By Greg Bach
Growing up, best-selling author Wesley King played a lot of sports.
And he played them well.
There was soccer, hockey, basketball, volleyball, rugby and even a couple seasons of badminton as he claimed his high school’s Athlete of the Year award a whopping three times.
“Sports was a huge part of my life,” King says. “Growing up I was extremely shy. I’m 6-foot-7; I hit a growth spurt around grades nine and 10 where I really started getting into volleyball and basketball and I had some college scholarship opportunities as a soccer goalkeeper. So sports were a really transformative thing for me all the way through high school. Collegiately I ended up diving into journalism and then going onto writing.”
And the lessons he learned on the courts, fields and rinks of his youth are put to use every day.
“A lot of people think that writing is a solo activity but it’s very much a collaboration with editing teams,” King explains. “It’s about teamwork and a lot of perseverance.”
THE WIZENARD SERIES: SEASON ONE
King is the author of the recently released middle grade novel The Wizenard Series: Season One, created by the late Kobe Bryant who died earlier this year in a tragic helicopter crash. The book is the second in which King teamed with Bryant to write, following the widely successful The Wizenard Series: Training Camp.
“Kobe was really involved in everything he did,” King says. “It was daily communication and me coming down to Los Angeles whenever possible to meet with him and the sports psychologists we were working with to make sure that the messages in the book were right. It was phone calls and texts every day. He was really deeply involved and wanted to read every page that was created and give feedback, so it was a real collaborative process for sure.”
This latest book tells the story of a young player who is a benchwarmer for his youth basketball team who dreams of becoming great and trains relentlessly to improve his game.
“Obviously Kobe took the lead when it came to the fundamentals of how the coaching is actually being done in the story,” King says. “Since he had done so much coaching of his own he loved the ability to come in and give these really accurate basketball drills that would take on this almost magical quality, but they were all based on real stuff that he would do with his team.”
Bryant’s series of books are aimed at inspiring youth that all things are possible through hard work and self-belief.
“It was always about how we can affect this positive change through sports,” King says. “It was about how can we have them take these sport-related messages and apply them to the real world, such as how to be a good teammate and how to keep perspective.”
LESSONS FROM A LEGEND
King cherishes the conversations he had with Bryant throughout the writing process.
The five-time NBA champion and the terrific high school athlete had a connection through sports.
And they shared a genuine love of producing page-turning stories to impact and influence young lives.
“Kobe and I used to talk all the time about the specialization of sports these days and how kids are being put into one sport,” King says. “I came from a totally different experience where I was encouraged to play everything and anything. Kobe was trying to bring that to his daughters a little bit, too. He didn’t want them to get pigeon-holed in any one sport, and I think that’s why he wrote about different types of sports in his books, not just basketball.”
Bryant’s death stung King and all those who had the opportunity to work with him, soak up his passion and admire his work ethic.
And King uses some of those special memories to fuel him these days.
“First and foremost, I’m trying to match the level of self-assurance that he had,” King says. “Not in terms of arrogance but in a humble belief in yourself. He believed that he could affect change and that we all could, and he had the confidence to dive into new things and take criticism. So that’s something that I try to keep going in my life. I wrote a little piece after his passing that he was sort of the hype man for so many people. He was always the one encouraging people and telling them they could do it, so I’m trying to take some of that positivity and that energy into my day-to-day life as a way that I try to honor his legacy.”
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