One of the things many do not know about Kobe Bryant is that he was a selachimorphaphile -- and if you can’t pronounce it, that means he was an avid shark enthusiast.
Sharks fascinated Bryant since he was a child growing up in Italy, and according to CNN, now one of the great white sharks that gather annually at a Pacific Ocean island off the coast of Mexico has been named after the Lakers legend, who died Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash with his daughter, Gianna and seven others.
“Did you know Kobe was a shark lover and visited Guadalupe Island back in 2016?” the Marine Conservation Science Institute captioned a post of the shark on Instagram. “White Shark Kobe Bryant is a relative newcomer to the island and is estimated to be about 12 feet in length and 10-years old.”
The institute annually tracks the sharks that gather off Guadalupe Island by their markings kept in a photo database, according to Business Insider. Typically, sharks are identified by number.
“In honor and memory of Kobe Bryant, we’ve inserted a brand new shark into the #24 spot and named it ‘Kobe Bryant,’” Michael Dormeier of the institute wrote on Instagram. Bryant wore the number 24 during the later part of his NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I lived in Southern California during Kobe Bryant’s entire career as a Laker, so I could personally feel the shock of his sudden death despite the fact I was thousands of miles away in Patagonia,” Dormeier said in an interview with CNN.
According to Business Insider, the shark’s photo was taken by Martin Graf, who runs Shark Diver. Bryant reportedly spent time with Graf’s company in 2013.
“He dove with us. He just did one dive, he saw two different sharks,” Graf said. “The company didn’t have diving booties large enough for Bryant, so he wore his Nikes underwater.”
Sharks even inspired the design of some of Bryant’s Nike basketball shoes, according to CNN and he wrote in an essay posted on The Player’s Tribune that in preparing to square up with former Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson, he again studied sharks.
Here's an excerpt from what he wrote below, from his 2017 writing "Obsession is Natural."
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.
On Feb 20, 2000, in Philadelphia, [Phil Jackson] gave me the assignment of guarding AI at the start of the second half. No one knew how much this challenge meant to me.
I wanted him to feel the frustration I felt.
I wanted everyone who laughed at the 41 and 10 he put on me to choke on their laughter.
He would publicly say that neither of us could stop the other.
I refused to believe that.
I score 50.
You score zero.
THAT is what I believe.
When I started guarding AI, he had 16 at the half. He finished the game with 16.
Revenge was sweet.
Photo Credit: JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images