mobile app bar

NFL Legend Credits Kobe Bryant for Teaching Him How to Sign His Own Autograph for Fans

Trikansh Kher

NFL Legend Credits Kobe Bryant for Teaching Him How to Sign His Own Autograph for Fans

Keyshawn Johnson recently reflected on his early career in the NFL as an up-and-coming wide receiver. In the meantime, he also revealed an interesting story about hanging out with Kobe as a teenager. Both Johnson and Bryant were part of the same draft class, both joining their respective leagues in 1996. Keyshawn went first overall to the New York Jets, while Kobe made his way to the Lakers. Both Johnson and Kobe were young rookies on big-market teams, so it was only natural that many opportunities presented themselves to the talented athletes.

The first time Johnson and Kobe worked together was during a Sports Center advertisement. The commercial was set up as a comedic skit, with ESPN legend Stuart ‘Orlando’ Scott also making a cameo during the filming. Talking about his expertise shooting alongside Kobe and Stuart Scott, Johnson revealed on his podcast All Facts No Brakes,

“If you go back and think about it, Kobe and I both came into our respective leagues at the same time. The same year we both sign with the Adidas shoe company, same time, same year. Sonny Vaccaro brought us both to Adidas. Kobe was 18, or 19 at the time. He was just a young dude, I mean that’s all he was, a young Kobe…He was an NBA guy, I didn’t know no better, I was a college kid who graduated, went to USC, and was the No. 1 pick…He was just a kid.”

Keyshawn calling Kobe a kid wasn’t much of a stretch, because the latter had directly jumped into playing in the league out of high school, forgoing his opportunity to play college ball. But even though Kobe was a few years younger than Johnson, the Black Mamba already had experience handling fame and even taught Johnson a thing or two about being a professional athlete. Talking about the lessons he learnt from Kobe, Johnson added to his story,

“Actually Kobe was the person that taught me how to sign my autograph…because we were flying together on a private jet to Portland, Oregon to do something for Adidas, some sort of event. We had memorabilia we had to sign before we landed….he had started [signing] when I had started, but he finished way before me.”

Johnson further revealed that Kobe taught him not to sign his full name and keep it short and sweet, limiting his signature to only “Keyshawn” followed by his jersey number. Bryant, who had already received nationwide fame in High School, seemed to know the tricks of the trade from a young age.

Sonny Vaccaro signed Kobe

Sonny Vaccaro is the genius behind a lot of successful signings in the sneaker industry. Vaccaro first made his name back when he was with Nike, signing Michael Jordan to the American brand, a deal which would change the landscape of merchandising and branding forever. But after a falling out with Nike, Vaccaro joined Adidas and was on the lookout for another generational player to sign for the German shoe brand.

Luckily for Vaccaro, a young Kobe Bryant was entering the league, and Bryant had all the right intangibles to make it big. Vaccaro, who was famous for his uncanny ability to spot “winners”, was sure about Bryant the day he saw the Black Mamba play.

Once Bryant was with the Lakers, Adidas took full advantage of Bryant’s fame and likeness to sell a plethora of sneakers and merchandise, making millions in the process. Eventually, Bryant would even leave Adidas for Nike, choosing to go down the same route as his idol, Michael Jordan.

Post Edited By:Satagni Sikder

About the author

Trikansh Kher

Trikansh Kher

Trikansh Kher is a writer at The Sports Rush. A lawyer by education, Trikansh has always been around sports. As a young track athlete Trikansh was introduced to basketball through 'street ball' mixtapes. He was hooked and it has been 'ball is life' ever since. Trikansh is a designer by profession, but couldn't keep away from basketball. A regular on the blacktop, his love for the game goes further than just hooping. If Trikansh isn't going through box scores for last night's game, you can find him in his studio working on his designs or playing squash at the local club.

Read more from Trikansh Kher

Share this article