Nearly two years since Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash, a new series from Diversion Podcasts and the iHeartPodcast Network will look back at the life of the NBA great. The lynchpin of the 12-episode I Am Kobe will be intimate, never-before-heard tapes of Kobe Bryant as a teenager, exploring his thoughts, his dreams, and his goals.
Hosted by journalist and author Mike Sielski, the podcast tells the story of Kobe Bryant’s early years, weaving together these lost audio tapes with interviews from Bryant’s high school coaches, friends, family, and the figures who knew him in his youth, to paint a documentary portrait of the making of an icon.
"I am grateful to have the opportunity to present this rare inside look into Kobe Bryant's formative years and tell his story through these never-before-heard tapes," Sielski says. "I Am Kobe gives fans the chance to hear Kobe's voice in a way they never have before, as we explore the making of an icon."
The records are the result of a project Bryant undertook when he was still a teenager in Philadelphia. With the goal of writing a book together, Bryant sat with family, friends and high school basketball coach Jeremy Treatman between 1995 and 1996 to record interviews about his life at the time. The tapes would eventually be lost, only to be found in a crawl space nearly 30 years later. Treatman, who is a featured insider on the podcast, connected with Sielski to help bring the tapes to life in the podcast.
The result is what Diversion CEO Scott Waxman says is a “a truly compelling portrait of one of our most dynamic and fascinating sports icons.”
In conjunction with the podcast release, Sielski also drew from the tapes for the basis of his upcoming book, “The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality.” It traces Bryant’s career and life at Lower Merion High School to the run-up to the 1996 NBA draft, where his dream of playing pro basketball culminated in his acquisition by the Los Angeles Lakers. The book goes on sale Jan. 11 from St. Martin's Press.
As for the podcast, the first two episodes will be released by Diversion and iHeart on November 16. Interest in the story of the five-time NBA champion, 18-time NBA All-Star and Academy Award-winning filmmaker is expected to be high.
"We are thrilled to team up with Diversion again to bring listeners this untold story of Kobe Bryant's formative years,” said Will Pearson, Chief Operating Officer at the iHeartPodcast Network. “To have access to this rare audio from Kobe himself makes this podcast unlike anything else out there, and we are excited to share I Am Kobe with millions of fans across the iHeartPodcast Network."