“[Kobe] He was the basketball version of me, and I was the rap version of him, and that’s facts!” Kanye West recently said about the late great Kobe Bryant.
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Kanye West began his production career in the mid-90s, around the same time teenage Kobe Bryant broke into the NBA.
Kanye’s debut album, The College Dropout, released in 2004, explored his departure from university several years back and what that meant for him. Well, Kobe didn’t even go to college; he was one of the first athletes to declare for the NBA draft right out of high school.
But as Kanye gained popularity and experience in the late 90s, so too did Kobe.
Kobe began to be recognized as Shaquille O’Neal’s peer, not just his underling. Similarly, Ye began to gain respect from Jay-Z and even helped him immensely on Jay’s 2001 album The Blueprint.
Then, after making a name for themselves, Ye and Kobe both found incredible success in the aughts. No longer were they burgeoning youngsters.
They were bonafide superstars.
“We came up at the same time, together,” declared Ye.
Kobe won championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in ’00, ’01, and ’02. Ye shot to number 15 on the Billboard 100 with his track “Through the Wire” on The College Dropout, and “Slow Jamz” became a number one hit on the same album. The College Dropout eventually would become certified triple platinum in the US, and garnered Ye 10 Grammy nominations.
By the 2000/01 season, Kobe was already averaging 28.5 points per game. It was not too bold of a statement to say the Lakers had the two best players in the league in Shaq and Bryant. Just in his fifth season, the Black Mamba was already that good.
Kobe and Kanye were both achieving success and gaining esteem quickly. They were celebrities, and this at least partly led to controversy for both as the aughts ticked on.
Kobe was accused of rape in 2003 in Eagle Colorado. Kobe claimed they did have a sexual encounter, but it was consensual. The case was settled in civil court for an undisclosed amount.
Kobe, just beginning his upward trajectory of fame, success, and increased accolades, dodged a big bullet, but the case was a dark stain on his otherwise nearly-unblemished career.
Meanwhile, Kanye was involved in a controversy of his own, specifically the “George Bush” and Taylor Swift/Beyonce incidents both on live TV. Those moments would humble them, kinda. Kanye still tweaks every now and then.
It’s alright though we love you Ye.
But the years ticked on, and Kobe and Kanye would continue to dominate their respective industries. Kobe averaged 35.4 points in the 2005/06 NBA season and would win two more championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
Kanye would release three more albums before 2010, Late Registration, Graduation, and 808’s and Heartbreak. All three were massive successes.
And the success for both would carry over. Kobe continued to play well in his late-30s until injuries derailed his career. Still, the man scored 60 in his last NBA game. 60!!
For Ye, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was considered by many his greatest album ever. After his brief hiatus after increased controversy, this album solidified his comeback. He would continue to see success as the next decade went on.
Kobe and Yeezus would both branch out as they moved into their ’30s and ’40s. Kobe retired and started getting into advocacy, writing, and filmmaking with his 2018 Academy Award win for Dear Basketball.
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Kanye West would collaborate with Adidas to launch Yeezy and earn millions in his fashion ventures.
Kobe Bryant and Kanye West’s careers followed similar trajectories. Both men were transcendent in their work, and even after taking backseats from their crafts, achieved massive success in other ventures.
“The way that Kobe would say that we all have to come together and win this championship is the way I look at life now. To an infinite, other level,” said Ye.