Kobe Bryant, straight from high school becoming the youngest All-Star in NBA history at the age of 19. What an amazing basketball player who has amazed the world with his passion and discipline for the sport. With this passion and discipline he carried a strong leadership presence and amazing skills on the court that set new standards in the sport of basketball. Kobe has won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and played on both the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams, winning gold medals with his teammates. After many years of inspiring the world through his passion and skill in basketball, Kobe is now retiring from the game. So many are sad and thankful at the same time. Sad because there will never be another Kobe Bryant yet thankful for the amazing 20 years he shared with us and demonstrated greatness on the court. Whether or not you were a fan, you could not deny the level of skill he played with. Twenty years ago Kobe walked onto the court straight from high school and today one of the best players to ever walk the court. For me, I am truly impressed and know that he has set very high standard for the next generation of NBA Basketball.

I myself had the privilege of meeting him on two very different levels in two very different times in my life. The first time I met him was when I was around 19 years old. At that time I did not know what I wanted to do with my life and had no clue that the next time I would met him would be because he himself reaching out to me to have lunch and talk leadership. Yes, you read that right… he and his agent reached out to me to have lunch and talk leadership. What an honor right?

Below is a picture of the first time we met in 1999 at a bowling fundraiser event he had. Interesting to me that there were many other celebrities there yet I only took a picture with him and little did we both know that we would meet again almost 6 years later to have lunch. At the fundraising event the only words share between us went something like this,

Richard, “Hey Kobe, you mind taking a picture with me?”

Kobe, “Sure”

Richard, “Thanks”.

That’s about it! Ha! But little did I know that we would meet again and that he would ask me about my view on leadership.

Now it’s the year 2005 and I myself am a totally different person with a totally different mindset and way of living. I now have a clear vision and purpose for my life and am actively making a different in the world. By this time I was traveling to different Nations teaching leaders to become more effective and influential in their spheres of influence. I was having conferences where 300 leaders from over 10 different nations would come hear me speak for 3 days. Also, Kobe was in a totally different place in his own life. In 2003 he was accused of sexual assault in Colorado, but the charges were eventually dropped and settled out of court. In 2004 Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat and now Kobe himself became the cornerstone of the Lakers.

I received a phone call from Rob Pelinka who is Kobe’s agent. He asked to set up a meeting with him and Kobe to talk about the topic of “Leadership”. Wow! What an honor right? To be honest I was shocked and humbled and a little nervous. We set up our meeting about a week from that phone call to meet where lived in Glendora California. I picked a nice small Italian place near my home where I knew he wouldn’t be bothered for autographs and pictures. We all arrive and sit and begin chatting and getting to know each other. I was calm yet excited and had it set in my mind that I was going to impact both of them in a powerful way. Rob was truly a great guy and Kobe is blessed to have him as his agent. He was very intelligent, diplomatic, and compassionate. Kobe was a little quite at first but had a presence.

They begin to ask me what I thought was key to great leadership. I had lots to share about this topic and our talk was very interactive full of depth. They are two sharp guys who wanted to grow and be the best at what they did. We enjoyed our lunch and talk about leadership for over two hours. I was truly humbled and honored to sit with such amazing men and talk leadership.

After that day I asked myself, “Did my input impact them?” I believe it did but to what level I do not know. I do know that Kobe led the NBA in scoring during the 2005-07 seasons and scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. He also was awarded the regular season MVP award in 2008. I am definitely not saying this this happened because of me and our lunch chat but I am just honored to have had that time and share the knowledge I had on the topic of leadership with such great men.

As Kobe Bryant’s career is coming to an end it made me reflect on my own journey and how I have learned and grown in every area of my life. To meet Kobe for the first time when I was about 18 years old and not have a clue of what to do with my life to the second time meeting him when I was around 24 or 25 years old and have the opportunity to share with him my knowledge about leadership.

Richard Martinez

Transformational Expert