Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant 2014.jpg
Bryant during his 19th NBA season in 2014
No. 24 – Los Angeles Lakers
Position Shooting guard
League NBA
Personal information
Born (1978-08-23) August 23, 1978 (age 36)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)[a]
Listed weight 212 lb (96 kg)
Career information
High school Lower Merion
(Ardmore, Pennsylvania)
NBA draft 1996 / Round: 1 / Pick: 13th overall
Selected by the Charlotte Hornets
Pro career 1996–present
Career history
1996–present Los Angeles Lakers
Career highlights and awards
Stats at NBA.com
Stats at Basketball-Reference.com

Kobe Bean Bryant (born August 23, 1978) is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He entered the NBA directly from high school, and has played for the Lakers his entire career, winning five NBA championships. Bryant is a 16-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team. Twice he has led the league in scoring. As of December 2014, he ranks third on both the league's all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring lists. He is the son of former NBA player, Joe Bryant.

Bryant enjoyed a successful high school basketball career at Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, where he was recognized as the top high school basketball player in the country. He declared his eligibility for the NBA Draft upon graduation, and was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. As a rookie, Bryant earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest.

In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexual assault after having sex with a hotel employee in Edwards, Colorado. In September 2004, prosecutors dropped the case after his accuser refused to testify, though a civil suit was later settled out of court.

Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002. A feud between the duo and a loss in the 2004 NBA Finals resulted in O'Neal's trade from the Lakers to the Miami Heat. Following O'Neal's departure, Bryant became the cornerstone of the franchise. He led the NBA in scoring during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons, setting numerous scoring records in the process. In 2006, Bryant scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second most points scored in a single game in NBA history, second only to Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962. He was awarded the regular season's Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in 2008. After losing in the 2008 NBA Finals, Bryant led the Lakers to two consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010, earning the NBA Finals MVP Award on both occasions.

At 34 years and 104 days of age, Bryant became the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points. He is also the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. Since his second year in the league, Bryant has been selected to start every All-Star Game. He has won the All-Star MVP Award four times (2002, 2007, 2009, and 2011), tying him for the most All Star MVP Awards in NBA history. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won gold medals as a member of the U.S. national team. Sporting News and TNT named Bryant the top NBA player of the 2000s.

Early life and education

Bryant was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the youngest of three children and the only son of Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant.[3] He is also the maternal nephew of John "Chubby" Cox. His parents named him after the famous beef of Kobe, Japan, which they saw on a restaurant menu.[3] His middle name, Bean, is derived from his father's nickname "Jellybean". Bryant was raised Roman Catholic.[4] When Bryant was six, his father left the NBA and moved his family to Rieti in Italy to continue playing professional basketball.[5][6] Bryant became accustomed to his new lifestyle and learned to speak Italian and Spanish.[6][7] During summers, he would come back to the United States to play in a basketball summer league.[8]

Bryant started playing basketball when he was 3 years old,[9] and his favorite team growing up was the Lakers.[10] Bryant's grandfather would mail him videos of NBA games, which Bryant would study.[10] At an early age he also learned to play soccer and his favorite team was AC Milan.[11] Upon Joe Bryant's retirement from playing basketball in 1991, the Bryant family moved back to the United States.

High school

Bryant's retired No.33 jersey and banner at the Lower Merion High School gym.

Bryant earned national recognition during a spectacular high school career at Lower Merion High School located in Ardmore, in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion. As a freshman, he played for the varsity basketball team.[12] He became the first freshman in decades to start for Lower Merion's varsity team, but the team finished with a 4–20 record.[12][13] The following three years, the Aces compiled a 77–13 record, with Bryant playing all five positions.[12] During his junior year, he averaged 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists and was named Pennsylvania Player of the Year,[14] attracting attention from college recruiters in the process.[14] Duke, North Carolina, Villanova and Michigan were at the top of his list; however, when Kevin Garnett went in the first round of the 1995 NBA Draft, he began considering going directly to the pros.[14]

At Adidas ABCD camp, Bryant earned the 1995 senior MVP award,[15] while playing alongside future NBA teammate Lamar Odom.[16] While in high school, then 76ers coach John Lucas invited Bryant to work out and scrimmage with the team, where he played one-on-one with Jerry Stackhouse.[17] In his senior year of high school, Bryant led the Aces to their first state championship in 53 years. During the run, he averaged 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals, and 3.8 blocked shots in leading the Aces to a 31–3 record.[18] Bryant ended his high school career as Southeastern Pennsylvania's all-time leading scorer at 2,883 points, surpassing both Wilt Chamberlain and Lionel Simmons.[19]

Bryant received several awards for his performance his senior year including being named Naismith High School Player of the Year, Gatorade Men's National Basketball Player of the Year, a McDonald's All-American, and a USA Today All-USA First Team player.[20] Bryant's varsity coach, Greg Downer, commented that Bryant was "a complete player who dominates".[18] In 1996, Bryant took R&B singer Brandy to his senior prom,[21] though the two were, and remain, just friends. Ultimately, however, the 17-year-old Bryant made the decision to go directly into the NBA, only the sixth player in NBA history to do so.[12] Bryant's news was met with a lot of publicity at a time when prep-to-pro NBA players were not very common (Garnett being the only exception in 20 years).[12] His basketball skills and SAT score of 1080 would have ensured admission to any college he chose.[22]

In 2012, Bryant was honored as one of the 35 Greatest McDonald's All-Americans.[23]

Professional career

1996 NBA draft

The first guard to ever be taken out of high school, Bryant was chosen as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996.[24] According to Arn Tellem, Bryant's agent at the time, Bryant playing for the Charlotte Hornets was "an impossibility".[25] However, Bill Branch, the Hornets' head scout at the time, said that the Hornets agreed to trade their draft selection to the Lakers before picking Bryant. The teams agreed to the trade the day before the draft and the Lakers did not tell the Hornets whom to select until five minutes before the pick was made.[26] Branch said that prior to the trade agreement, the Hornets never even considered drafting Bryant. Prior to the draft, Bryant had worked out in Los Angeles, where he scrimmaged against former Lakers players Larry Drew and Michael Cooper, and according to then-Laker manager Jerry West, "marched over these people".[27] On July 1, 1996, West traded his starting center, Vlade Divac, to the Hornets in exchange for Bryant's draft rights.[28] Since he was still 17 at the time of the draft, his parents had to cosign his contract with the Lakers until he was able to sign his own when he turned 18 before the season began.[29]

Adjusting to the NBA (1996–99)

During his rookie season, Bryant mostly came off the bench behind guards Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel.[30] At the time he became the youngest player ever to play in an NBA game (18 years, 72 days; a record since broken by Jermaine O'Neal and Andrew Bynum), and also became the youngest NBA starter ever (18 years, 158 days).[31][32] Initially, Bryant played limited minutes, but as the season continued, he began to see some more playing time. By the end of the season, he averaged 15.5 minutes a game. During the All-Star weekend, Bryant was the winner of the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest, becoming the youngest player to be named the slam dunk champion at the age of 18.[33] Bryant's performance throughout the year earned him a spot on the NBA All Rookie second team with fellow bench teammate Travis Knight.[34] His final minutes of the season ended in disaster when he shot 4 air balls at crucial times in the game.[18] He first missed a jumper to win the game in the 4th quarter and 3 three-pointers in overtime (2 of which would have tied the game in the final minute). With that the Utah Jazz ended the playoffs for the Lakers in the second round. Shaquille O'Neal commented years later that "[Bryant] was the only guy who had the guts at the time to take shots like that."[35][36]

In Bryant's second season, he received more playing time and began to show more of his abilities as a talented young guard. As a result Bryant's point averages more than doubled from 7.6 to 15.4 points per game.[37] Bryant would see an increase in minutes when the Lakers "played small", which would feature Bryant playing small forward alongside the guards he would usually back up.[38] Bryant was the runner-up for the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award,[39] and through fan voting, he also became the youngest NBA All-Star starter in NBA history.[40] He was joined by teammates Shaquille O'Neal, Nick Van Exel, and Eddie Jones, making it the first time since 1983 that four players on the same team were selected to play in the same All-Star Game. Bryant's 15.4 points per game was the highest of any non-starter in the season.[41]

The 1998–99 season marked Bryant's emergence as a premier guard in the league. With starting guards Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones traded, Bryant started every game for the lockout-shortened 50-game season. During the season, Bryant signed a 6-year contract extension worth $70 million.[41] This kept him with the Lakers until the end of the 2003–04 season. Even at an early stage of his career, sportswriters were comparing his skills to those of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.[29][42][43] The playoff results, however, were no better, as the Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals.[44]

Three-peat (1999–2002)

Bryant was a member of the Lakers teams that won three consecutive NBA Championships from 2000 to 2002.

Bryant's fortunes would soon change when Phil Jackson became coach for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999.[45] After years of steady improvement, Bryant became one of the premier shooting guards in the league, earning appearances in the league's All-NBA,[46] All-Star, and All-Defensive teams.[47] The Los Angeles Lakers became true championship contenders under Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, who formed a legendary center-guard combination. Jackson utilized the triangle offense he used to win six championships with the Chicago Bulls, which would help both Bryant and O'Neal rise to the elite class of the NBA. The three resulting championships won consecutively in 2000, 2001, and 2002 further proved such a fact.[48]

Bryant started the 1999–2000 season sidelined for six weeks due to an injury to his hand in a preseason game against the Washington Wizards.[49] With Bryant back and playing over 38 minutes a game, he saw an increase in all statistical categories in the 1999–2000 season. This included leading the team in assists per game and steals per game. The duo of O'Neal and Bryant backed with a strong bench led to the Lakers winning 67 games, tied for fifth-most in NBA history. This followed with O'Neal winning the MVP and Bryant being named to the All-NBA Team Second Team and All-NBA Defensive Team for the first time in his career (the youngest player ever to receive defensive honors).[50] While playing second fiddle to O'Neal in the playoffs, Bryant had some clutch performances including a 25 point, 11 rebound, 7 assist, 4 block game in game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers.[51] He also threw an alley-oop pass to O'Neal to clinch the game and the series. In the 2000 NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers, Bryant injured his ankle in the second quarter of Game 2 after landing on the Pacers' Jalen Rose's foot. Rose later admitted he placed his foot under Bryant intentionally.[52][53] Bryant did not return to the game, and he also missed Game 3 due to the injury. In Game 4, Bryant scored 22 points in the second half, and led the team to an OT victory as O'Neal fouled out of the game. Bryant scored the winning shot to put the Lakers ahead 120–118.[54] With a 116–111 Game 6 victory, the Lakers won their first championship since 1988.[55]

Statistically, the 2000–01 season saw Bryant perform similarly to the previous year, but he averaged 6 more points a game (28.5). It was also the year when disagreements between Bryant and O'Neal began to surface.[56] Once again he led the team in assists with 5 per game. The Lakers however, only won 56 games, an 11-game drop off from last year. The Lakers would respond by going 15–1 in the playoffs. They easily swept the Portland Trail Blazers, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs, before losing their first game against the Philadelphia 76ers in OT. They would go on to win the next 4 games and bring their second championship to Los Angeles in as many seasons. During the playoffs, Bryant played heavy minutes which brought his stats up to 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists per game. In the playoffs, teammate O'Neal declared Bryant the best player in the league.[18][57] Bryant ended up making the All NBA Second team and All NBA Defensive Team for the second year in a row. In addition, he was also voted to start in the NBA All-Star Game for the 3rd year in a row (no game in 1999).

In the 2001–02 season, Bryant played 80 games for the first time in his career. He continued his all-round play by averaging 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. He also had a career high 46.9% shooting and once again led his team in assists. While making the All-Star team and All-NBA Defensive team again, he was also promoted to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career. The Lakers won 58 games that year and finished second place in the Pacific Division behind in-state rival Sacramento Kings. Bryant was suspended one game after he punched Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers after the Lakers' March 1, 2002 victory over the Pacers.[58][59]

The road to the Finals would prove a lot tougher than the record run the Lakers had the previous year. While the Lakers swept the Blazers and defeated the Spurs 4–1, the Lakers did not have home court advantage against the Sacramento Kings. The series would stretch to 7 games, the first time this happened to the Lakers since the 2000 Western Conference Finals. However, the Lakers were able to beat their division rivals and make their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance. In the 2002 Finals, Bryant averaged 26.8 points, 51.4% shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game, which included scoring a quarter of the teams points.[60] At age 23, Bryant became the youngest player to win three championships.[60] Bryant's play was notable and praised for his performance in the 4th quarter of games, specifically the last 2 rounds of the playoffs.[60][61] This cemented Bryant's reputation as a "clutch player".

Coming up short (2002–04)

Bryant prepares to shoot a free throw in 2005.

In the 2002–03 season, Bryant averaged 30 points per game and embarked on a historic run, posting 40 or more points in nine consecutive games while averaging 40.6 in the entire month of February. In addition, he averaged 6.9 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.2 steals per game, all career highs to that point. Bryant was once again voted to both the All-NBA and All-Defensive 1st teams,[3] and came in third place in voting for the MVP award. After finishing 50–32 in the regular season, the Lakers floundered in the playoffs and lost in the Western Conference semi-finals to the eventual NBA champions San Antonio Spurs in six games.[62]

In the following 2003–04 season, the Lakers were able to acquire NBA All-Stars Karl Malone, and Gary Payton to make another push at the NBA Championship.[63] Before the season began, Bryant was arrested for sexual assault.[64] This caused Bryant to miss some games due to court appearances or attend court earlier in the day and travel to play games later in same day.[65] In the final game of the regular season, the Lakers played the Portland Trail Blazers. Bryant made two buzzer beaters to win the game and the Pacific Division title. At the end of the fourth quarter, Bryant made a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to send it into overtime.[66] The game eventually went to a second overtime, in which Bryant made another 3-pointer as time expired to lift the Lakers past the Blazers, 105–104.[66]

With a starting lineup of O'Neal, Malone, Payton, and Bryant, the Lakers were able to reach the NBA Finals.[67] However, they were upset in five games by the Detroit Pistons, who won their first championship since 1990.[68] In that series, Bryant averaged 22.6 points per game and 4.4 assists. He shot 35.1% from the field.[69] Phil Jackson's contract as coach was not renewed, and Rudy Tomjanovich took over.[70] Shaquille O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and Brian Grant.[71] The following day, Bryant declined an offer to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers and re-signed with the Lakers on a seven-year contract.[72]

Setting records and playoffs disappointments (2004–07)

Bryant dunks against Golden State Warriors in October 2005.

Bryant was closely scrutinized and criticized during the 2004–05 season with his reputation badly damaged from all that had happened over the previous year. A particularly damaging salvo came when Phil Jackson wrote The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul. The book detailed the events of the Lakers' tumultuous 2003–04 season and has a number of criticisms of Bryant. In the book Jackson called Bryant "uncoachable".[73] Midway through the season, Rudy Tomjanovich suddenly resigned as Lakers coach, citing the recurrence of health problems and exhaustion.[74] Without Tomjanovich, stewardship of the remainder of the Lakers' season fell to career assistant coach Frank Hamblen.[75] Bryant was the league's second-leading scorer at 27.6 points per game, but he was surrounded by a subpar supporting cast, and the Lakers went 34–48 and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.[76] The year signified a drop in Bryant's overall status in the NBA, as he did not make the NBA All-Defensive Team and was also demoted to the All-NBA Third Team.[77] During the season, Bryant also engaged in public feuds with Ray Allen and Karl Malone.[78][79]

The 2005–06 NBA season would mark a crossroads in Bryant's basketball career. Despite past differences with Bryant, Phil Jackson returned to coach the Lakers.[80] Bryant endorsed the move, and by all appearances, the two men worked together well the second time around, leading the Lakers back into the playoffs. Bryant's individual scoring accomplishments posted resulted in the finest statistical season of his career. On December 20, 2005, Bryant scored 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks. Entering the fourth quarter, Bryant outscored the entire Mavericks team 62–61, the only time a player has done this through three quarters since the introduction of the shot clock.[81] When the Lakers faced the Miami Heat on January 16, 2006, Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal made headlines by engaging in handshakes and hugs before the game, signifying a change in the feud that had festered between them.[82] A month later, at the 2006 NBA All-Star Game, the two were seen laughing together.[83]

Bryant scored a career high of 81-points against the Toronto Raptors in Staples Center, second-highest single scoring performance in NBA history, surpassed only by Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962.

On January 22, 2006, Bryant scored a career-high 81 points in a victory against the Toronto Raptors.[84][85] In addition to breaking the previous franchise record of 71 set by Elgin Baylor, Bryant's 81-point game was the second-highest point total in NBA history, surpassed only by Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962.[86] In that same month, Bryant also became the first player since 1964 to score 45 points or more in four consecutive games, joining Chamberlain and Baylor as the only players ever to do so.[87] For the month of January, Bryant averaged 43.4 points per game,[88] the eighth highest single month scoring average in NBA history and highest for any player other than Chamberlain.[89] By the end of the 2005–06 season, Bryant set Lakers single-season franchise records for most 40-point games (27) and most points scored (2,832).[90] He won the league's scoring title for the first time by averaging 35.4 points per game, becoming just the fifth player in league history to average at least 35 in a season.[b] Bryant finished in fourth place in the voting for the 2006 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, but received 22 first place votes—second only to winner Steve Nash.[93] The Los Angeles Lakers posted a 45–37 record, an eleven-game improvement over the previous season, and the entire squad seemed to be clicking.[94]

Later in the season, it was reported that Bryant would change his jersey number from 8 to 24 at the start of the 2006–07 NBA season. Bryant's first high school number was 24 before he switched to 33.[95] After the Lakers' season ended, Bryant said on TNT that he wanted 24 as a rookie, but it was unavailable, as was 33, retired with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bryant wore 143 at the Adidas ABCD camp, and chose 8 by adding those numbers.[95] In the first round of the playoffs, the Lakers played well enough to reach a 3–1 series lead over the Phoenix Suns, culminating with Bryant's OT-forcing and game-winning shots in Game 4. They came within six seconds of eliminating the second-seeded Suns in Game 6, however, they lost that game 126–118 in overtime.[96] Despite Bryant's 27.9 points per game in the series, the Lakers broke down, and ultimately fell to the Suns in seven games.[96] Bryant received criticism for only taking three shots in the second half of the 121–90 Game 7 loss to Phoenix.[97] In the 2006 off-season, Bryant had knee surgery, preventing him from participating in the 2006 FIBA World Championship tournament.[98]

Bryant scored fifty points or more in four consecutive games and ten total in the 2006–07 season.

During the 2006–07 season, Bryant was selected to his 9th All-Star Game appearance, and on February 18, he logged 31 points, 6 assists, and 6 steals, earning his second career All-Star Game MVP trophy.[99] Over the course of the season, Bryant became involved in a number of on court incidents. On January 28 while attempting to draw contact on a potential game winning jumpshot, he flailed his arm, striking San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginóbili in the face with his elbow.[100] Following a league review, Bryant was suspended for the subsequent game at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. The basis given for the suspension was that Bryant had performed an "unnatural motion" in swinging his arm backwards.[101] Later, on March 6, he seemed to repeat the motion, this time striking Minnesota Timberwolves guard Marko Jarić.[100] On March 7, the NBA handed Bryant his second one-game suspension.[102] In his first game back on March 9, he elbowed Kyle Korver in the face which was retroactively re-classified as a Type 1 flagrant foul.[100]

On March 16, Bryant scored a season-high 65 points in a home game against the Portland Trail Blazers, which helped end the Lakers 7-game losing streak. This was the second-best scoring performance of his 11-year career.[103] The following game, Bryant recorded 50 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves,[104] after which he scored 60 points in a road win against the Memphis Grizzlies—becoming the second Laker to score three straight 50-plus point games, a feat not seen since Michael Jordan last did it in 1987.[105] The only other Laker to do so was Elgin Baylor, who also scored 50+ in three consecutive contests in December 1962.[105] In the following day, in a game against the New Orleans Hornets, Bryant scored 50 points, making him the second player in NBA history to have four straight 50-point games behind Chamberlain, who achieved it twice with streaks of five and seven.[106] Bryant finished the year with a total of ten 50-plus point games, matched only by Chamberlain.[c] Bryant also won his second straight scoring title that season.[107] Throughout the 2006–07 season, his jersey became the top selling NBA jersey in the United States and China.[108] A number of journalists have attributed the improved sales to Bryant's new number, as well as his continuing All-Star performance on the court.[109][110] In the 2007 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers were once again eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns, 4–1.[111]

MVP year and trip to the finals (2007–08)

On May 27, 2007, ESPN reported that Bryant stated that he wanted to be traded if Jerry West did not return to the team with full authority.[112] Bryant later confirmed his desire for West's return to the franchise, but denied stating that he would want to be traded if that does not occur.[113] However, three days later, on Stephen A. Smith's radio program, Bryant expressed anger over a Lakers "insider" who claimed that Bryant was responsible for Shaquille O'Neal's departure from the team, and publicly stated, "I want to be traded."[114] Three hours after making that statement, Bryant stated in another interview that after having a conversation with head coach Phil Jackson, he has reconsidered his decision and backed off his trade request.[115] Bryant would later be shown on an infamous amateur video saying that center Andrew Bynum should have been traded for All-Star Jason Kidd.[116][117]

Bryant's Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in 6 games during the 2008 NBA Finals.

On December 23, 2007, Bryant became the youngest player (29 years, 122 days) to reach 20,000 points, in a game against the New York Knicks, in Madison Square Garden.[118] This record has since been broken by LeBron James. Despite an injury to his shooting hand's small finger, described as "a complete tear of the radial collateral ligament, an avulsion fracture, and a volar plate injury at the MCP joint" that occurred in a game on February 5, 2008, Bryant played all 82 games of the regular season instead of opting for surgery. Regarding his injury, he stated, "I would prefer to delay any surgical procedure until after our Lakers season, and this summer's Olympic Games. But, this is an injury that myself [sic] and the Lakers' medical staff will just have to continue to monitor on a day-to-day basis."[119] In early September 2008, Bryant decided not to have surgery to repair the injury.[120]

Aided by the signing of Spanish All-Star Pau Gasol, Bryant lead his team to a West best 57–25 record. The Lakers swept the Nuggets in the first round and on May 6, 2008, and Bryant was officially announced as the NBA Most Valuable Player award, his first for his career.[121] He said, "It's been a long ride. I'm very proud to represent this organization, to represent this city."[122] Jerry West, who was responsible for bringing Bryant to the Lakers, was on hand at the press conference to observe Bryant receive his MVP trophy from NBA commissioner David Stern. He stated, "Kobe deserved it. He's had just another great season. Doesn't surprise me one bit."[123] In addition to winning his MVP award, Bryant was the only unanimous selection to the All-NBA team on May 8, 2008 for the third straight season and sixth time in his career.[124] He would then headline the NBA All-Defensive First Team with Kevin Garnett, receiving 52 points overall including 24 first-place nods, earning his eighth selection.[125]

The Lakers concluded the 2007–08 regular season with a 57–25 record, finishing first in the Western Conference and setting up themselves for a first-round contest against the Nuggets. In Game 1, Bryant, who said he made himself a decoy through most of the game, scored 18 of his 32 points in the final 8 minutes to keep Los Angeles safely ahead.[126] That made Denver the first 50-win team to be swept out of the first round of the playoffs since the Memphis Grizzlies fell in four to the San Antonio Spurs in 2004.[127] In the first game of the next round against the Jazz, Bryant scored 38 points as the Lakers beat the Jazz in Game 1.[128] The Lakers won the next game as well, but dropped Games 3 and 4, even with Bryant putting up 33.5 points per game.[129] The Lakers then won the next two games to win the semifinals in 6.[129] This set up a Western Conference Finals berth against the San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers defeated the Spurs in 5 games, sending themselves to the NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics. This marked the fifth time in Bryant's career and the first time without Shaquille O'Neal to go to the NBA Finals.[130] The Lakers then lost to the Boston Celtics in 6 games.[131]

Back on top (2008–10)

On February 2, 2009, Bryant set a then-Madison Square Garden record with 61 points. It was later surpassed by Carmelo Anthony on January 24, 2014.[132]

In the 2008–09 season, the Lakers opened the campaign by winning their first seven games.[133] Bryant led the team to tie the franchise record for most wins to start the season going 17–2,[134] and by the middle of December they compiled a 21–3 record. He was selected to his eleventh consecutive All-Star Game as a starter,[135] and was named the Western Conference Player of the Month for December and January in addition to being named Western Conference Player of the week three times.[136] In a game against the Knicks on February 2, 2009, Bryant scored 61 points, setting a record for the most points scored at Madison Square Garden.[137] During the 2009 NBA All-Star Game, Bryant who tallied 27 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals was awarded All-Star Game co-MVP with former teammate Shaquille O'Neal.[138] The Lakers finished the regular season with the best record in the west (65–17). Bryant was runner-up in the MVP voting behind LeBron James,[139] and was selected to the All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team for the seventh time in his career.

Bryant at the championship parade of the 2009 NBA Champions Los Angeles Lakers.

In the playoffs, the Lakers defeated the Utah Jazz in five games and the Houston Rockets in seven games in the opening two rounds. After finishing off the Denver Nuggets in the Conference Finals in six games, the Lakers earned their second straight trip to the NBA Finals where they defeated the Orlando Magic in five games. Bryant was awarded his first NBA Finals MVP trophy upon winning his fourth championship,[140] achieving series averages of 32.4 points, 7.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks.[141] He became the first player since Jerry West in the 1969 NBA Finals to average at least 32.4 points and 7.4 assists for a finals series[142] and the first since Michael Jordan to average 30 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists for a title-winning team in the finals.[143]

Bryant shoots a left-handed floater over Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic on January 18, 2010.

During the 2009–10 season, Bryant made six game-winning shots including a buzzer-beating, one-legged 3-pointer against the Miami Heat on December 4, 2009.[144] Bryant considered the shot one of the luckiest he has made.[144] A week later, Bryant suffered an avulsion fracture in his right index finger in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.[145] Despite the injury, Bryant elected to continue playing with it, rather than take any time off to rest the injury.[145] Five days after his finger injury, he made another game winning shot, after missing on an opportunity in regulation, this time against the Milwaukee Bucks in an overtime game.[146] Bryant also became the youngest player (31 years, 151 days) to reach 25,000 points during the season, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain.[147] He continued his dominant clutch plays making yet another game-winning three-pointer against the Sacramento Kings,[148] and what would be the game-winning field goal against the Boston Celtics.[149] The following day, he surpassed Jerry West to become the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history.[150] After being sidelined for five games from an ankle injury, Bryant made his return and made another clutch three-pointer to give the Lakers a one-point lead with four seconds remaining against the Memphis Grizzlies.[151] Two weeks later, he made his sixth game-winning shot of the season against the Toronto Raptors.[152]

On April 2, 2010, Bryant signed a three-year contract extension worth $87 million.[153] Bryant finished the regular season missing four of the final five games, due to injuries to his knee and finger. Bryant suffered multiple injuries throughout the season and as a result, missed nine games. The Lakers began the playoffs as the number one seed in the Western Conference against the Oklahoma City Thunder,[154] eventually defeating them in six games.[155] The Lakers swept the Utah Jazz in the second round[156] and advanced to the Western Conference Finals, where they faced Phoenix Suns. In Game 2, Bryant finished the game with 13 assists, setting a new playoff career high; it was the most assists by a Laker in the playoffs since Magic Johnson had 13 in 1996.[157] The Lakers went on to win the series in six games capturing the Western Conference Championship and advancing to the NBA Finals for a third straight season.[158] In a rematch against the 2008 Champion Boston Celtics, Bryant, despite shooting 6 for 24 from the field, led the Lakers back from a thirteen-point third quarter deficit in Game 7 to win the championship; he scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, and finished the game with 15 rebounds. Bryant won his fifth championship and earned his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP award.[159] This marked the first time the Lakers won a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals.[160] Bryant said that this was the most satisfying of all of his five championships.[161]

Chasing the sixth championship (2010–2013)

Bryant in Shanghai, China on July 21, 2011

The Lakers started the 2010–11 season by winning their first eight games.[162] In his ninth game of the season, playing against the Denver Nuggets, Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 26,000 career points.[163] Bryant also recorded his first triple double since January 21, 2009.[164] On January 30 against the Celtics, he become the youngest player to score 27,000 points.[165] On February 1, 2011, Bryant became one of seven players with at least 25,000 points, 5,000 rebounds and 5,000 assists.[166] In Boston on February 10, Bryant scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half as the Lakers rallied from an early 15-point deficit for a 92–86 win over the Celtics.[167] It was the Lakers' first victory of the season against one of the league's top four teams, as they entered the game 0–5 in previous matchups and had been outscored by an average of 11 points.[168] Bryant, selected to his 13th straight All-Star game after becoming the leading vote-getter, had 37 points, 14 rebounds, and three steals in the 2011 All-Star Game and won his fourth All-Star MVP, tying Hall of Famer Bob Pettit for the most All-Star MVP awards.[169][170] During the season, Bryant moved from 12th to 6th place on the NBA all-time career scoring list, passing John Havlicek, Dominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Elvin Hayes, and Moses Malone.[171] Bryant finished the season averaging less than 20 shots a game, his fewest since the 2003–04 season.[172]

On April 13, 2011, the NBA fined Bryant $100,000 for directing a gay slur at referee Bennie Adams in frustration in the previous day's game.[173][174][175] The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation praised the NBA's decision to fine Bryant, and the Human Rights Campaign said that Bryant's language was a "disgrace" and "distasteful". Bryant stated that he was open to discussing the matter with gay rights groups and wanted to appeal his fine.[176][177][178] He later apologized for the use of the word.[179][180] Bryant and other Lakers appeared in a Lakers public service announcement denouncing his behavior.[181] The team's quest for another three-peat was ended when they were swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs. The Mavericks would go on to win the 2011 NBA Finals.

Bryant wearing mask in 2012 after suffering broken nose.

Bryant received experimental platelet-rich plasma therapy called Orthokine in Germany to treat the pain on his left knee and ankle,[182][183][184] and Mike Brown replaced the retired Phil Jackson as coach of the Lakers in the offseason. Bryant began the season playing with an injured wrist.[185] On January 10, 2012, Bryant scored 48 points against the Suns, the most ever by a player in his 16th season. "Not bad for the seventh-best player in the league," said Bryant, referring to a preseason ESPN ranking of the NBA's top players.[186] He went on to score 40, 42, and 42 in his next three games.[187] It was the sixth time in his career he scored 40 or more points in four straight games, a feat exceeded only by Wilt Chamberlain (19 times).[188] At the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, Bryant scored 27 points to pass Michael Jordan as the career scoring leader in the All-Star Game.[189] He also suffered a broken nose and a concussion in the third quarter of the All-Star Game after a hard foul from Dwyane Wade.[190] In April, Bryant missed seven games with a bruised left shin.[191] He returned three games before the end of the regular season. In the last game of the regular season, against Sacramento, he chose not to go for a possible third NBA scoring title, having needed 38 points to surpass Kevin Durant.[192] The Lakers were knocked out of the playoffs by Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder in the second round of the playoffs, losing in five games.

The Lakers in 2012–13 acquired center Dwight Howard and point guard Steve Nash. On November 2, 2012, Bryant scored 40 points with two steals, and he passed Magic Johnson (1,724) as the Lakers career leader in steals. However, the Lakers lost the game to the Clippers and started the season 0–3 for the first time in 34 years and just the fourth time in franchise history.[193] After starting the season 1–4, coach Mike Brown was fired.[194] He was replaced by Mike D'Antoni, who Bryant knew as a child when Bryant's father was playing in Italy and D'Antoni was also a star player there. Bryant had grown close with D'Antoni during their time with Team USA.[195][196] On December 5 against New Orleans, Bryant became the youngest player (34 years and 104 days) in league history to score 30,000 points, joining Hall of Famers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as one of five players to reach that milestone.[197] On December 18, in a 101–100 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Bryant scored 30+ points in his seventh consecutive game, the longest streak ever by an NBA player after turning 34 years old; it was the fourth-longest such streak in his career.[198] His streak would be snapped at 10 on December 28 in a 104–87 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, when he scored 27 points, sitting out the whole fourth quarter.[199] In a move to improve the team's defense, D'Antoni began having Bryant guard the opponent's best perimeter player; Bryant was the primary defender on the Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving, who was held to 15 points.[200][201] Bryant acknowledged he was a more focused defender when he had a challenging defensive assignment as opposed to when he played off the ball against weaker players.[201][202] His defense disrupted opponents and freed Nash from unfavorable matchups.[203]

Bryant dunking against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013.

Bryant was leading the league in scoring though much of the first 42 games.[204] With a disappointing 17–25 start to the season,[205] D'Antoni had Bryant became the primary facilitator on offense and Nash was moved off the ball and became more of a spot-up shooter.[206][207][208] In the next three games, Bryant had at least 10 assists in three wins with a three-game total of 39 assists, the most in his career. He missed a triple double in each game with nine rebounds twice and eight in the other.[209][210] In two crucial wins in March, he scored at least 40 points and had at least 10 assists in back-to-back games, becoming the first Laker to accomplish the feat since Jerry West in 1970.[211][212]

With the Lakers fighting to secure the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, coupled with injuries on the team, Bryant began playing almost all 48 minutes each game.[213] On April 10, 2013, Bryant became the first player in NBA history to get 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals in an NBA game.[214] On April 12, Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon against the Golden State Warriors, ending his season. His injury came while he was playing seven consecutive quarters and at least 40 minutes for seven consecutive games. The 34-year-old Bryant was averaging his most minutes (38.6) in six years, and only Portland rookie Damian Lillard was averaging more minutes. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had spoken to Bryant about his extensive playing time 10 days earlier, but Bryant insisted the minutes needed to continue given the Lakers' playoff push.[215] Bryant had surgery on April 13 to repair the tear, and it was estimated he would miss six to nine months.[216] He ended the season with his customary numbers scoring average of 27.3 points, 46.3 percent shooting, 5.6 rebounds and 6 assists. However, The New York Times called his leading of the Lakers back into playoff contention "perhaps some of the finest work of his career".[217] Eight times he reached 40 points during the season, and eleven times he had 10 or more assists in his role as distributor, dubbed "Magic Mamba" after the passing skills of Magic Johnson. Bryant's assists were the second-highest of his career and his field goal percentage was its highest since 2008–09.[212]

Injuries and return (2013–present)

Bryant resumed practicing starting in November, after the start of the 2013–14 season. On November 25, he signed a two-year contract extension with the Lakers at an estimated value of $48.5 million that would make him the first NBA player to play 20 years with the same franchise.[218] He remained the league's highest-paid player, despite accepting the discounted deal; he had been eligible to receive an extension starting at $32 million per year.[219] His contract became a polarizing topic, with detractors arguing that stars should take less money to allow their teams more financial freedom, while supporters countered that the NBA's biggest stars were being paid less than their true value.[220][221][222] Bryant resumed playing on December 8 after missing the season's first 19 games. On December 17, Bryant matched his season high of 21 points in a 96–92 win over Memphis, but he suffered a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee that was expected to sideline him for six weeks.[223] He had played six games since returning from his Achilles injury, which included time at point guard after injuries to Nash, Steve Blake, and Jordan Farmar.[224] Bryant was averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.3 rebounds.[225] Despite being sidelined, he was voted by fans to start in his 16th All-Star game. Bryant did not feel he was deserving of the selection, and some likened it to a career achievement award for his past performance.[226] However, he missed playing in the game, still hampered by his knee.[227] On March 12, 2014, the Lakers ruled Bryant out for the remainder of the season, citing his need for more rehab and the limited time remaining in the season. At the time, the team was 22–42 and tied for the worst record in the Western Conference. The Lakers finished 27-55 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005.[225]

Bryant returned for the 2014–15 season, his 19th season with the Lakers, which tied John Stockton for the most seasons with one team in league history.[228] On November 11, 2014, Bryant set the all-time NBA mark for missed field-goal attempts.[229] On November 30, 2014, in a 129–122 overtime victory against the Toronto Raptors, he recorded his 20th career triple-double with 31 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.[230] At age 36, he became the oldest NBA player to ever achieve 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in a game.[d] On December 14, Bryant became the NBA's third all-time leading scorer, passing Jordan (32,292) in a 100–94 win against Minnesota.[232]

International career

Bryant in a game against China at the 2008 Summer Olympics

Kobe Bryant declined to play in the 2000 Olympics due to getting married in the off-season.[233] He also decided not to play in the 2002 FIBA World Championship.[234] Bryant was originally selected for the FIBA Americas Championship 2003 but withdrew due to surgeries and was replaced by Vince Carter.[235] In the following summer, he had to withdraw from the Olympic team because of his legal case.[236] Along with LeBron James, he was one of the first two players to publicly named to the 2006–2008 U.S. preliminary roster in 2006 by Jerry Colangelo.[237] However, he was once again sidelined after knee surgery and didn't participate in the 2006 FIBA World Championship.[238]

Bryant's senior international career with the United States national team finally began in 2007. He was a member of the 2007 USA Men's Senior National Team and USA FIBA Americas Championship Team that finished 10–0, won gold and qualified the United States men for the 2008 Olympics. He started in all 10 of the USA's FIBA Americas Championship games. Bryant averaged 15.3 points, 2.9 assists, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game in the tournament.[239]

Bryant (right) in 2012 alongside Gen. Martin E. Dempsey at Arlington National Cemetery

On June 23, 2008, he was named to the USA Men's Senior National Team for the 2008 Summer Olympics.[240] This was his first time going to the Olympics. Bryant scored 20 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, along with six assists, as Team USA defeated Spain 118–107 in the gold medal game of the 2008 Summer Olympics on August 24, 2008, for its first gold medal in a worldwide international competition since the 2000 Olympics.[241] He averaged 15.0 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting .462 from the field in eight Olympic contests.

Bryant rejoined the national team for the 2012 Summer Olympics.[242] He retired from the team after winning another gold medal.[243]

Player profile

Bryant shoots a fall-away over Shane Battier in 2009.

Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches tall (1.98 m) and weighing 205 pounds (93 kg), Bryant primarily plays as a guard.[244] In 2007, ESPN ranked him the second greatest shooting guard of all-time after Michael Jordan,[245] who Bryant modeled his playing style after and is frequently compared to.[246][247][248] With career averages of 25.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.5 steals per game,[244] he is considered one of the most complete players in the NBA.[249] He was the first player in NBA history to have at least 30,000 career points and 6,000 career assists.[250] He has been selected to the last 16 All-Star teams, and earned both All-NBA and All-Defensive honors each season from 2000 through 2012.[244] His 15 All-NBA and 11 All-NBA First Team selections are both tied for the most selections in league history.[e]

Bryant with the 2008 U.S. Olympic team

Bryant is often cited as one of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA,[252][253] and holds numerous scoring and shooting records including the second highest single game scoring performance with 81 points and the most single game three-pointers made with 12.[254] He was just the third player in NBA history to average 40 points in a calendar month, which he has accomplished four times.[f] Like Jordan, Bryant became most known shooting a fall-away jump shot.[255] Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated describes another of Bryant's most famous moves as the "jab step-and-pause": Bryant jabs his non-pivot foot forward to let the defender relax and instead of bringing the jab foot back, pushing off it and driving around his opponent to get to the basket.[256] Throughout his career, Bryant has been criticized for being too selfish with the ball in certain situations;[257][258] he has missed more field goal attempts in his career than any other player in NBA history.[g] According to Phil Jackson, "Kobe tends to force the action, especially when the game isn't going his way. When his shot is off, Kobe will pound away relentlessly until his luck turns."[260]

Aside from his abilities on offense, he has established himself as a standout defender, having made the All-Defensive first or second team twelve of the last thirteen seasons.[3] Bryant rarely draws charges playing defense, which he believes has spared his body and contributed to his longevity.[261] He has also been noted being one of the premier clutch performers in the NBA.[262] In an annual survey of NBA general managers, Bryant was selected in 2012 for the 10th consecutive season as the player they most wanted taking the shot with the game on the line.[263][264][neutrality is disputed] Both Sporting News and TNT named Bryant the NBA player of the 2000s (decade).[265][266]

Bryant is lauded for his work ethic.[267] However, many players have considered him difficult to play with because of his high level of commitment and performance.[268][269][270] According to sportswriter Mark Heisler of Forbes, "circa 2004-2007, Kobe was the most alienated superstar the NBA had ever seen."[271] However, he led the Lakers to championships post-O'Neal while becoming more of a mentor to teammates.[268][271]

NBA career statistics

Legend
  GP Games played   GS  Games started  MPG  Minutes per game
 FG%  Field goal percentage  3P%  3-point field goal percentage  FT%  Free throw percentage
 RPG  Rebounds per game  APG  Assists per game  SPG  Steals per game
 BPG  Blocks per game  PPG  Points per game  Bold  Career high
Denotes seasons in which the Lakers won an NBA championship
Led the league

Regular season

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
1996–97 L.A. Lakers 71 6 15.5 .417 .375 .819 1.9 1.3 .7 .3 7.6
1997–98 L.A. Lakers 79 1 26.0 .428 .341 .794 3.1 2.5 .9 .5 15.4
1998–99 L.A. Lakers 50 50 37.9 .465 .267 .839 5.3 3.8 1.4 1.0 19.9
1999–00 L.A. Lakers 66 62 38.2 .468 .319 .821 6.3 4.9 1.6 .9 22.5
2000–01 L.A. Lakers 68 68 40.9 .464 .305 .853 5.9 5.0 1.7 .6 28.5
2001–02 L.A. Lakers 80 80 38.3 .469 .250 .829 5.5 5.5 1.5 .4 25.2
2002–03 L.A. Lakers 82 82 41.5 .451 .383 .843 6.9 5.9 2.2 .8 30.0
2003–04 L.A. Lakers 65 64 37.6 .438 .327 .852 5.5 5.1 1.7 .4 24.0
2004–05 L.A. Lakers 66 66 40.7 .433 .339 .816 5.9 6.0 1.3 .8 27.6
2005–06 L.A. Lakers 80 80 41.0 .450 .347 .850 5.3 4.5 1.8 .4 35.4[272]
2006–07 L.A. Lakers 77 77 40.8 .463 .344 .868 5.7 5.4 1.4 .5 31.6[273]
2007–08 L.A. Lakers 82 82 38.9 .459 .361 .840 6.3 5.4 1.8 .5 28.3
2008–09 L.A. Lakers 82 82 36.1 .467 .351 .856 5.2 4.9 1.5 .5 26.8
2009–10 L.A. Lakers 73 73 38.8 .456 .329 .811 5.4 5.0 1.5 .3 27.0
2010–11 L.A. Lakers 82 82 33.9 .451 .323 .828 5.1 4.7 1.2 .1 25.3
2011–12 L.A. Lakers 58 58 38.5 .430 .303 .845 5.4 4.6 1.2 .3 27.9
2012–13 L.A. Lakers 78 78 38.6 .463 .324 .839 5.6 6.0 1.4 .3 27.3
2013–14 L.A. Lakers 6 6 29.5 .425 .188 .857 4.3 6.3 1.2 .2 13.8
Career 1245 1097 36.6 .454 .335 .838 5.3 4.8 1.5 .5 25.5
All-Star 14 14 27.8 .507 .333 .806 4.9 4.5 2.6 .4 20.0

Playoffs

Year Team GP GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
1997 L.A. Lakers 9 0 14.8 .382 .261 .867 1.2 1.2 .3 .2 8.2
1998 L.A. Lakers 11 0 20.0 .408 .214 .689 1.9 1.5 .3 .7 8.7
1999 L.A. Lakers 8 8 39.4 .430 .348 .800 6.9 4.6 1.9 1.3 19.8
2000 L.A. Lakers 22 22 39.0 .442 .344 .754 4.5 4.4 1.5 1.5 21.1
2001 L.A. Lakers 16 16 43.4 .469 .324 .821 7.3 6.1 1.6 .8 29.4
2002 L.A. Lakers 19 19 43.8 .434 .379 .759 5.8 4.6 1.4 .9 26.6
2003 L.A. Lakers 12 12 44.3 .432 .403 .827 5.1 5.2 1.2 .1 32.1
2004 L.A. Lakers 22 22 44.2 .413 .247 .813 4.7 5.5 1.9 .3 24.5
2006 L.A. Lakers 7 7 44.9 .497 .400 .771 6.3 5.1 1.1 .4 27.9
2007 L.A. Lakers 5 5 43.0 .462 .357 .919 5.2 4.4 1.0 .4 32.8
2008 L.A. Lakers 21 21 41.1 .479 .302 .809 5.7 5.6 1.7 .4 30.1
2009 L.A. Lakers 23 23 40.8 .457 .349 .883 5.3 5.5 1.7 .9 30.2
2010 L.A. Lakers 23 23 40.1 .458 .374 .842 6.0 5.5 1.3 .7 29.2
2011 L.A. Lakers 10 10 35.4 .446 .293 .820 3.4 3.3 1.6 .3 22.8
2012 L.A. Lakers 12 12 39.7 .439 .283 .832 4.8 4.3 1.3 .2 30.0
Career 220 200 39.3 .448 .331 .816 5.1 4.7 1.4 .6 25.6

Accomplishments and records

Bryant at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London

Bryant led the NBA in scoring during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons.[3] In 2006, Bryant scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second-highest number of points scored in a game in NBA history,[84][274] behind only Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point performance. Bryant was awarded the regular season's Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in the 2007–08 season and led his team to the 2008 NBA Finals as the first seed in the Western Conference.[275] In the 2008 Summer Olympics, he won a gold medal as a member of the U.S. men's basketball team, occasionally referred to as "The Redeem Team".[276] He won another gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics. He led the Lakers to two more championships in 2009 and 2010, winning the Finals MVP award on both occasions.

Bryant has been selected to 15 All-NBA Teams (11 times to the All-NBA First Team) and 12 All-Defensive Teams (nine times to the All-Defensive First Team). He was selected to play in the NBA All-Star Game on 16 occasions, winning All-Star MVP Awards in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011 (he shared the 2009 award with Shaquille O'Neal). He also won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1997.[277] As of May 2011, he has had 5 sixty-point games, 24 fifty-point games, and 107 forty-point games.

Off the court

Personal life

In November 1999, 21-year-old Bryant met 17-year-old Vanessa Laine while she was working as a background dancer on the Tha Eastsidaz music video "G'd Up".[278] Bryant was in the building working on his debut musical album. The two began dating and became engaged just six months later in May 2000,[278] while Laine was still a senior at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California. To avoid media scrutiny, she finished high school through independent study.[278] According to Vanessa's cousin Laila Laine, there was no prenuptial agreement. Vanessa said Bryant "loved her too much for one".[279]

They married on April 18, 2001, at St. Edward Roman Catholic Church in Dana Point, California.[280][unreliable source?] The wedding was not attended by Bryant's parents, his two sisters, his longtime advisor and agent Arn Tellem, or his Laker teammates. Bryant's parents were opposed to the marriage for a number of reasons. Reportedly Bryant's parents had problems with him marrying so young, especially to a woman who was not African-American.[h][278] This disagreement resulted in an estrangement period of over two years, which ended when Bryant had his first daughter.[citation needed] In 2013, Bryant had a legal disagreement with an auction house over memorabilia from his early years that his mother intended to auction. Pamela Bryant received $450,000 from the auction house for the items, and claimed Bryant had given her the rights to the items he had remaining in her home. However, his lawyers asked the auction house to return the items to Bryant.[282] Before the scheduled trial, a settlement was reached allowing the sale of less than 10% of the original items. Bryant's parents apologized to him in a written statement, which also acknowledged the financial support Bryant had provided them in the past.[283][284]

In January 2002, Bryant bought a Mediterranean-style house for $4 million, located in a cul-de-sac in Newport Coast, Newport Beach.[285] The Bryants' first child, a daughter named Natalia Diamante Bryant, was born on January 19, 2003. The birth of Natalia influenced Bryant to reconcile his differences with his parents. Vanessa Bryant suffered a miscarriage due to an ectopic pregnancy in the spring of 2005. Their second daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, was born on May 1, 2006. Gianna was born six minutes ahead of former teammate Shaquille O'Neal's daughter Me'arah Sanaa, who was born in Florida.[286] On December 16, 2011, Vanessa Bryant filed for divorce citing irreconcilable differences, and the couple requested joint custody of their daughters.[287][288] On January 11, 2013, Bryant and his wife both announced via social media that they had called off their divorce.[289]

In an early 2007 interview, it was revealed that Bryant still speaks Italian fluently.[6] Bryant assigned himself the nickname of "Black Mamba", citing a desire for his basketball skills to mimic the snake of that name's ability to "strike with 99% accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession."[290] During the 2012–13 season, he began referring to himself as "vino" to describe how his play had been aging like a fine wine.[291][292]

Sexual assault allegation

In the summer of 2003, the sheriff's office of Eagle, Colorado, arrested Bryant in connection with an investigation of a sexual assault complaint filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee. Bryant had checked into The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Eagle County in advance of undergoing knee surgery nearby. The accuser stated that Bryant raped her in his hotel room the night before Bryant was to have the procedure. Bryant admitted an adulterous sexual encounter with his accuser, but denied her sexual assault allegation.[293][294]

The accusation tarnished Bryant's reputation, as the public's perception of Bryant plummeted, and his endorsement contracts with McDonald's and Nutella were terminated. Sales for Bryant's replica jersey fell significantly from their previous highs.[295] However, in September 2004, the assault case was dropped by prosecutors after the accuser refused to testify in the trial. Afterward, Bryant agreed to apologize to her for the incident, including his public mea culpa: "Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter."[296][297] The accuser filed a separate civil lawsuit against Bryant, which the two sides ultimately settled with the specific terms of the settlement being undisclosed to the public.

Endorsements

Bryant in Hong Kong for his 2009 Nike Asian Tour

Before starting the 1996–97 NBA season, Bryant signed a six-year contract with Adidas worth approximately $48 million.[298][299] His first signature shoe was the Equipment KB 8.[300] Bryant's other earlier endorsements included deals with The Coca-Cola Company to endorse their Sprite soft drink, appearing in advertisements for McDonald's, promoting Spalding's new NBA Infusion Ball, Upper Deck, Italian chocolate company Ferrero SpA's brand Nutella, Russell Corporation,[301] and appearing on his own series of video games by Nintendo. Many companies like McDonald's and Ferrero SpA terminated his contracts when rape allegations against him became public.[302] A notable exception was Nike, Inc., who had signed him to a five-year, $40–45 million contract just before the incident.[303][304] However, they refused to use his image or market a new shoe of his for the year, but eventually did start promoting Bryant once his image recovered 2 years later.[304] He has since resumed endorsement deals with The Coca-Cola Company, through their subsidiary Energy Brands to promote their Vitamin Water brand of drinks.[305] Bryant was also the cover athlete for NBA '07: Featuring the Life Vol. 2 and appeared in commercials for the video games Guitar Hero World Tour (with Tony Hawk, Michael Phelps, and Alex Rodriguez) in 2008 and Call of Duty: Black Ops (alongside Jimmy Kimmel) in 2010.[306]

Derek Fisher (left) and Bryant (center) with President Barack Obama (right) on January 25, 2010

In a 2008 video promoting Nike's Hyperdunk shoes, Bryant appears to jump over a speeding Aston Martin. The stunt was considered to be fake, and the Los Angeles Times said a real stunt would probably be a violation of Bryant's Lakers contract.[307] After promoting Nike's Hyperdunk shoes, Bryant came out with the fourth edition of his signature line by Nike, the Zoom Kobe IV. In 2010 Nike launched another shoe, Nike Zoom Kobe V.[308] In 2009, Bryant signed a deal with Nubeo to market the "Black Mamba collection", a line of sports/luxury watches that range from $25,000 to $285,000.[309] On February 9, 2009, Bryant was featured on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. However, it was not for anything basketball related, rather it was about Bryant being a big fan of FC Barcelona.[310] CNN estimated Bryant's endorsement deals in 2007 to be worth $16 million a year.[311] In 2010, Bryant was ranked third behind Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan in Forbes '​ list of the world's highest-paid athletes with $48 million.[312]

On December 13, 2010, Bryant signed a two-year endorsement deal with Turkey's national airline, Turkish Airlines. The deal involved Bryant being in a promotional film to be aired in over 80 countries in addition to his being used in digital, print and billboard advertising.[313][314][315]

Bryant, Jason Kidd and Deron Williams with George W. Bush at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics

Bryant has appeared as the cover athlete for the following video games:

In September 2012, Bryant shot a commercial for Turkish Airlines with FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi. In the airline's latest commercial, the duo competes to win the attention of a young boy.[322] In 2013, Forbes listed Bryant the fifth highest paid sports star in the world behind Floyd Mayweather, Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James and Lionel Messi.[323]

Music

In high school, Bryant was a member of a rap group called CHEIZAW, named after the Chi Sah gang in the martial arts film Kid with the Golden Arm. The group was signed by Sony Entertainment, but the company's ultimate goal was to eliminate the group and have Bryant record on his own. The label wanted to capitalize on Bryant's youth and NBA fame. He performed at a 1997 concert by Sway & King Tech and recorded a verse for a remix of Brian McKnight's "Hold Me". Bryant even appeared on Lakers teammate O'Neal's Respect, starting the track "3 X's Dope", though Bryant's name was not listed on the credits.[5]

Sony pushed Bryant from his roots of underground hip hop into a more radio-friendly sound. His debut album, Visions, was scheduled to release in the spring of 2000. The first single, "K.O.B.E'", featured supermodel Tyra Banks singing the hook. The single debuted in January 2000, and was performed at NBA All-Star Weekend that month; the song was not well received. Sony abandoned plans for the album, which was never released, and dropped Bryant later that year. The Sony president who originally signed Bryant had already left, and Bryant's other backers had mostly abandoned him. Afterwards, Bryant co-founded an independent record label, Heads High Entertainment, but it folded within a year.[5]

In 2011, Bryant was featured in Taiwanese singer Jay Chou's single, "The Heaven and Earth Challenge" (天地一鬥, pronounced "Tian Di Yi Dou").[324] The proceeds for downloads of both the single and ringtones were donated to impoverished schools for basketball facilities and equipment.[325] The music video of the single also features Bryant.[326] The song was also used by Sprite in its 2011 marketing campaign in China.[327]

In 2009, rapper Lil Wayne titled a song "Kobe Bryant."[328] Similarly, in 2010, the rapper Sho Baraka released a song called "Kobe Bryant On'em", which was featured in his album Lions and Liars.[329]

Philanthropy

Bryant is the official ambassador for After-School All-Stars (ASAS), an American non-profit organization that provides comprehensive after-school programs to children in 13 US cities.[330] Bryant also started the Kobe Bryant China Fund which partnered with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation, a charity backed by the Chinese government.[331] The Kobe Bryant China Fund raises money within China earmarked for education and health programs.[331] On November 4, 2010, Bryant appeared alongside Zach Braff at the Call of Duty: Black Ops launch event at the Santa Monica Airport, where they presented a $1 million check to the Call of Duty Endowment, an Activision-founded nonprofit organization that helps veterans transition to civilian careers after their military service has ended.[306]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Bryant in 2006 said that he is 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m).[1] In 2008, he stated he was 6 feet 5 inches (1.96 m) in shoes.[2]
  2. ^ He joined Chamberlain (5 times), Baylor, Rick Barry and Jordan (2) in averaging over 35 points.[91][92]
  3. ^ Chamberlain had 50 points 45 times in 1961–62 and 30 in 1962–63.[92]
  4. ^ Larry Bird held the previous record; he was 35 when he had 49 points, 14 rebounds, and 12 assists on March 15, 1992, against Portland.[231]
  5. ^ Tied with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with 15 overall, and Karl Malone with 11 first-team.[251]
  6. ^ Chamberlain did it 15 times, and Baylor once.[92]
  7. ^ In 2014, Bryant passed Havlicek's previous mark of 13,417 missed shots.[259]
  8. ^ Vanessa Bryant's father is of Mexican and Italian descent and her mother is of Mexican and Filipino descent.[281]

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External links