How Kobe Bryant failed a personal branding game

Much has been made of individual personal branding. One of the major failures of private brands has been playing in the public display for years. Enter the great Kobe Bryant basketball. His monumental failure to turn himself into a Sterling brand was largely due to his predecessor, who had one of the strongest private brands in the world. Enter the NBA legend Michael Jordan. The overall theme in this two-person drama is …

Personal Branding Lessons from Kobe Bryant

Much has been made of individual personal branding. This has been a hot subject in recent years. One of the major failures of private brands has been playing in the public display for years.

Enter the great Kobe Bryant basketball from the Los Angeles Lakers.

His monumental failure to turn himself into a Sterling brand was largely due to his predecessor, who had one of the strongest private brands in the world.

The overarching theme is this: Michael Jordan is the original and Kobe Bryant is an imitation. But there is more to the story line than that, and it contains lessons for professionals in business besides sports. Learn from Bryant’s mistakes and you might to avoid the same fate.

From a professional point of view, in the performance field, the difference between Bryant and Jordan should not be so broad. Bryant has put up a significant amount during his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, including only having won the fifth NBA championship, just one short of what Jordan posted with the Chicago Bulls.

Bryant has scored more than 25,000 points, and is likely to equal or exceed Jordan’s 32,000-point total career. Bryant also shocked the basketball world in January 2006 when he scored a surprising 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, Jordan’s 73-point performance the previous year. It was the second biggest printing night in NBA history; only 100 Wilt Chamberlain points in the 1962 game were bigger. (Some sports observers say Bryant’s performance is even more impressive than Chamberlain.)

Finally, Bryant has proven himself every bit as competitive and professionally disciplined as Jordan. He works ethics and refusal to stop at every play as long as any game is clear.

And what did Kobe Bryant get for all this? Only one Most Valuable Player award compared with six for Michael Jordan. He has received far less product support, while Jordan is still pitching Hanes clothing and other products the year after retiring. And almost every NBA broadcaster and analyst still keeps Michael Jordan in a separate company. That was a big milestone for Bryant when television analysts recognized during this year’s playoff playoffs that Bryant had to “at least be part of the conversation” as to whether greatness was the same as Jordan.

He just got the right to be part of the conversation? After all the achievements?

Kobe Bryant’s Brilliant and Complicated Legacy

Yes, and this is the reason. From Kobe Bryant’s earliest days in the league his admiration for Jordan was evident because he was so closely emulated MJ’s playing style. Everything about the way Bryant said he was determined to be the next Michael Jordan – to prove that he was as good as the person who was widely considered the greatest ever. Maybe better.

And that spells the end of every opportunity that Kobe Bryant has to create a brand of his own, one that can equal or surpass Jordan and stand the test of time.

Contrast that with the experience of Michael Jordan. Jordan is original, partly because of the superstar soon before him – the Boston Celtics ‘Larry Bird and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Magic Johnson – players who are very different stylistically. Bird and Johnson are extraordinary talents, to be sure, but Jordan carries an athletic and stamina league that has never seen anyone like it until Bryant comes.

There are other factors that make Jordan a persistent brand. He founded several trademarks, including changing the NBA’s outfit. Jordan – still captivated by his college basketball uniform – wears shorts and Jersey North Carolina University under the Bulls uniform. To hide shorts and avoid breaking the NBA dress code, Jordan began wearing loose shorts. The entire National Basketball Association immediately followed the lead.

Jordan is much warmer, a more pleasant personality and an electric smile creates better media too.

This two-man drama is a testimony to the power of a personal brand. A strict numerical analysis of the two players will definitely place Bryant and Jordan on the same high pedestal. But that is only half the story. Factor in their personal brand, though, and Jordan won in Blow-out.

You can bet Kobe Bryant will be plannedna different game if he can return to his career opening a tipoff.

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