Kobe Bryant will ‘hang up his boots’ after the Los Angeles Lakers final regular season game against the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center on Wednesday night.  The 5-time NBA champion, 18 time NBA All Star, and 3rd on the all-time scoring list credited playing soccer while in Italy with helping hone his basketball skills and World Soccer Shop looks at some of Kobe’s top soccer moments.

Bryant grew up a fan of AC Milan and has since become a big fan of Barcelona as well.  The game of soccer helped expand his vision on the court and the beautiful game will no doubt continue to be a part of his life after he retires form the hardwood.

“Most of the time, American basketball is only taught in twos: 1-2, pick and roll, or give and go, or something like that,” Bryant explained. “In playing soccer growing up, you really see the game in a combination of threes, sometimes fours—and how you play within triangles.”

Meeting Messi – Bryant turned pro when he was 17-years-old so it seems only fitting that the NBA player first met Lionel Messi when he was also a 17-year-old.  Barcelona was in Los Angeles and former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho made the introductions.

“Kobe, look, I’m going to introduce you to the guy who is going to be the greatest player of all time,” Bryant recalled.

Kobe Bryant meets Thierry Henry

Famous Footballing Friends – Bryant regularly goes to soccer matches when he has the time and usually catches up with some famous footballing friends.   He discovered earlier this year that he shared the same boyhood idol, Marco van Basten, as France and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry.  When asked by Henry, who also played for Barcelona, who would win this year’s Champions League, Bryant responded; “Barring injury or something like that it’s going to be very, very tough to stop them.”  Only time will tell.

Turkish Airlines Commercial – The 2 superstars went head-to-head on a Turkish Airlines commercial trying to win the heart of a young fan.  As the players work their magic to win the boy over, he can not decide until the flight attendant makes it an easy choice…offering him some ice cream.

EA Sports FIFA 16 Commercials – EA Sports FIFA franchise is popular among soccer fans and non-fans alike.  It should come as no surprise that Bryant is a fan of the game and has been called upon by EA Sports to promote it.  He went up against USWNT star Alex Morgan.  The Laker took the controls as the USWNT and actually the game Morgan score a brace on the way to a 2-1 win.

He also made a cameo in a commercial with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Pele.

FC Barcelona – Bryant has been a fan of Barcelona for the past decade and was reported offered a contract to play for Barcelona…the club’s basketball team.  Rumors had that Bryant would re-join Barcelona native and former teammate Pau Gasol and only play in Barcelona’s Euroleague games, the basketball equivalent of the UEFA Champions League.

Kobe Bryant in AC Milan home soccer jersey

Remains Loyal to Boyhood Team – Bryant was a fan of AC Milan since he was a kid.  He recalls growing up watching the Rossoneri with ‘Gullit, Rijkaard, Van Basten and Maldini’ and took the opportunity to visit Milan’s training center Milanello while rehabilitating from his Achilles tendon injury.

“I keep a Milan shirt and scarf in my locker room in Los Angeles, and I look at them every day,” he told the Rossoneri blog.

Nike Mambacurial

Nike Makes Mambacurial – Nike took note of Bryant’s love of the beautiful game and of course the Swoosh knows a thing or two about soccer as well.  Nike released a special colorway of the Nike Kobe VIII called the Nike Kobe 8 Mambacurial which was based on the look and technology of the Nike Mercurial Vapor IX soccer cleat.

Soccer boot design has influenced my shoe in the past but the KOBE 8 MAMBACURIAL brings it full circle,” Bryant says. “It’s great to see powerful design come together across sports.”

Nike is paying tribute to the ‘Black Mamba’, the 37-year-olds self-given nickname, in a video to the retiring star.

Bryant Ladies Ready!! #USA #WNT

A photo posted by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

Soccer Runs in the Family – Soccer is not only a passion for Kobe but for his entire family.  His daughters both play soccer and along with his wife supported the women’s national team as they marched to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup title.  Love that the family is all sporting the official women’s jersey with the 2-stars above the US Soccer Federation badge. Let us know if you need some with 3-stars?

Congratulations on a great NBA career. We are looking forward to what you write in the next chapter of the beautiful game.