Kobe finally makes a magazine cover in his favorite sport

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It’s the Feb. 9 cover of ESPN The Magazine, showing Kobe Bryant, The Soccer Player.

He grew up in Italy, becoming a FC Barcelona fan.

“I’d go to the park to play basketball,” he tells the mag, “but there were mini goals under the baskets, so I’d end up playing soccer with the other kids first. I became a Barca fan a few years ago, when Ronaldinho was there. I watched him when I was in Rome in 2005 and he was doing stuff I’d never seen before.”

Bryant admits he has a “great collection” of soccer jerseys and signed balls from Pele. Plus a picture with Diego Maradona.

“I just enjoy the game and its influence. If you look at European basketball players who great up playing soccer, they see our game differently — the angels, the cuts. I enjoy watching that,” Kobe continued.

Which explains why Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic know where he’s going to pass them on a fast break. It’s all about ball movement.

What a beautiful game. Basketball.

We also read (linked here) where Kobe is going to be on the cover of Feb./March Complex Magazine. Say what? It’s a metropolitan men’s style/lifestyle mag. Which probably means no kickball allowed.

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