Two months after the the death of basketball great Kobe Bryant, his latest book breathes new life into his legacy.
“The Wizenard Series: Season One,” which was released Tuesday, tells the tale of a young basketball player. But it also may offer solace to those still grieving the loss of Bryant, the former Lakers star who was killed in a helicopter crash Jan. 26 along with eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna.
On Thursday, the book was already No. 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list for children’s basketball books.
Bryant created the book along with author Wesley King. It is the second in a series about the mythical basketball team the West Bottom Badgers. Bryant came up with the ideas and King put them on paper.
King recalls that he was fishing from a boat in Nova Scotia when his phone pinged with a note from his agent: “[I] got this somewhat ludicrous email, subject line ‘Exclamation point, Kobe Bryant wants to talk to you about a book,’” King said. “I remember opening it, looking at it and [saying], ‘This doesn’t make any sense.’”
Bryant called King that night and asked him to go to Los Angeles the next day. Within a couple of minutes of meeting, “we had decided to plunge into this,” King said.
A whirlwind couple of years ensued. The first book in the “Wizenard” series, “Training Camp,” was published in March 2019. The story followed five characters participating in the West Bottom Badgers’ training camp under their new coach, Rolabi Wizenard, and his magical teaching qualities. The ending hints at the approaching basketball season.
King set to work on the second book on a furious schedule, churning out seven rewrites in seven months, all while communicating daily with the book’s busy creator. King said sometimes he would send 50 pages to Bryant, who would call back two hours later, having finished reading the draft, to discuss the work. Bryant’s perfectionism demanded attention to every detail.
But Bryant wasn’t always a taskmaster.
“Sometimes Kobe would just call out of the blue and say, ‘How you doing, man? You’re a genius!’” King said. “He just always had this energy and this infectious enthusiasm when he just put his mind to something.”
“The Wizenard Series: Season One” tells the story of Reggie, a benchwarmer for the losing Badgers, and the grueling practice required to become better.
“Reggie is willing to train tirelessly to improve his game, but the gym itself seems to be working against him in magical ways,” the book’s back cover reads. “Before Reggie can become the player he dreams of being, he must survive the extraordinary trials of practice.”
“What [Bryant] really resonated [with] … was this self-assurance, this belief that we can do anything we set our mind to,” King said.
Once his 20-season basketball career ended, Bryant dove into several other passions through his Costa Mesa-based multimedia production company, Granity Studios. He created five books, a podcast, a documentary about his career called “Muse” and a 2018 Academy Award-winning short, “Dear Basketball.”
Now, two months after Bryant’s death shook the world, his admirers may take comfort in reading his ideas.
“This is a really sort of an honest look into his thoughts, into the values he was trying to impart on kids, and a chance for everybody to feel Kobe as a coach,” King said. “I love the fact that this is going to live on forever. ... I take some solace from that.”