“Kobe had that spark, he was a storyteller,” Eva Clark says of writing Geese Are Never Swans with the late basketball star

By Morgan Smith and Sam Gillette
July 21, 2020 11:02 AM
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Granity Studios/Andrew D. Bernstein

Kobe Bryant’s relentless drive to excel guided every role in his life: basketball star, father, husband — and children’s book author was no exception.

Three years' worth of drafts, meetings, and brainstorming sessions — many of which happened over text in the middle of the night — went into creating the late NBA legend’s new young adult book, Geese Are Never Swans, a collaboration between Bryant and psychologist Eva Clark, she tells PEOPLE.

“Kobe had that spark, he was a storyteller,” Clark says of Bryant, who was killed earlier this year. “He was so dedicated to understanding stories: ‘What’s our responsibility? How do you tell it to the people in need?’ "

Granity Studios, Bryant’s multi-media original content company, released Geese Are Never Swans on July 21.

The YA novel focuses on a young swimmer named Gus who has his sights set on one day making the Olympics, but he first has to face the difficulties he is experiencing with his mental health.

The 288-page story is the fifth book from Bryant, who previously collaborated with writers, including Wesley King, for the popular The Wizenard Series. The latest entry for the collection, Season One, became a New York Times Best Seller in April.

In creating the book, Clark says she and Bryant talked a lot about what drives someone to greatness.

“Kobe was very interested in showing this athlete that had this extreme drive stemming from trauma that’s [unfortunately] celebrated by people as successful,” Clark says. "But they're not in touch with their trauma, which is why they’re so angry.”

She continues: “Kobe really wanted to show the healing: how to accept help, connect with other people, take care of yourself and still have drive and still be a great athlete. When you're not fighting, you're able to see more, go further.”

Geese Are Never Swans was written in partnership with artists in the mental health community, including organizations such as The Hidden Opponent and The Michael Phelps Foundation.

Granity Studios

“There is still so much stigma around mental health, it’s seen as something — especially in sports — that isn’t talked about or people can’t open up about,” Clark says.

According to Athletes for Hope, a non-profit organization focused on connecting athletes with charitable causes, recent data shows that up to 35 percent of professional athletes suffer from a mental health crisis including eating disorders, depression, and anxiety.

Says Clark: “We need to take care of our athletes and honor every part of that, not just what we admire of them physically, but also what they're going through emotionally.”

Before his death in a helicopter crash on January 26 at age 41 — which also claimed the lives of his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, and seven others — the former Los Angeles Laker was heavily focused on producing content for children.

It’s a chapter of his life, Clark says, Bryant was really excited about.

“He wanted to tell stories and connect with young people so they felt seen, motivated and like the world understood and cared about them," she adds. “I think that was very, very important to him."