The story of Kobe Bryant‘s rise to NBA greatness is no secret. But even as the recent, tragic passing of the legendary Lakers star continues to cast a reflective lens on Bryant’s legacy, there is one overlooked chapter: that is, the Mamba’s fascination with another apex predator. Bryant had more than just a keen interest in sharks.
In September 2013, while recovering from his knee injury, Bryant took a private yacht to Guadalupe Island, 15 miles west of Ensenada, Mexico. There, he hoped to link up with local area dive boats. One of his captains spoke with the crew from Shark Diver, who happily welcomed Bryant aboard and into their cages—where Kobe saw two great white sharks up close.
To honor the passing of the icon, the team at the Marine Conservation Science Institute decided to demonstrate its respect and admiration for Bryant in a unique way: They just named a newly discovered 12-foot, approximately 10-year-old, male great white shark “#24, Kobe Bryant.”
“We’ve reallocated shark #24 in our Guadalupe Island White Shark Photo-ID database,” stated Dr. Michael Domeier from MCSI on Instagram. “In honor and memory of Kobe Bryant, we’ve inserted a brand new shark into the #24 spot and named it ‘Kobe Bryant!'”
According to FTW Outdoors, Martin Graf of Shark Diver stated that Bryant was a big fan of getting in the water and up close to the massive sharks while in the cage—and also that the area around the remote island held a special place in Bryant’s heart.
According to CNN, Domeier explained that the young adult shark is new to the Guadalupe Island area, and was first sighted in the Pacific Ocean near the popular white shark gathering spot.
“Shark Diver and MCSI are deeply saddened by the tragedy that claimed Kobe’s life and the lives of his daughter and seven friends,” stated Shark Diver in an email. “We send our condolences to the family and friends of all involved. We enjoyed Kobe’s visit with us so much. Naming a shark seemed like the right thing to do. He will forever be remembered by his fellow shark divers and the shark diving community.”
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