Kobe Bryant might be the world’s most famous soccer fan


Kobe Bryant, watching soccer. (Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant is to soccer what Vernon Davis is to curling. That is, the two California-based athletes both have the power to attract U.S. audiences to sports many Americans still largely don’t watch (although soccer’s viewership is rightfully growing).

But that’s where the comparisons stop. See, while Davis, a tight end from the District who plays for the San Francisco 49ers, is USA Curling’s honorary captain, Bryant, a shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, is just a fan of U.S. soccer. It’s about time he get a recognized role, especially considering in the past few months he’s appeared in no less than four ads promoting “the world’s game.” Three of them in the past week alone! Plus, Bryant’s got some skills, as we learned last week when he teamed up with Panini, the world’s largest sports and entertainment collectibles company (not the sandwich), and showed a little of what he could do on the pitch.

The Panini ad came just a day after Nike dropped a short film that features pretty much every famous soccer player you can imagine and … Kobe Bryant! While Bryant isn’t shown on the pitch with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr., Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gerard Pique, Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Gotze, Eden Hazard, Thiago Silva, Andrea Pirlo, David Luiz, Andres Iniesta, Thibaut Courtois and Tim Howard (did we miss anyone?), the NBA great gets close. The long-form ad shows him in the stands critiquing the match.

The latest soccer-related Kobe ad also comes from Nike. The sports attire company dropped a tidbit on Vine that seemed to impress a lot of the soccer community. Just like how Jesus turned water into wine, Bryant turns a basketball into a soccer cleat in the clip.

Those three ads come on the heels of an ad released late last year by Turkish Airlines that pairs Bryan up with Lionel Messi, one of the most famous soccer stars of all time.

By many accounts, Bryant has more soccer ads than actual soccer players, so come on, Team USA, just add him to the roster already.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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