Kobe Bryant had many interested beyond basketball, and one of them was a fascination with sharks. He wrote an article for the Players Tribune in 2017 about the challenge of trying to guard Allen Iverson.
In the piece he said that studying great white sharks helped him better understand his opponent.
On March 19, 1999, Iverson put 41 points and 10 assists on me in Philadelphia.
Working harder wasn’t enough.
I had to study this man maniacally.
I obsessively read every article and book I could find about AI. I obsessively watched every game he had played, going back to the IUPU All-American Game. I obsessively studied his every success, and his every struggle. I obsessively searched for any weakness I could find.
I searched the world for musings to add to my AI Musecage.
This led me to study how great white sharks hunt seals off the coast of South Africa.
The patience. The timing. The angles.
In 2013, Bryant went diving with sharks with a professional diver named Martin Graf, recently, Graf photographed a new great white in the Pacific Ocean near Guadalupe Island, Mexico. Whoever photographs a new shark for the Marine Conservation Science Institute gets the honor of naming it.
Knowing how much Bryant loved sharks, he decided to name the shark Kobe Bryant.
More from Bryant’s shark experience from PopCulture.com:
Martin Graf was the diver who photographed this new shark, which just happened to be the 24th. This is the number worn by Bryant during the latter half of his career. Graf owns a company called Shark Diver and had previously taken Bryant out in a shark cage in 2013 to study two great whites.
The late NBA icon reportedly spent a chunk of the day hanging out on the boat or in the cages, per Cindy Michaels, the director of communications for Shark Diver. Bryant also reportedly told Graf that he had become interested in sharks during his childhood in Italy.
While Bryant did wear the traditional wetsuits and weights during his trip in the shark cage, he did have to make one adjustment. There were no booties available that would fit his size-14 foot. He instead had to wear his sneakers into the water while studying the sharks.
“Our hearts go out to everyone involved and the families and friends and we just, we want to make it special for them and for the shark community and those who are his fellow divers,” Michaels said of the shark’s new name. “I think it’s just kind of a cool thing to do for him.”