Q&A with Roland Lazenby, author of Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant

Books, Sports

Kobe Bryant will always be one of my favorite NBA players. I was crushed the day he announced that he was going to hang up his sneakers. I was crushed after he played his last game, even when he did go out in the most Kobe-esque style.

That’s why when I found out that Roland Lazenby, the well-known author of Michael Jordan: The Life and Jerry West: The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon, was releasing a book about the life of the Lakers legend and future Hall of Famer I was ecstatic like a kid inside a toy store.

Lazenby’s Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant reached Philippine shores last week. I even blogged about it the other day, sharing how I bought the book without even hesitating.

The other day as I was going about my business, I was surprised that Lazenby posted the link to that blog post of mine on Twitter. He even followed me. I was so stoked that I posted a photo of the tweet on my Facebook and Instagram accounts.

I tried my luck and decided to send Lazenby a message — if he was willing to answer a few questions regarding Showboat. Fortunately, he was happy to oblige.

I asked him about the thought process behind Showboat, which part was the most fun to write, and some of the interesting things he found out about Kobe Bryant.

*****

What made you want to write a book on Kobe Bryant?

I wasn’t sure whom to write about. My publisher wanted Kobe. Sonny Vaccaro, the shoe man, suggested that Kobe was maybe the most complicated NBA player ever. I had known Kobe from doing a book on him when he was 19-20.

Describe your thought process with Showboat. Did you approach it the same way you did with Michael Jordan: The Life?

I approach it the same way I did with Jerry West and Jordan. I want to connect the sports star to his culture and family. Only then do we begin to understand all the things that shape their lives and their approach. I’m looking at people with uncommon competitive nature, so I’m looking for where that comes from. It’s not a formula as it is so much a sense of where the story begins. The story of Jerry West runs back 300 years to Jamestown and the strange nature of the state of West Virginia and its history. For Jordan, it was the story of his hero, his great grandfather, a sharecropper and moonshiner who died when Michael was 14. For Kobe, it’s a father-son story, although his paternal grandfather, Big Joe, was the epitome of a watchful father.

Which part of Kobe’s life was the most fun for you to write about?

I enjoyed all of it, but Kobe’s high school team was fun. So much of his AAU experience was unknown. That was fun too. But the whole story was fun.

For you, what’s the most interesting thing about Kobe?

The mystery of his turning pro out of high school. Evidence suggests that he really came to resent the circumstances. No one realized just how badly his parents needed and wanted the cash from his turning pro.

How much of an influence did Kobe’s father play on his basketball journey?

An immense amount, as the book shows, that showboat flair was part of the family tradition.

Name one thing about Kobe’s character that you only found out when you were writing Showboat.

The extent of his legendary aloofness. As a man among boys, I don’t think he had much choice. It was self preservation.

How is Showboat different from the other Kobe Bryant books out there?

It’s a comprehensive, intensely researched biography that focuses on the influences of family and culture while exposing a totally different narrative than the one the public had come to believe about him.

You’ve now written books on arguably two of the best players to play in the NBA. Could you cite any glaring differences between Michael and Kobe?

My great friend Tex Winter always told me the big difference was that MJ went to college and played a tightly controlled team game at Carolina. MJ’s freshman year ended with his hitting the shot to give Dean Smith and the Tar Heels their long-awaited national championship. Kobe spent his freshman year in the NBA and ended it with those airballs against Utah in the 1997 playoffs.

Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant is available at FullyBooked stores for P1,399.

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