Kobe Bryant is huge in China. Whenever he visits, massive crowds materialize. Artistic tributes to him ranged from a sculpture outside the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts to a massive portrait made of snow. Grown men have been known to burst into tears, moved by the sight of him.
On retiring, the Lakers star wanted to leave a parting message for fans in China, where he has partnered with Nike for years to coach and inspire young players and fans. (Nike and AKQA's 'House of Mamba" interactive LED basketball court, for training players in China, bears his nickname.)
The new retirement spot from Wieden & Kennedy Shanghai plays on his reputation as a ruthless competitor. Mr. Bryant tells fans and young players not to love him. "You should hate me," he says.
"Hate me because I demanded greatness, and greatness demands everything," he says. "Love me when you become greater." If it seems slightly cryptic, Wieden explains in a release that it's "a heartfelt challenge to Chinese ballers everywhere, to rise to the occasion as basketball's next legacy."
The star worked with Wieden and Nike on the message. "It was an intense and uncompromising process because Kobe was just as demanding on the creative team as he was on the Lakers," said Terence Leong, W+K's creative director in Shanghai, in a release. It sounds like there's a backstory or two there.