Kobe Bryant Learned to Speak Spanish Because His Suegra Loved This 2005 Novela

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Anytime that Kobe Bryant gets to flaunt his Spanish-speaking skills, he’s down for it. The retired basketball player – who is raising half Latina daughters – forged a special connection with his Latino fans through his use of Spanish. As a matter of fact, after he ended his illustrious 20-year career in April, he took the time to once again shout out his Latino fans. “Latino fans are important to me, because when I arrived [in Los Angeles] they were the fans who most passionately embraced me,” he said in Spanish. “So I told them, ‘give me two or three years so that I can learn a little bit of Spanish.’ Now, my Spanish is not that good, but I can speak a little.”

But Kobe’s actually being modest. He can now conduct full-on interviews in Spanish, according to ESPN. And speaking the language even helped him cement a friendship with Lionel Messi, who only feels comfortable speaking in Spanish. Because his skills have improved by leaps and bounds over the last decade, this prompted an Univision reporter to ask him how he first learned the language. “Watching novelas,” he replied in Spanish. “With my wife, Vanessa, and with my mother-in-law as well.”

Bryant learned how to speak Italian as a child, so the similar language structure and pronunciation likely played a role in his ability to pick up Spanish. But he credited 2005’s La Madrastra with improving his fluency. And while this story would’ve been more enjoyable if I knew that Kobe was out there watching Soñadoras and singing along to the theme song, he did get to watch the best novela crier in the game in Victoria Ruffo.

Kobe also credited Sabado Gigante with helping him perfect his Spanish, so he knows firsthand how odd Spanish-language television can be. Check out his interview with Univision here.