Kobe Bryant's charity luncheon at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara
Paul Wellman

Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant took some time out of running his Kobe Basketball Academy on Friday, July 9, to host a charity luncheon at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara.

The camp, which started Wednesday and concluded Sunday, was located at the Thunderdome on UCSB’s campus. In previous years, the camp had too many members, so it had to be split into different sessions, and Bryant didn’t want that same problem this year. While sitting in the library of the Boys & Girls Club, Bryant said he was extremely happy with the camp.

Kobe Bryant's charity luncheon at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara
Paul Wellman

“We started looking for facilities that were a bit bigger, and UCSB was extremely accommodating,” Bryant said. “And it made it have the kind of family atmosphere that I was looking for, and to say I’m pleased with it would be a huge understatement.”

Bryant said he always looks forward to spending time with the kids at his camp.

“It’s pure enjoyment,” said the five-time NBA champion. “What I get out of it is getting the joy to be around the game, but also being around the kids who legitimately love the game. I just love being around the kids. It’s like a party.”

The proceeds of the $200-a-plate luncheon will go toward the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County as well as The Kobe Bryant Family Foundation.

At the Kobe Basketball Academy, there are several campers who don’t speak English all that well, but Bryant said that hasn’t posed too much of a problem. “How we get the message across is we use basketball as a universal language,” Bryant said. “So we try to teach without teaching.”

“For example, one of the rules we have at the camp is a two dribble maximum — when you cross half-court, you can only dribble the ball twice. And what that does is it encourages the kids to play together. So it teaches them unselfishness, it teaches them communication, even if you don’t speak the language. Like when I moved to Italy, I didn’t speak Italian, but I had friends just through soccer and through basketball.”

Because of the time Bryant has spent in Santa Barbara recently, and in the past when the Lakers held training camp here, he was eager to talk about what he likes about the area.

Kobe Bryant's charity luncheon at the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara
Paul Wellman

“I like its peacefulness,” Bryant said. “This is easygoing. I like it. A lot of the towns that I grew up in, overseas in Italy, were like this — very calm, very family-oriented and it brings back a lot of memories.”

With the recent news of LeBron James heading to the Miami Heat to join Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, Bryant quickly dispelled the notion that he is chomping at the bit to get back to work in the near future to prepare for the upcoming season in which the Lakers will be working toward their third title in as many years.

“No, I’m not at all. Not at all,” Bryant said. “We just had three long years – four for me counting the USA team, so I’m not chomping at anything but rest. That’s all I’m chomping on. I’m still in vacation mode.”


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