[Exclusive] Iman Shumpert On Kobe: ‘I Didn’t Know I Loved This Man Like This’

Iman Shumpert

[Exclusive] Iman Shumpert On Kobe: ‘I Didn’t Know I Loved This Man Like This’

The NBA player mourns a great and talks about his new initiative.

Published February 16th

Written by Angela Wilson

On Thursday, February 13, McDonald’s USA and former pro basketball player Iman Shumpertteamed up to surprise the Chicago State Cougars women's basketball team with an all-access experience to McDonald’s ‘Beyond the Court’ Panel with a crowd of other sports enthusiasts. The brand will also donate $20,000 to the university’s athletic department.

Shumpert spoke exclusively to BET.com about the new initiative, Kobe and much more.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JULY 18: Iman Shumpert attends Sports Illustrated Fashionable 50 2019 at Sunset Room Hollywood on July 18, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)
(Photo: Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated)

On the importance of giving back to his community, in particular, the Black community and those who support him:

“It's not talked about enough. It's not celebrated enough when it happens, but it’s being done. It’s not publicized, or talked about or coined all the time but it happens. It may not be a celebrity guest or a person that has the notoriety that has millions of people come out. But we got everyday teachers, everyday educators everyday activists and coaches keeping our kids out of trouble, you have all these people that aren’t celebrated. 

I was actually looking at a video on Instagram... The guy said, ‘You know, we see a soldier, somebody who went to war. You give them a salute. Then we walk past the doctor who’s doing something for our country’. Not to take away from them- but we walk past the mailman. The mailman for a while was holding down your life! He could do you dirty, he could do you bad. Not give you that notice on time. We don’t salute him. We don’t salute the teachers that have our kids.” 

Thoughts on social media:

“I think social media is the biggest punk fake ever. Someone can post [a good deed] but you didn’t really do nothing. You post it and deleted the post a week later. You’re not smooth, you’re not slick. Like, we caught that or you posted on your story that deletes in 24 hours, I might not have looked at your story. You can’t just tweet. It needs to be a tweet from a site saying, ‘Yo! I think I just saw a video of saluting teachers! No lie! Saluting them like they were saluting teachers and doctors!” 

It would be beautiful! But I’d be lying if I thought people would do that because one: teachers don’t wear a uniform so you don’t know if they’re a teacher. Two: it might be a lot more teachers than those going to fight in service so you might be doing it [saluting] all day! But we need to get to a point where we’re not desensitized to what’s going on and we have to acknowledge those things that are dope in action form instead of just posting it or speaking it into existence. We did this already. We see it exists. But what are we actually doing?”

On Kobe Bryant, and how Kobe’s life inspired him:

“I think the only regret Kobe would have is having his daughter on the helicopter with him. That’s probably the only thing he’s mad about. I don’t think Kobe has a regret on how hard he worked or a regret about where he put his time when he got off of work because that man doesn't play about his kids. 

Kobe taught us all, one: don't live with regret. Two: that it’s on you. But he lived where his mentality was like,’If it goes down, it’s all me. It's my fault. I'll take that. I could sleep better knowing it's on me [as opposed to] putting it off as an excuse on somebody else. 

I was telling my wife, “I feel so bad. She was like, why?’ [I told her] I feel like I didn't realize how much I loved Kobe. I didn’t know I loved this man like this. I loved his dirty draws, I don’t care. I cannot believe I’m saying this because I’m a Chicago kid. [Growing up] I’d say, ‘Michael Jordan is better!” I was that kid. People even said, ‘Yo, you played with LeBron [James]’ but Mike’s the best, to me, that’s what I was on. I told Bron, ‘Mike’s the best. I’d run through a wall for you but I ain’t never seen it done like that!’ 

I [used to] tear Kobe down in all these ways and as much as I really thought back on it and as much as I loved Mike and had his jerseys, I really could comprehend Kobe better because of my age group. I was reminded of what Mike could do through Kobe. How dare I get mad at Kobe back then? I’m really just picking this side because I’m a Chicago kid. But once he died he really took the ‘Like Mike’ and actually did it. He talked like him, walked like him. We all got mad because he could do it better than us. I was mad that he got to hit the game winning shot- well, you can go ahead and hit the game winning shot, Shump, and you can do it, too! If you want, if that’s the beef!

Kobe’s thing was, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it at 200%. You could laugh, do whatever, I'm going to look you dead in your face and show you I'm dead serious and that I'm not playing.’ He would look at you and say, ‘I want to be the best.’ 

RELATED | USA Women’s National Basketball Team Talks Kobe And Gigi Bryant’s Impact

I really convinced myself I didn’t like Kobe as much as I did. I love Kobe, to death. Kobe had times when people laughed at him. I remember when they were calling him a bust as a rookie, that they should've left him in Charlotte. I remember this when people were hating on this man. Even the tennis players had Kobe’s jerseys on, they were crying over Kobe, because his mentality had nothing to do with basketball. When you actually break it down, it has nothing to do with basketball. It was his life he was talking about. He just used basketball as the vessel.  

The one thing I talked to my wife about, and it’s tough to talk about, but I don’t think me and Junie could do without each other. I wouldn’t want Junie to do it without me and I damn sure wouldn’t want to be without Junie. I would’ve just grabbed her and held on for dear life. I can sleep better at night knowing he died being a father. A girl dad. That was his last moment. 

On His Rap Career:

“Depending on a clearance issue, there may be something within the next couple of days. As far as a body of work, expect something by the summer.”

RELATED | Iman Shumpert Brought His Bars To The Hip Hop Awards Cypher And Twitter Is Mind-Blown

On collaborating with Teyana Taylor:

Yeah. Not a whole album but I don’t want to ruin it.”

(Photo: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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