NASCAR: Ryan Blaney recalls meeting Kobe Bryant

Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, NASCAR (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

Ryan Blaney recalled to Beyond the Flag the time he was fortunate enough to meet NBA legend Kobe Bryant at a dinner through BODYARMOR.

Ryan Blaney has had a personal deal with BODYARMOR SuperDrink, the American independently owned sports drink based in Queens, New York, for several years now.

But that deal recently expanded to become a deal that features the company as a primary sponsor of Blaney’s #12 Team Penske Ford in the NASCAR Cup Series.

The late five-time NBA champion and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a tragic helicopter crash one year ago today, was a major investor in BODYARMOR since they began back in 2011.

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Blaney had the opportunity to meet Bryant, and he recalled that once-in-a-lifetime experience in an exclusive interview with Beyond the Flag when discussing his partnership with BODYARMOR.

“Kobe was a very, very huge investor in really kick starting that company back in 2011-2012, and when I got to meet Kobe it was in Las Vegas,” Blaney recalled. “We had a dinner, it was a big dinner with a lot of beverage companies that BODYARMOR was partnering with, a lot of retailers.”

Blaney, who was able to have a one-on-one conversation with the 18-time All-Star, gave Bryant the BODYARMOR firesuit which he had worn for that year’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“To be able to talk to Kobe, we talked for 15 or 20 minutes just he and I, we gave him a firesuit we ran earlier that year at Indianapolis,” he said. “He was so excited for that gift. Just to get his mindset; as a kid, growing up and watching Kobe and his mentality on everything, that came out in just our conversation.”

He outlined the intense “Mamba Mentality” that Bryant has and how that was evident, even in their short discussion, due to Bryant’s passion simply to learn more about Blaney’s craft.

It even made the four-time race winner nervous.

“He was asking me questions about racing that I 100% knew the answer to, but I was nervous to mess them up because he was so intense, something he didn’t even know anything about,” he said. “But he really wanted to learn all about it in a matter of 15 minutes.

“That just shows what kind of a person and competitor he was and his mindset going towards anything, just his outlook on life, you could see it on the court, off the court, what he was able to accomplish.”

Growing up, Blaney idolized Bryant, as did many young NBA fans, so getting the opportunity to meet “The Black Mamba” himself was a dream come true.

“That was an absolute dream come true of mine, to be able to sit and talk to somebody like that, someone I’ve idolized ever since I was a kid, and just what they’ve done in their sport, and you can learn a lot from people like that, just really in your everyday life, even if you don’t play sports, so that was definitely a dream come true, and that wouldn’t have happened without BODYARMOR.”

Through BODYARMOR, Blaney was able to run a tribute paint scheme in the race at Auto Club Speedway last March to honor Bryant and all of those killed in the fatal helicopter crash just over one month beforehand.

“It was really special to be able to run the Kobe tribute scheme at California [in March 2020] to honor that tragedy, he and his daughter and the other individuals involved,” Blaney added.

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“That’s an experience I’ll never forget, being able to talk to him at dinner.”