In Honor of Kobe Bryant’s Birthday, We’re Looking Back at All the Times He Showed Off His Spanish-Speaking Skills, His Love for Latinx Culture
Watch: Kobe Bryant Loved Speaking Spanish, Had a Special Place in His Heart for Latinx Culture

Late basketball icon Kobe Bryant would have turned 44 years old Aug. 23, and fans are honoring his life by looking back at the star’s accomplishments, old photos and interviews.

That being said, few realize the sheer impact he had on the Latinx community — and just how much it transformed him as well.

The basketball legend was married to Mexican-American L.A. native Vanessa Bryant for nearly 20 years, up until his death in January 2020. There’s no doubt the relationship deepened his love for Latinx culture, and helped with his impressive Spanish-speaking skills, too. 

Kobe admitted that he learned Spanish through ​​“Watching novelas” (yes, you read that correctly) with both his wife and la suegra. He credited both the novela “La Madrastra” and Don Francisco’s “Sábado Gigante” as big teachers when it came to cementing his Spanish skills, becoming one of the most epic bits of information we’ve ever read.

Still, in an all-Spanish press conference, Kobe spoke further about his talent for speaking the language — and who else inspired him to learn. In perfect Spanish, the basketball star explains, “My Latino fans are very important because when I got [to the Lakers] they were the ones who embraced me the most… so I said, give me two or three years and I’m going to speak a bit of Spanish.” 

Saying that his Latino fans were “everything” to him, plus having a Latina wife and children, there’s no doubt Kobe felt firmly planted in the L.A. Latinx community (with an impressive Spanish accent to boot). 

As reported by Los Angeles Times, the late NBA champion frequented Mexican restaurant El Camino Real in Fullerton with his whole family, with general manager Rodolfo Garcia stating, “He loved this place because people treated him like a normal person.” El Camino Real was Vanessa’s favorite restaurant growing up, and the basketball star’s go-to order was carnitas followed by flan.

Meanwhile, professor José Alamillo told the outlet that Kobe joined the Lakers “at the perfect moment, when L.A. had become more brown… He became our Latino superstar.”

There’s no doubt Kobe’s language skills were deeply impressive, allowing him to participate in an all-Spanish interview with ESPN Latinoamérica that is making us flip out. In the interview, the icon talks about his love for writing, and how he saw that as the next step after his basketball career. 

It’s no wonder many of Kobe’s Latino fans called him “compa,” because in many ways, he was one of us. And in even crazier news, it turns out that the late shooting guard also spoke Italian and Chinese. Mind-blowing.