Kobe Bryant Stats, Bio, Career
Kobe Bean Bryant (born August 23rd, 1978) is the starting shooting guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe was named after a steak his parents saw in a restaurant prior to his birth. Kobe has only played for the Lakers since entering the NBA in 1996. Kobe entered the NBA directly from high school, where he was selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets. A week after being drafted, the Hornets sent Kobe to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac. In his 16 years with the Lakers, Kobe has reached a litany of milestones. Already considered one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA, Kobe continues to break records every year.
In 1996, Kobe’s senior year at Lower Merion High School, Kobe led the school to its first state championship in 53 years. Also in his senior year, Kobe was named a McDonald’s All-American, Naismith Player of the Year and Gatorade Player of the Year. Kobe finished his career as Southeastern Pennsylvania’s all-time leading scorer with 2,883 points, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s previous record of 2,359. Over the course of Kobe’s final three years with the school, the team finished 77-13. Kobe’s number “33” jersey was retired by Lower Merion in 2002. Much was made when Kobe took singer Brandy to prom, however the two have insisted they were only friends at the time. Bryant claims he would have played basketball at Duke University had he not skipped college to join the NBA; Kobe was only the 27th player to jump straight from high school to the NBA.
In his first few years in the league, Kobe saw his role gradually increase, despite backing up veteran guards Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. Kobe highlighted his rookie year by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. As a rookie, Kobe became the youngest player to play in an NBA game (a record since broken by former teammate Andrew Bynum). In 1998, Kobe’s second year in the league, Kobe was named to the All-Star team for the first time, making him the youngest player in league history to garner the honor—this record still stands.
Back to Back to Back (2000-2002)
The Lakers hired Phil Jackson as their head coach before the 1999-2000 season, which ushered a new era in Kobe’s career. Under Jackson’s fabled triangle offense, Kobe averaged over 20 points for the first time in his career, beginning a run of 13 straight seasons of averaging over 20 points. After being eliminated either in the first or second round of the playoffs in each of his first three seasons in the league, Kobe and co-superstar Shaquille O’Neal won their first of three consecutive championships during the 1999-2000 season, defeating the Indiana Pacers in 6 games. The Lakers, led by O’Neal and Kobe, would defeat the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Nets over the next two years in the finals.
Trials and Tribulations
While the tandem of Bryant, O’Neal and Coach Jackson was an era of much success, the years during this mini-dynasty were full of controversy for Kobe. In the summer of 2003, Kobe was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a Colorado hotel room. Kobe pleaded innocent to the suit, but admitted the two had consensual sex. The allegations not only distracted the Lakers as Bryant’s court hearing extended into the season, but it also damaged Bryant’s brand, causing him to lose multiple sponsorships.
Kobe also did not have a great relationship with his coach and his fellow star. Coach Jackson wrote a book titled The Last Season in which he accused Kobe of being “uncoachable”. Kobe’s tumultuous relationship with O’Neal was the primary reason behind O’Neal’s trade to the Miami Heat in 2004; the two alpha-males often disagreed publicly, culminating in Kobe offering the Lakers an ultimatum between himself and O’Neal in the summer of 2004. The dynamic duo led the Lakers to three championships and four finals appearances in their seven years together.
Upon O’Neal’s trade to the Heat, Kobe found much more individual success but less team orientated success. It was during this period where Kobe led the league in scoring twice. In his first year without O’Neal, Kobe failed to lead the Lakers to the playoffs in the 2004-2005 season—this was the first time the club missed the playoffs in 11 years. The following year, the Lakers brought back Phil Jackson as head coach. This time around, Kobe and Coach Jackson had a much closer relationship. That season, Kobe had his best season statistically (averaging 35.4 points) coupled with several unbelievable scoring feats: scoring 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, as well as outscoring the Dallas Mavericks 62-61 through three quarters by himself. Before the start of the 2006-07 season, Bryant changed his number from 8 to 24 without declaring an official reason.
Return to Glory (2009-2010)
Until the arrival of Pau Gasol in February of 2008, Kobe and the Lakers failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs, losing to the Phoenix Suns twice. Discontent with the lack of support around him, Kobe demanded a trade from the Lakers unless Jerry West (the architect of the Shaq and Kobe era) returned to the club’s front office. Bryant eventually backed off his trade requests and was awarded with the arrival of Pau Gasol. With Gasol in tow, Bryant and the Lakers immediately returned to the NBA finals for the first time since 2004, losing to the Boston Celtics in 6 games. Despite squandering a chance for a championship, Bryant was awarded the only MVP award of his career in 2008. In the following two seasons, Kobe led the Lakers to the finals twice more, defeating the Orlando Magic in 2009 and the Boston Celtics in 2010. In the 2009 finals, Kobe joined Michael Jordan as the only other player to average 30 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists in an NBA series; Kobe was also awarded his first NBA finals MVP in six finals appearances.
Kobe’s quest for the second three-peat of his career ended when the Dallas Mavericks swept them in the second round. Following the sweep, Phil Jackson officially retired from coaching. However, in the 2010-2011 season, Bryant did achieve an individual milestone by becoming the youngest player in NBA history to reach 26,000 and 27,000 career points—sixth highest in league history. During the 2011-12 season shortened by the lockout, Bryant and the Lakers once again fell short in the second round, losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Other accomplishments on Bryant’s resume include: the Lakers all-time leading scorer with 29,484 points, 10 time member of the All-NBA-First Team, nine time member of the NBA All-Defensive First-Team and a 4 time NBA All-Star MVP.
Kobe has stated that he is likely to retire after his contract runs out in 2014.
Kobe won two Olympic gold medals with the United States senior men’s basketball team in the summers of 2008 and 2012. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kobe was a defensive specialist with the team; however during the gold medal game against Spain, Kobe’s offensive prowess—notably converting a four-point play in the last minute of the game—sealed the gold medal for the USA.
In the 2012 London Olympics, Kobe took on a lesser role with the team due to the emergence of LeBron James but Kobe still had his moments of brilliance, most notably converting 6 three-pointers in the second half against Australia. Bryant was also a part of the championship USA team that finished 10-0 at the FIBA Americas, which qualified USA for the Olympics in 2008.
Reaching 30,000 Career Points
On December 5th, 2012, Bryant became just the fifth player in NBA history to reach the 30,000-point plateau. Bryant accomplished this feat in a game with the New Orleans Hornets, which ironically was the team that drafted him back in 1996. Bryant joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in history to reach 30,000 career points.
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Kobe Bryant Gallery: Through the Years
Kobe Bryant Video Highlights