Kobe Bean Bryant (born August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American All-Star shooting guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA) who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant is the only son of former Philadelphia 76ers player and former Los Angeles Sparks head coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant. His parents named him after the famous beef of Kobe, Japan, which they saw on a restaurant menu.
Bryant rose to national prominence in 1996 when he became the first guard in league history to be drafted out of high school. Bryant and then-teammate Shaquille O’Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. Since O’Neal’s departure following the 2003-04 season, Bryant has become the cornerstone of the Lakers franchise, and was the NBA’s leading scorer during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.
In 2003, Bryant made headlines when he was accused of sexual assault. The charges were dropped after Bryant’s accuser declined to testify, and the two sides ultimately settled the matter outside of criminal court.
When Bryant was six, his father left the NBA, moved his family to Italy, and started playing professional basketball there. Bryant became accustomed to the lifestyle there and learned to speak fluent Italian. At an early age, he learned to play soccer and at first his favorite team was AC Milan. He has said that if he had stayed in Italy, he would have tried to become a professional soccer player, and that his favorite team is FC Barcelona. Bryant is a big fan of FC Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard and their star player Ronaldinho.
In 1991, the Bryants moved back to the United States. Kobe earned national recognition during a spectacular high school career at Lower Merion High School in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion. His SAT score of 1080 would have ensured his basketball scholarship to various top-tier colleges. Bryant has stated that had he decided to go to college after high school, he would have attended Duke University. Ultimately, however, the 17-year-old Bryant made the decision to go directly into the NBA.
NBA career profile
Before he was chosen as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, the 17-year-old Bryant had made a lasting impression on then-Lakers general manager Jerry West, who immediately foresaw potential in Bryant’s basketball ability during pre-draft workouts. He went on to state that Bryant’s workouts were some of the best he had seen. Immediately after the draft, Bryant expressed that he did not wish to play for the Hornets and wanted to play for the Lakers instead. Fifteen days later, West traded his starting center, Vlade Divac to the Hornets for the young Kobe Bryant.
First two seasons
During his first season, Bryant mostly came off the bench behind guards Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. Initially, he played limited minutes, but as the season continued, he began to see some more playing time. He earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan-favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest.
In Bryant’s second season (1997-98), he received more playing time and began showing more of his abilities as a talented young guard. He was the runner-up for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, and through fan voting, he also became the youngest NBA All-Star starter. While his statistics were impressive for his age, he was still a young guard who lacked the experience to complement Shaquille O’Neal and significantly help the team contend for a championship. The 1998-99 season marked Bryant’s emergence as starting guards Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones were traded at Shaq’s request. The result was no better as the Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semi-finals.
Bryant’s fortunes would soon change when Phil Jackson became coach for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999. After years of steady improvement, Bryant had become one of the premier shooting guards in the league, a fact that was evidenced by his annual presence in the league’s All-NBA, All-Star, and All-Defensive teams. The Los Angeles Lakers became premier championship contenders under Bryant and O’Neal, who formed an outstanding center-guard combination. Jackson utilized the triangle offense he used to win six championships with the Chicago Bulls, which helped both Bryant and Shaq rise to the elite class of the NBA. Their NBA championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002 proved such a fact.
End of a dynasty
In the 2002-03 NBA 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 up to that point. For the first time in his career Bryant was voted on to both the All-NBA and All-Defensive 1st teams. 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 champion San Antonio Spurs in six games.
In the following 2003-04 NBA season, the Lakers were able to acquire NBA All Stars Karl Malone and Gary Payton to make another push at the NBA Championship. With a starting lineup of four future Hall of Fame players in Shaquille O’Neal, Malone, Payton, and Bryant, the Lakers were able to reach the NBA Finals. In the Finals, they were eliminated by the Detroit Pistons in 5 games. In that series, Bryant averaged 22.6 points per game, shooting 35.1% from the field, and dishing 4.4 assists per game.
With his reputation badly damaged from all that had happened over the previous year, Bryant was closely scrutinized and criticized during the season. This first season without O’Neal would prove to be a rocky one.
A particularly damaging salvo came from Phil Jackson in 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 also calls Bryant “uncoachable.”
Then, midway through the season, Rudy Tomjanovich suddenly resigned as Lakers coach, citing the recurrence of health problems and exhaustion. Without “Rudy T,” stewardship of the remainder of the Lakers’ season fell to career assistant coach Frank Hamblen. Despite the fact that Bryant was the league’s second leading scorer at 27.6 points per game, the Lakers floundered and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. This year signified a drop in Bryant’s overall status in the NBA by not making the NBA All-Defensive Team and being demoted to All-NBA Third Team
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. 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 also resolved his conflict with former teammate Shaquille O’Neal. The team posted a 45-37 record, an eleven-game improvement over the previous season, and the entire squad seemed to be clicking.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Lakers played well enough (3-1 series lead) to come within six seconds of eliminating the second-seeded Phoenix Suns. Despite Bryant’s remarkable game winning shot in Game 4, the Lakers broke down, and ultimately fell to the Suns in seven games. In the following off-season, Bryant had knee surgery, preventing him from participating in the 2006 FIBA World Championship tournament.
Bryant’s individual scoring accomplishments posted resulted in the finest statistical season of his career. On December 20, Bryant scored 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks. Entering the fourth quarter Bryant had, by himself, outscored the entire Mavericks team 62-61, the only time a player has done this through three quarters since the advent of the 24-second shot clock. 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 the end of the feud that had festered between the two players since O’Neal’s departure from Los Angeles. A month later, at the 2006 NBA All-Star Game, the two laughed and joked together on several occasions. On January 22, Bryant scored 81 points in a 122-104 victory against the Toronto Raptors. In addition to breaking the previous franchise record of 71 set by Elgin Baylor, his point total in that game was the second highest in NBA history, surpassed only by Wilt Chamberlain‘s 100-point game in 1962.
In January, 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. For the month of January, Bryant averaged 43.4 per game, the eighth highest single month scoring average in NBA history, and highest for any player other than Chamberlain. By the end of the season, Bryant set Lakers single-season franchise records for the most 40-point games (27) and most points scored (2,832). He won the league’s scoring title for the first time, posting a scoring average of (35.4). 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.
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. 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.
During the 2006-07 season, Bryant was selected to his 9th All-Star Game appearance, and on February 18, he logged 31 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 steals, earning his second career All-Star Game MVP trophy.
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 Ginobili in the face with his elbow. Following 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. Later, on March 6, he seemed to repeat the motion this time striking Minnesota Timberwolves guard Marko Jarić. On March 7 the NBA handed Bryant his second one-game suspension, leading several commentators in the media to call recent happenings into question. In his first game back on March 9, he elbowed Kyle Korver in the face which was retrospectively re-classified as a Type 1 flagrant foul.
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. The following game, Bryant recorded 50 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves, 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. The only other Laker to do so was Elgin Baylor, who also scored 50+ in three consecutive contests in December 1962. On March 23, in a game against the New Orleans Hornets, Bryant scored 50 points, making him the second player in NBA history to have 4 straight 50 point games behind Wilt Chamberlain, who is the all-time leader with seven consecutive 50 point games twice. Bryant, finished the year with ten 50-plus point games becoming the only player other than Chamberlain in 1961-62 and 1962-63 to do it in one season, and won his second straight scoring title.
During the 2006-07 season, Bryant’s jersey became the top selling NBA jersey in the United States and China. A number of journalists have attributed the improved sales to Bryant’s new jersey number, as well as his continuing All-Star performance on the court. In the 2007 NBA Playoffs, the Lakers were once again eliminated in the first round by the Phoenix Suns.
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. 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. However, three days later, on Stephen A. Smith‘s radio program, Bryant expressed anger over a Lakers “insider” who claimed that Kobe was responsible for Shaquille O’Neal‘s departure from the team, and publicly stated, “I want to be traded.” Three hours after making that statement, Kobe 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. On December 23, 2007 Kobe 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. On February 1, 2008, the Los Angeles Lakers made what has been perceived to be one of the most lopsided trades ever, by trading center Kwame Brown, promising rookie Javaris Crittenton and a couple of draft picks for former All-Star power forward Pau Gasol. The move seems to have paid off for the the Lakers, who quickly would win 10 straight games by an average of 15 points per game.
NBA statistics(Kobe Bryant)