's death was confirmed.
In 2013, Bryant co-founded a venture capital firm geared toward investing in media and technology, along with entrepreneur Jeff Stibel, founder of Web.com. Bryant Stibel & Co., which now has more than $2 billion in assets, got a jump-start when Coca-Cola took a majority stake in sports drink maker BodyArmor, turning Bryant's $6 million investment into more than $200 million. Since then, Bryant Stibel has built itself off high-profile investments in companies such as Epic Games - maker of the wildly popular "Fortnite" - as well as hot sauce maker Cholula, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Dell.
"You've got to have strong entrepreneurs, that's really the key for us is looking at the people," Bryant told CNBC in September. "Yes, it's important to see those returns, right? But it's also important to have great opportunity, great relationships with our investors, great opportunities with our entrepreneurs to help them grow and put them in situations where they can be successful."
Bryant's passion for storytelling was a driving force. He memorialized his exit from the NBA with a poem, "Dear Basketball," that chronicled his love of the game since childhood while acknowledging that his body had given all it could to the sport. The short-film adaptation of the poem netted Bryant an Academy Award for best animated short, and was the best-known effort by Bryant's production company, Granity Studios.
"And we both know, no matter what I do next/I'll always be that kid/ with the rolled up socks/ garbage can in the corner/: 05 seconds on the clock/ Ball in my hands," Bryant narrates in the short, which was scored by legendary composer John Williams.