Kobe Bryant Nearly Quit Basketball to Focus on Soccer as a Kid

The journey to 32,000+ points began with great difficulty for Kobe Bryant.

He struggled mightily as a kid to put the ball in the hole, and writes that he considered abandoning basketball altogether in favor of soccer (which he loved playing, growing up in Italy.)

Bryant says that Michael Jordan’s own stumbles on the court as a young man inspired him to stick with hoops, and this week, Kobe moved past his hero on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

From The Players’ Tribune:

Zero. That’s the number of points I scored the entire summer while playing in Philadelphia’s Sonny Hill Future League when I was 12 years old. I didn’t score. Not a free throw, not an accidental layup, not even a lucky throw-the-ball-up-oops-it-went-in basket.


My father Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and my uncle John “Chubby” Cox were Future League legends in their day. My father as a 6-10 point forward and my uncle as a 6-4 point guard. […] I was putting my family to shame!


I considered maybe just giving up basketball and just focusing on soccer. Here’s where my respect and admiration for MJ was forged. I learned that he had been cut from his high school team as a freshman; I learned he knew what it felt like to be embarrassed, to feel like a failure. But he used those emotions to fuel him, make him stronger, he didn’t quit. So I decided to take on my challenge the same way he did. I would channel my failure as fuel to keep my competitive fire burning. I became obsessed with proving to my family — and more importantly to myself — that I CAN DO THIS. […] It became an obsession. I learned everything about the game, the history, the players, the fundamentals. I wasn’t just determined to never have a summer of zero again, I was driven to inflict the same sense of failure on my competition as they unknowingly inflicted on me. My killer instinct to score was born.