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That summer, director Spike Lee offered Kobe the role of Jesus Shuttlesworth in the movie “He Got Game.” The role was perfect — top high school basketball player must choose between getting his estranged father’s prison sentence reduced by playing college ball at the governor’s alma mater or going to the school of his choice.
“We were kids,” said his high school friend, Kevin Sanchez. “We still listened to our parents back then.”
In 2000, Kobe released a corny rap song — “K.O.B.E.,” featuring Tyra Banks — that absolutely bombed. He was dropped from his record label soon after. Only embarrassing YouTube videos of Kobe performing at All-Star Weekend in a leopard print hat and leather suit remain of his rap career.
¡°There’s an entire mythological universe I’ve created.¡±
– KOBE BRYANT
“I was like super shocked when he came out with that K.O.B.E song,” Sanchez said. “That really wasn’t him.”
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Sanchez was one of the best rappers in Philadelphia back in the 1990s. He’d hang with Kobe at lunch, after school, working with him on his rhymes. They’d find battles on South Street, in the Gallery (an underground mall), at Temple University or in this barbershop on N. 54th and Wynnefield Avenue. Kobe’s rap name was “The Eighth Man.”
“I was a battle MC. I hunted every top MC in the city and battled them,” Sanchez said. “He’d come with me and watch me just destroy everyone.”
After high school, they started a rap group called Cheizaw, signed a record deal with Sony and spoke on the phone almost every day. “We’d freestyle for hours. He could beatbox,” Sanchez said. “I remember when he blocked [Michael] Jordan’s shot. He was going crazy. He called up and was like, ‘I need to be charged up. I need to freestyle for like 45 minutes.”