Kobe Bryant Building Granity Studios One Sports Theme After Another

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Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant calls his tennis game a “work in progress.” His storytelling, though, that has reached new heights as the 41-year-old now owns an Oscar and an Emmy through his Granity Studios work creating fresh content for young adults.

But Bryant isn’t stopping at producing television, releasing the studio’s second book, Legacy & The Queen, Sept. 3. All of the work comes with plenty more ties to sports, specifically tennis.

“For us, for the studio, it is trying to connect important messages that we want our youth to get to understand, to grow with and to evolve with,” Bryant says. “Then we start looking at sports and there is a connection with the story and the sport itself.”

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In his latest work, co-created with Annie Matthew, a young Legacy must win a kingdom tennis championship to save an orphanage she grew up in. The story shows how what you’re feeling at a moment in time impacts the game around you — in the world of Nova, your “inner-weather” changes the world, from the dimensions of the court to the wind to the light. Every player, then, has power, based on their emotions.

The magical world of Nova and its challenges for Legacy aren’t that far off what a tennis player experiences, Bryant says. The mega-star on the basketball court took to tennis just a week after his last game with the Los Angeles Lakers. He got to know tennis, the training, the repetition, the attention to detail, the dealing with three bad shots in a row, the playing a great set but understanding the scoring system doesn’t carry that over to the next set. “That inner negotiation,” he says, “that happens when playing tennis. Once I experienced that, I made the connection to the sports fantasy novel and started outlining that pretty quickly.”

That tennis connection, whether through Legacy & The Queen or even his own playing, has led to a relationship between Bryant and world No. 1 Naomi Osaka. Bryant, when in New York last week promoting the book, attended an Osaka match at the U.S. Open. “When I was younger, back in the day, I had a lot of curiosity to ask questions from other athletes I looked up to and admired and she is doing the same thing,” he says. “We started talking about tennis and I told her about this novel. She enjoyed it and wanted to be part of the process to launch it. I was not going to miss her match at the U.S. Open, it was great to see her play well.”

The rise of Granity Studios now takes up the bulk of Bryant’s business life. The studio’s sports-meets-fantasy-themed young adult work includes The Wizenard Series: Training Camp debuting this year at No. 1 on The New York Times Bestseller list. Bryant also earned an Oscar and an Emmy with the animated short, Dear Basketball, and had a successful debut season of the podcast The Puniesbased on neighborhood friends who play sports and experience adventures. Season two launched Aug. 31.

“I enjoy doing it,” Bryant says of the studio work. “I was fortunate to retire from the game and find something I love to do and that is the art of storytelling. There is nothing like having a blank page and outlining a story, a world, a character. What is it going to look like, how does that come together? There is nothing more fun to me than doing this.”

Granity Studios covers a range of mediums, from animated film to podcasts to book. “For us, it is important to focus on what makes sense for the story itself,” he says. “It must be essential to the story, it must come from the world and connect in some shape, form or fashion to the plot of the story.”

Bryant has built Granity Studios from the ground up, starting with the books. He says a focus on creating premium, high-quality books is where his passion lies. Even with his variety of other business ventures and investments, he spends 90 percent of his work-related time on Granity Studios. “When I wake up, I’m getting up thinking about the studio,” he says.

It all comes as a joy for him. He loves the start, the blank page portion, as he calls it. He then comes up with a name, a character, then a personality, family history and entire backstory. “It won’t all make it into the novel, but it is important for me as the creator to know,” he says. He loves diving into the creation of worlds, but also enjoys the editing process once the novel is written out. “I thought that was going to work and then I’ll shift this around,” he says about the process. “Then I am parallel tracking with the design of the book, coming up with the material, the book design, everything having a purpose for being there, the color and fabric. We want kids and parents, when they pick up our books, to say there has been a lot of care put into this product. I think it is important for parents to understand we value what their children are consuming. We are a studio you can absolutely trust.”

To that end, the Legacy & The Queen includes illustrated end papers with UV-activated ink that when held to the light reveals secret images, artistic renderings on each page which collectively function as a flip-book animation, a secret image when the pages fan out and cords that bind the spine and serve as a placeholder ribbon.

As one of the greatest athletes of his generation pours his passion into Granity Studios, his love of sports, attention to detail and dedication simply have a newfound focus.

[“source=forbes”]