Kobe Bryant limped to the free throw line on April 12, 2013, after tearing his Achilles tendon. Like a badass, he sunk both free throws to tie the Golden State Warriors 109-109, and later said this about the experience: “When I first did it, right there, I was trying to feel if the tendon is there or if it’s gone. I realized it wasn’t there. I was literally trying to pull the tendon up, so hopefully I could walk and kind of hobble through the last two and a half minutes and try to play.” This play set in motion the ending of a jaw dropping career from the Black Mamba. Mike Wise recently wrote an article for ESPN in which he unpacks the enigma of Kobe Bryant. Here are some takeaways.


What kind of person takes free throws after he tears his Achilles? The Black Mamba throughout his career has always baffled us. Even close teammate Shaquille O’Neal has said, “We will always be the most enigmatic controversial, dominant one-two, little-man, big-man punch in Laker history and NBA history.” Who is Kobe Bryant? Few, if any claim to know. Here’s what we do know.


Kobe Bryant was one of the hardest working athletes in sports history. He was known to make cold calls to entrepreneurs to find out their secrets to success. He didn’t stop a practice session until he made 400 shots. He was the first to arrive at practice, even when injured. So, why don’t we know Kobe that well? “I was busy studying the game,” Kobe says. “It wasn’t something I consciously did. I was just so busy studying and perfecting the craft, that’s what I did most of the time,” he told Mike Wise.


According to Wise, the African-American community has been hesitant to issue Kobe a black card. He grew up in Italy, speaks Italian and was slow to defend Trayvon Martin. “If we’ve progressed as a society, then you don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American,” Kobe told The New Yorker.


After rape allegations in 2003, Kobe’s further closed off from the public. According to Brian Shaw, “Kobe didn’t trust anyone for a time…He began to realize that people ever looking at him like they looked at Michael [Jordan] was not happening. He started to embrace being a villain.” According to Shaw, Kobe became less forgiving and more indifferent to public opinion.


Has Kobe been able shed his lone persona? Well, not necessarily. But fans love him anyway. In his last game against the Utah Jazz, they went crazy as he scored 60 points on 50 shots. On that last night, fans didn’t want to see Kobe, the team player. They finally embraced the lone wolf, and actually cheered him to hog the ball — one last time.