The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality (Paperback)
"A compelling origin story of a time that really wasn't so long ago but through the lens of tragedy feels like forever. Kobe-ologists will devour this book, reveling in the anecdotes about his intensity and the engaging game recaps." —Associated Press
“Every superhero needs an origin story.” –Jeff Pearlman
The inside look at one of the most captivating and consequential figures in our culture—with never-before-heard interviews.
Kobe Bryant’s death in January 2020 did more than rattle the worlds of sports and celebrity. The tragedy of that helicopter crash, which also took the life of his daughter Gianna, unveiled the full breadth and depth of his influence on our culture, and by tracing and telling the oft-forgotten and lesser-known story of his early life, The Rise promises to provide an insight into Kobe that no other analysis has.
In The Rise, readers will travel from the neighborhood streets of Southwest Philadelphia—where Kobe’s father, Joe, became a local basketball standout—to the Bryant family’s isolation in Italy, where Kobe spent his formative years, to the leafy suburbs of Lower Merion, where Kobe’s legend was born. The story will trace his career and life at Lower Merion—he led the Aces to the 1995-96 Pennsylvania state championship, a dramatic underdog run for a team with just one star player—and the run-up to the 1996 NBA draft, where Kobe’s dream of playing pro basketball culminated in his acquisition by the Los Angeles Lakers.
In researching and writing The Rise, Mike Sielski had a terrific advantage over other writers who have attempted to chronicle Kobe’s life: access to a series of never-before-released interviews with him during his senior season and early days in the NBA. For a quarter century, these tapes and transcripts preserved Kobe’s thoughts, dreams, and goals from his teenage years, and they contained insights into and told stories about him that have never been revealed before.
This is more than a basketball book. This is an exploration of the identity and making of an icon and the effect of his development on those around him—the essence of the man before he truly became a man.
"Sielski deftly uses the material to craft a fascinating look at the making of a complex man who, almost two years after his death, still resonates fiercely." —Mark Bechtel for Sports Illustrated
"A compelling origin story of a time that really wasn’t so long ago but through the lens of tragedy feels like forever. Kobe-ologists will devour this book, reveling in the anecdotes about his intensity & the engaging game recaps." —Associated Press
"Mike Sielski offers readers a detailed and nuanced backstory of the late basketball star’s life...a tale that is by turns a gripping sports story and a touching portrait of Bryant’s early life. Sielski has written a fitting tribute to a legend who was lost too soon." —The Christian Science Monitor
"The NBA games have been dissected, and Bryant has been heralded in many volumes. This book, though, goes into granular details of high school games, influential coaches and paints a complete picture of a boy, teen, and young man....Sielski proves that Bryant was destined for greatness all along." —New York Daily News
"Tell me things I don’t know. That’s a basic bar to get over in journalism, any form. A high bar to get over when you’re writing in this city about Kobe Bryant’s early years. So when Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski took on the task of writing this book that is now out, there was no question, the bar was high. The achievement: Masterful." —Mike Jensen for The Philadelphia Inquirer
"It isn't possible to enjoy a book more. ... A wonderfully written tale of Kobe Bryant's origin." —New York Post
"Thorough reportage and insight ... There are scores of books out there about Kobe Bryant, running the gamut from fawning to fault-finding. What The Rise does so elegantly is tell a part of the story that hasn't received quite so much attention. ... An in-depth look at a kid who believed himself destined for greatness—and was willing to do whatever it took to achieve it." —The Maine Edge
"There’s no greater canvas for storytelling than the Philadelphia sports scene, and there’s no one who gets that better than Mike Sielski. Sielski tackles one of those yarns that everyone in Philly thinks they know — the Lower Merion roots of the late basketball legend Kobe Bryant — to find the real story you didn’t know. The Rise is Sielski’s deeply reported reminder that greatness is never an accident." —Will Bunch for The Philadelphia Inquirer
"In the wake of a death the world still has trouble grasping, Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist Sielski wisely tells not the story of L.A. Laker Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba, owner of five championship rings, one of the greatest NBA players of all time, but rather Bryant’s origin story....how Kobe became Kobe." —Booklist (starred review)
"A landmark account of Kobe Bryant’s early life, this is an essential purchase for sports collections in all public libraries. Sielski’s biography will stand as the most objective, definitive record of Kobe Bryant’s childhood and youth, and invites a sequel that will similarly cover his professional career and personal story beyond the 1996 NBA draft." —Library Journal (starred review)
"[A] riveting chronicle... Sielski lends pathos to a celebrity player known for stoicism in the face of pain. Fans will relish this nuanced take on an oft-overlooked part of the legend’s remarkable story." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"What incredible insight into the rise of Kobe Bryant. Sielski takes you back to Kobe's father's playing days and gives the reader new details from the start. This book gives you not only stories of Kobe Bryant but the real details from the people in Philly who knew him best. Captivating from start to finish. A must read — and not just for the diehard basketball fan." —Billy King, former general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets
"Richly detailed and beautifully written, The Rise is more than a sports biography; it’s an illuminating meditation on celebrity culture and how the pressures and vicissitudes of fame shaped the life of one of the most gifted—and complicated—athletes in American history. Even readers who have never watched a basketball game will be riveted by Mike Sielski’s page-turning portrait of a young Kobe Bryant." —Abbott Kahler (aka Karen Abbott), New York Times bestselling author of The Ghosts of Eden Park and Sin in the Second City
“The Philly Phase of the Kobe Bryant Story was silt that settled at the bottom of a shimmering stream that dazzled the world for two decades … until Kobe’s shocking death sent Mike Sielski down with his big shovel, big heart, and big talent to dredge and divulge all its fertile richness in The Rise.” —Gary Smith, former Sports Illustrated senior writer, four-time National Magazine Award winner, author of Beyond the Game: The Collected Sportswriting of Gary Smith and Going Deep: 20 Classic Sports Stories
“Kobe Bryant shot to NBA stardom like an arrow from a strong bow. His notable skills and singular focus were clear from the beginning. In Mike Sielski’s sensitive reporting and crisp writing, we see the closest account you will ever read of a sure thing, from showing up as a child at a rec league tournament wearing goggles he didn’t need — because they were worn by Lakers star Kareem Abdul Jabbar — to startling teachers with his fluent Italian, to leading his Lower Merion high school team to a state championship while training with — and dazzling — the Philadelphia Sixers, there was never any doubt about Kobe Bryant, least of all in his own mind.” —Mark Bowden, bestselling author of Black Hawk Down, The Best Game Ever, Killing Pablo, Guests of the Ayatollah, and The Last Stone
"There may be similarities between Kobe Bryant’s game and that of a select few NBA greats. But Kobe’s path to the NBA and his tragically brief but meaningful post career life make his story unique. Mike Sielski presents that story informed by meticulous research and rendered with clear-eyed insights." —Bob Costas
"Every superhero needs an origin story. Luke Skywalker. Clark Kent. Bruce Wayne. And now, thanks to Mike Sielski, the rise of Kobe Bryant can be fully understood and appreciated. A riveting, PhD-level study of a generational talent gone far too soon. Bravo." —Jeff Pearlman, New York Times bestselling author of Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty
"As one of our greatest columnists and truth tellers, Mike Sielski is the perfect chronicler of one of the most triumphant and tragic sports stories ever told. Sielski uses never-before-published interviews to pry open windows on young Kobe Bryant's competitive soul that had been forever sealed, making The Rise a titanic work worthy of its subject. Let the Philly author with the unmatched local knowledge show you why Kobe belonged to the world, and the ages, in life and in death." —Ian O'Connor, New York Times bestselling author of Belichick, The Captain, and Arnie & Jack
"Everyone comes from somewhere. That's often hard to remember in the face of today's sports-celebrity complex. But it's true. There are places in every past that explain a rise to the highest stages and brightest lights. Kobe Bryant might have made his name in Los Angeles, or become famous in every corner of the globe, but he was from Philadelphia. Enter Mike Sielski, who is the most definitive and important voice in that august and sports mad city. His story of Kobe Bryant tracks his rise, from Philly to the peak of his profession. He follows him from high school gyms to NBA Finals to a helicopter ride with his daughter when the things he loved the most came tumbling from the sky. This is a poignant, essential part of the Bryant canon." —Wright Thompson, ESPN senior writer and author of the New York Times bestselling Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last and The Cost of These Dreams
"The Rise is terrific and provides ample evidence why Mike Sielski is the only sportswriter I routinely read outside my home region. Now I know how Kobe became Kobe." —Chuck Hogan, author of The Town