After 19 years of stellar play, five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant retired in 2016 and embarked on the next phase of his professional life as a storyteller. Bryant won an Oscar for the Best Animated Short Dear Basketball. He then entered the literary world with The Wizenard Series: Training Camp. The second in the series, The Wizenard Series: Book One, is due out March 31st. The series was created by Bryant and written by Wesley King.
NCYS: Wes, tell us about your background.
I’ve authored 11 books, including the #1 New York Times Bestselling Wizenard Series. I split my time between Nova Scotia, Canada and a temperamental 1967 sailboat that I’m trying to sail around the world. My newest novel, Season One, is a continuation of work with Kobe Bryant on the Wizenard Series. This story follows the team’s underdog as he pushes himself to achieve greatness.
NCYS: How did you and Kobe come to collaborate on this series?
Kobe reached out to me after having read some of my previous works, and after meeting, we realized we had a shared vision for sports stories that could affect positive change for readers. The next step was to take those shared values and craft them into a story. Kobe already had an overall vision of granity and Rolabi Wizenard, so we just worked from there. After much brainstorming, we came up with the unusual structure of our first book and dove in, working collaboratively from day one. We spoke often by phone and text and he always let me stretch my legs. He was remarkably focused, and remarkably humble.
NCYS: What’s the book about?
The book follows Reggie, the perennial benchwarmer of the West Bottom Badgers: the worst team in the Elite Youth League of Dren. During Training Camp, every other player on the team faced their fears and found much needed personal growth. But that transformation skipped Reggie…until now. Suddenly facing new magical and real-world challenges, Reggie must decide if he has what it takes to chase his dreams—namely, the will and dedication to push himself to greatness. This is the chance for the underdog to shine.
NCYS: Reggie, as an underdog, discovers his fears didn’t have a face. Why was this of interest to you and Kobe?
I think we’ve all had moments where we feel like underdogs, or where we have felt like we cannot be more than what we are. We start to fear everything, because we don’t identify those deepest fears, whether that be self-image, a sense of abandonment, or fear of letting others down, to name a few. It’s part of the human experience. Kobe and I have both met many thousands of kids across our careers, and we were both passionate about encouraging them to chase their dreams, find their voices, and understand that they mattered. But we also wanted readers to know it wasn’t always easy, and that perseverance HAD to be a part of that journey. Reggie gave us a chance to show readers what that looks like.
NCYS: What drew you and Kobe to this story?
The focus on the personal. In these trying times where we all facing more alone time and isolation then we are used to, this book resonates even more. This book is about self-motivation. It’s about what we can do on our own to reach our dreams. Reggie’s journey is a deeply personal one against his doubts and fears, and I think this will be a perfect story of inspiration for all those young athletes who are sitting at home right now eager to get back their teams…how can we use this apart to make ourselves ready?
As one proverb says: The world is not always ready when you are. It rewards only those who stay ready.
NCYS: What can readers take away or learn from this book?
There are going to be lessons littered throughout this book, and like Training Camp, I think every reader will find something that resonates most with them. We designed these books to allow all readers to find themselves in these characters and problems, and to connect with the personal growth. In this case, I will leave it to Kobe, who wrote in the dedication:
“To young athletes who commit to doing the hard work. The process always pays off.”
NCYS: Kobe used a sports psychologist with the team he coached. You also consulted a sports psychologist for the book. Why?
Kobe had a psychologist work with his team and all the Mamba Academy athletes: the brilliant University of Chicago Professor, Stephanie Cacioppo. She kindly donated so much of her time to working with us on Season One to make sure the messaging was honest and insightful for our readers. It was always very important to Kobe to work with experts to make sure we were as authentic as possible. Another big thank you to Dr. Cacioppo! She even scanned my brain, so I have proof I really do have one.
The Wizenard: Training Camp was released last year. Will this be a trilogy?
No decisions have been made about future books. We’d been planning many more but will have to wait and see how we progress from here. I am thrilled that Kobe’s words live on in the upcoming Season One and I can’t wait to see reactions from readers around the world when they read this next installment. We were very proud of this book.