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ABSTRACT I’ve chosen this topic because I love playing basketball and this is a player which I have been watching since I started playing basketball. This is a tribute to him and to basketball history.
Early Moments of His Life
obe Bryant was born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents, Joe and Pam, already had two girls, Sharia and Shaya. Kobe was their third and final child. His father Joe was a famous basketball player, so they need to move around the country a lot. Kobe grew up eating, sleeping and breathing basketball. A year after his son was born, Joe was traded to San Diego. The Bryants loved being in sunny Southern California. Their neighbors were friendly, and rain rarely forced the kids inside. Kobe developed an intense love of hoops on the West Coast. By his third birthday, he was already telling people be would be an NBA star. In the summer of 1982, the Bryants packed their bags for Houston, after Joe was dealt to the Rockets. Kobe, who was gaining a better understanding of what his dad did for a living, started following the NBA seriously. His favorite player was Magic Johnson, a point guard in a power forward’s body—not unlike Kobe’s dad. The youngster responded to Magic’s flashy style and winning ways, and adopted the Lakers as his favorite pro team. Joe’s stay in Houston lasted only one season. When the Rockets didn’t renew his contract, he signed with a team in Rieti, Italy.
Kobe’s world revolved around his father’s basketball schedule. He
HIS EARLY CAREER
HIS EARLY LIFE LOS ANGLES LAKERS
THE BLACK MAMBA
often accompanied Joe to afternoon practice and rarely missed a game. Kobe studied his dad’s moves, then tried to mimic the way he played. At halftime of games, Kobe sometimes entertained fans by shooting baskets. This lifestyle—particularly seeing his father thrill crowds with thunderous dunks and no-look passes—further inspired Kobe to dream of a career in the NBA. The soccer-crazed Italians, however, pushed Kobe in another direction. They told him more than once that with his long arms, quickness, and leaping ability, he would make a worldclass goalkeeper. Kobe got a chance to hone his skills each summer, when the Bryants flew back to visit family and
friends in Philadelphia. From the age of 10, he competed in the city’s high-powered Sonny Hill League and held his own against boys his age and older. On the court, Kobe’s transition was seamless. He was one of the Sonny Hill League’s top players during the summer of 1992. He then entered Lower Merion High School and made the varsity basketball team for the Aces. The following spring he began going to the gym at Temple University looking for pick-up games. Among those who befriended him was Eddie Jones, one of the Owls’ starting guards. Life outside of hoops wasn’t quite as easy. A solid B student, Kobe struggled to find common ground with his classmates. In Europe he had been sheltered from many of the temptations and pressures faced by teenagers in the U.S. Naturally quiet and reserved, he got a crash-course in dealing with the daily dramas of high school hallways.
Early Moments of His Career
ryant earned national recognition during a spectacular high school career at Lower Merion High School located in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion. As a freshman, he played for the varsity basketball team. He became the first player in decades to start for Lower Merion’s varsity team, but the team finished with a poor 4–20 record. The following three years, the Aces compiled a 77–13 record, with Bryant playing all five positions. During his junior year, he averaged 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists and was named Pennsylvania Player of the Year. College recruiters from across the country were lined up to recruit him after his breakout year. 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. At Adidas ABCD camp, Bryant earned the 1995 senior MVP award, while playing alongside future NBA teammate Lamar Odom. 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. 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. Bryant ended his high school career as Southeastern Pennsylvania’s alltime leading scorer at 2,883 points, surpassing both Wilt Chamberlain and Lionel Simmons. 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. Bryant’s varsity coach, Greg Downer, commented that Bryant was “a complete player who dominates”. In 1996, Bryant took R&B singer Brandy Norwood to his senior prom, 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. 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). His SAT score of 1080
would have ensured his basketball scholarship to various top-tier colleges and Bryant has stated that had he decided to go to college after high school, he would have attended Duke University. In 2012, Bryant was honored as one of the 35 Greatest McDonald’s All-Americans.
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HIS BEST TIME
Best Time at His Career D
uring his rookie season, Bryant mostly came off the bench behind guards Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. At the time he became the youngest player ever to play in an NBA game (a record since broken by Jermaine O’Neal and Andrew Bynum), and also became the youngest NBA starter ever. 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. Bryant’s performance throughout the year earned him a spot on the NBA All Rookie second team with fellow bench teammate Travis Knight. His final minutes of the season ended in disaster when he shot 4 air balls at crucial times in the game. 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.”
ith a drive to the bucket and a teardrop floater in the lane, Kobe Bryant scored his 30,000th point on Wednesday night, becoming just the fifth player in NBA history to reach that illustrious scoring milestone. At 34 years old, Bryant is the youngest player in NBA history to reach the 30,000-point plateau and while he may not be the same player he was five years ago, there is no denying the fact that Bryant is still one of the best players on the planet. Bryant is either really great for an old guy or really old for a great guy—or both. Yes, it’s definitely both. Bryant joined an elite class of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain as the only NBA players to score more than 30,000 points in NBA his career—Julius Erving scored over 30,000 between the NBA and ABA—but unlike some on that list, Bryant looks like he still has some tread left on his wheels. What’s ironic about Bryant being the youngest player to reach the milestone is that of the five legends to reach that number in the NBA era, it actually took the youngest player the longest to get there.
The 1998–99 season marked Bryant’s emergence as a premiere 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. 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 that of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. The playoff results, however, were no better, as the Lakers were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals. Bryant’s fortunes would soon change when Phil Jackson became coach for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1999. After years of steady improvement, Bryant became one of the premier shooting guards in the league, earning appearances in the league’s All-NBA, All-Star, and All-Defensive teams. 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.
Bryant scored his first NBA point on Nov. 5, 1996, his second game in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform, playing three minutes and shooting 1-for-2 from the free-throw line against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. Seventeen Hall of Fame seasons later, Bryant scored his 30,000th point in New Orleans against the franchise that originally drafted him—back when they were still in Charlotte—before he forced a draft-day trade to the Lakers that changed the course of NBA history forever.
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. 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
AFTER 30.000 POINTS
After 30.000 Points
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. Bryant would see an increase in minutes when the Lakers “played small”, which would feature Bryant playing small forward along side the guards he’d usually back up. Bryant 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 in NBA history. 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.
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. 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). 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. 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 and did not return to the game. 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. With a 116–111 Game 6 victory, the Lakers won their first championship since 1988.
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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. 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). 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. At age 23, Bryant became the youngest player to win three championships. Bryant’s play was notable and praised for his performance in the 4th quarter of games, specifically the last 2 rounds of the playoffs. This cemented Bryant’s reputation as a clutch player.
Hi-res-1396520_crop_exact Todd Warshaw/Getty Images It’s hard to believe Bryant has been in the league for 17 years, so long a baby born the night Bryant scored his first NBA point could be picking out a new car today. One has to wonder how much longer Bryant will be able to keep up this ridiculous level of productivity. He leads the NBA in scoring this season and has been in the top 10 in the league every season since 2000-01, but for the 2003-04 season when he missed games and was otherwise distracted dealing with his much-ballyhooed legal issues at the time. Since 2005-06, Bryant has been in the top five in the NBA in scoring every season, including three scoring titles. While Bryant is the youngest of the greats to hit 30,000 points, the other four did it in fewer basketball years. Kareem finished his career with 38,387 points, scoring his 30,000th in his 15th season in the NBA at the age of 36. He went on to play another five seasons after that year, and his numbers didn’t really begin to decline for three more seasons. Malone also scored his 30,000th point at age 36—also in his 15th season. Like Kareem, the Mailman also played at a high level after reaching the milestone, continuing his career for four seasons, three of which saw very little drop in production. The same can’t be said for Wilt and Jordan. Wilt scored his 30,000th point in the 1971-72 season, his 13th in the NBA
(note: he played just 12 games in 1969-70) at the age of 35. Wilt played just one more season in the NBA, retiring after the 1972-73 Lakers lost in the NBA Finals. Jordan was actually the oldest player to score 30,000 points, reaching the milestone at 38 years old in his 14th season but just his first with the Washington Wizards after coming back from his second retirement. Clearly having lost a step or three, Jordan retired for good after the next season. Following the game on Wednesday night, NBA TV caught up with Bryant and just so happened to have Abdul-Jabbar in studio, asking Bryant if he has any chance to catch Abdul-Jabbar’s career scoring record. He joked, “that’s a lot more basketball for me, I don’t know if I’ve got that much left,” before offering a window into his approach toward the game: “I really just love what I do. I just have a passion for it, I thoroughly enjoy it and this is my 17th year but for some reason that passion hasn’t gone down. It’s been quite the opposite and I really have no explanation for it: it’s actually increased. I have so much love for the game and I just enjoy working hard and doing what I do best.” His longevity and ability to stay at the top of the game are a testament to his work ethic. Not only is Bryant one of the most prolific scorers in league history, he—like each of the Hall of Famers in the 30,000-point club—is still an excellent all-around player. Bryant has been named to the NBA All-Defensive Team 12 times in his career, making the first team nine times, including every season from 2005-2011. Kobe may joke that he doesn’t have enough basketball left to pass Abdul-Jabbar, but he does, if he wants to stick around long enough. Hi-res-157706919_crop_exact Stacy Revere/Getty Images Bryant has averaged 25.4 points per game in his career, a number that accounts for his first few seasons where he averaged less than 20. Since 2004-05, Bryant has averaged 28.8 points per game, and since he turned 30 years old, he has averaged 26.7 points per game, more points per game than all but five players in NBA history over their entire careers. Bryant is currently 8,371 points behind Abdul-Jabbar’s record—a career’s worth of scoring for many NBA players, by the way—so it would take Kobe 335 games to pass him, even if he loses a step and regresses from the last eight seasons back to his career average of 25 points per game. Bryant could pass him in just over four seasons. If you take into account the rest of this year, Bryant is on pace to pass the legend sometime in early 2016-17. Bryant has been on record stating he probably won’t make it past his current contract, a deal he signed in 2010 that runs through the 2013-14 season. The last few years have been hard physically on Bryant for sure, but if he is still at the top of his game—more importantly at the
THE BLACK MAMBA
top of the game—when his current contract expires, is it that far out of the realm of possibility that Bryant continues to play for 20 (or more) years in the league? If he doesn’t win another championship before this contract runs out, do you really think Kobe will just call it quits? Hi-res-157706925_crop_exact Stacy Revere/Getty Images It seems unfathomable now, and I admit it’s rather ridiculous to speculate what could happen in the future, but there isn’t much I would rule out when it comes to Kobe. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine an NBA without Bryant. For so many of us who grew up watching greats come and go throughout the last two decades, Bryant has been the one constant at the top of the sport for as long as anyone can remember. Seventeen years later, he can still hang with the young guys. Hang with the young guys? In the elite class he just joined, he is the young guy and while he’s certainly not the young guy in the NBA like when his career began, he’s still finding a way to play like them.
His awards and championships B ryant holds or shares numerous NBA records:
Most All-Star Game MVP awards won, career: 4 (tied with Bob
Most All-Star Game points scored, career: 271 Most All-Star Game field goals made, career: 111 Most offensive rebounds in an All-Star Game: 10 Most All-Defensive First Team honors won, career: 9 (tied with Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, and Kevin Garnett) Most three-point field goals made, one game: 12 (on January 7, 2003 vs. Seattle SuperSonics; shared with Donyell Marshall) Most three-point field goals made, one half: 8 (on March 28, 2003 vs. Washington Wizards; shared with 5 other players) Most three-point field goal attempts, career-playoffs: 882 Most field goal attempts, career-playoffs: 4,499 Most three-point field goal attempts, career-finals: 153 Most free throws made, four-game playoff series: 51 (second round vs. Sacramento Kings, 2001) Most points scored in one arena, career: 13,812 (as of March 9, 2012, at Staples Center, Los Angeles) Surpassed Hakeem Olajuwon, the previous holder of the record Youngest player to score 20,000 points: (29 years, 122 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record Became one of only three players to reach the milestone under the age of 30. The other two are Chamberlain (29 years, 134 days) and Michael Jordan (29 years, 326 days). Youngest player to score 22,000 points: (30 years, 99 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record Youngest player to score 23,000 points: (30 years, 171 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record Youngest player to score 24,000 points: (31 years, 76 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record Youngest player to score 25,000 points: (31 years, 151 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record
Youngest player to score 26,000 points: (32 years, 80 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record
Youngest player to score 27,000 points: (32 years, 160 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record Youngest player to score 28,000 points: (33 years, 131 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record Youngest player to score 29,000 points: (33 years, 199 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record Youngest player to score 30,000 points: (34 years, 104 days) Surpassed Wilt Chamberlain, the previous holder of the record Youngest player to be named to the NBA All-Rookie Team: (1996–97) Youngest player to be named to the NBA All-Defensive Team: (1999–00)  Youngest player to start a game: (18 years, 158 days) Youngest player to start an All-Star game Youngest player to win the NBA Slam Dunk Championship: (18 years, 169 days) Only player in NBA history to score at least 600 points in the postseason for three consecutive years. 633 (2008), 695 (2009), 671 (2010) Previously held Youngest player to score 18,000 points: (28 years, 156 days) Surpassed by Lebron James (27 years, 35 days) on February 3, 2012. Youngest player to score 15,000 points: (27 years, 136 days) Surpassed by LeBron James (25 years, 79 days) on March 19, 2010 Youngest player to score 10,000 points: (24 years, 193 days) on March 4, 2003 Surpassed by LeBron James (23 years, 59 days) on February 27, 2008 Youngest player to appear in an NBA game: (18 years, 72 days) on November 3, 1996 Broken by Jermaine O’Neal and Andrew Bynum