Kobe Bryant's memory lives on in horse racing
Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in NBA history. In 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers, "Black Mamba" epitomized a mix of talent and intensity on the court. He was an NBA All-Star selection 18 times, won five NBA championships, and ranks fourth on the all-time scoring list.
Bryant and Gasol teamed up on Siempre Mio
But basketball wasn't the only sport he was involved in. In 2012, Kobe Bryant owned a share of a racehorse. At a Lakers Foundation auction, Bryant outbid teammate Pau Gasol for a 25% share of Siempre Mio, a California-bred son of Dixie Union. Gasol ended up buying a one-quarter share of Siempre Mio, as well.
In Siempre Mio's next start at Hollywood Park, in June of 2012, he carried Laker-colored silks for his superstar owners.
Siempre Mio did his best to channel Kobe Bryant's on-court tenacity on the track. He sped to an early lead but drifted out in the lane and fell short of the victory by a nose. And, in a showdown that could only happen at the racetrack, Siempre Mio was claimed away from Bryant and Gasol by a partnership that included a top-level athlete in a different sport, NFL quarterback Drew Brees.
Nowadays, fans of Bryant still have a lot to cheer for on the racetrack.
Kobe's Back proved prophetic
While Bryant was recovering from a torn Achilles tendon through the summer of 2013, his best equine namesake burst onto the scene. Lee Searing of CRK Stables, a fan of both Bryant and the Lakers, named his promising juvenile Kobe's Back.
Searing stated, after Kobe's Back's debut victory in the Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Park, that the name was inspired by his belief that Bryant would return to the court.
Bryant returned to the hardwood in December of 2013. He played three more seasons for the Lakers, and scored 60 points in his final game in April of 2016.
As for Kobe's Back? The grey son of Flatter had a five-year career worthy of being named after the Black Mamba. A late-running sprinter, Kobe's Back raced in nothing but stakes races. He earned more than $1 million, won three Grade 2 races, and hit the board in three Grade 1 contests. Kobe's Back now stands stud at Bonita Farm in Maryland. Fans can follow his first crop of foals on the racetrack in 2021.
Kobe's Back isn't the only connection between Bryant and the top-level of horse racing, however. Two of 2020's most promising juveniles are named after him.
Girl Daddy continues Kobe's legacy
Bryant often referred to himself as a "girl dad." He and his wife Vanessa had four daughters, and he coached his daughter Gianna's youth basketball team.
A horse with a name inspired by this facet of Bryant's personality has already taken some steps on the way to the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Girl Daddy won the Pocahontas Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs on Sept. 3, and followed that up with a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). That gives the Dale Romans trainee 14 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. She is third in the Oaks standings.
Look out for Laker Mamba
Laker Mamba has also emerged as a horse to watch. He showed promise on debut at Churchill Downs on Sept. 2, when he finished third. The son of Nyquist then made a sharp move forward Oct. 28, over the turf in Louisville, where he stalked the pace and ran clear to win by 4 1/4 lengths.
With tactical speed and a pedigree that could do well on turf or dirt as he matures, Laker Mamba may just fly as high as his namesake.
As an all-time NBA great, Kobe Bryant will always be remembered on the basketball court. But between Kobe's Back, Girl Daddy, and Laker Mamba, the racetrack gives him a fitting tribute, too.