Kobe Bryant

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Kobe Bryant
Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014
Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2014
PositionShooting guard
Height6 ft 6 in (1.98 m)
Weight212 lb (96.2 kg)
BornAugust 23 1978(1978-08-23)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Nationality American
DiedJanuary 26 2020 (aged 41)
Calabasas, California
Pro career1996–2016

Kobe Bean Bryant (/ˈkoʊbiː/ KOH-bee; August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020) was an American professional basketball player. A shooting guard, he spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bryant won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, a 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), and a two-time NBA Finals MVP. Bryant also led the NBA in scoring twice, and ranks fourth in league all-time regular season and postseason scoring. He was posthumously voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020.

The all-time leading scorer in Lakers history, Bryant was the first guard in NBA history to play 20 seasons. His 18 All-Star designations are the second most all time, while it is the record for most consecutive appearances as a starter. Bryant's four NBA All-Star Game MVP Awards are tied with Bob Pettit for the most in NBA history. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won two gold medals as a member of the U.S. national basketball team. He gave himself the nickname "Black Mamba" in the mid-2000s, and the epithet became widely adopted by the general public.

Bryant died, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash at Calabasas, California in January 2020. Numerous tributes and memorials were subsequently issued, including renaming the All-Star MVP Award in his honor, reflecting his significant influence on not only basketball but on society as a whole.


Bryant was born in Philadelphia, the youngest of three children and the only son of former NBA player Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. He was also the maternal nephew of NBA player John "Chubby" Cox.[1] His parents named him after the famous beef of Kobe, Japan, which they saw on a restaurant menu. His middle name, Bean, was derived from his father's nickname "Jellybean."[2] He grew up with two older sisters, Sharia and Shaya, and had a close relationship with them until his death. Bryant's family was Catholic and he was brought up with this faith.[3][4]

When Bryant was six, his father retired from the NBA and moved his family to Rieti in Italy to continue playing professional basketball.[5][6] After two years, they moved first to Reggio Calabria, then to Pistoia and Reggio Emilia. Kobe became accustomed to his new lifestyle and learned to speak fluent Italian.[7] He was especially fond of Reggio Emilia, which he considered a loving place and where some of his best childhood memories were made.[8] It was also where he began to play basketball seriously. His grandfather would mail him videos of NBA games for Bryant to study.[9] When he was 13, his family moved back to Philadelphia, where he enrolled in eighth grade at Bala Cynwyd Middle School.[7]

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.

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". The two began dating and became engaged six months later in May 2000, while Laine was still a senior at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California.

They married on April 18, 2001, at St. Edward the Confessor Catholic Church in Dana Point, California. The wedding was not attended by Bryant's parents, who were opposed to the marriage, his two sisters, his longtime advisor and agent Arn Tellem, or his Laker teammates.

The Bryants' first daughter, Natalia, was born in January 2003.[10] The birth resulted in a reconciliation between Bryant and his parents. Their second daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore (also referred to as "Gigi"), was born in May 2006.[11] On December 16, 2011, Vanessa Bryant filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences, and the couple requested joint custody of their daughters. On January 11, 2013, Bryant and his wife both announced via social media that they had called off their divorce. In early December 2016, Vanessa gave birth to their third daughter,[12] and in January 2019 the Bryants announced they were expecting a fourth daughter.[13] Their daughter was born in June 2019.[14]

Bryant was a practicing Catholic. He said his faith and a priest helped him through difficult times, such as the period following his accusation of rape. A Catholic cantor said she was inspired by Bryant's faith, and the respect that he showed her.[3][4] Bryant and his family were regular attendees at Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church in Newport Beach. Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, received the Eucharist together just hours before they died.[15]

Bryant was a lifelong fan of his hometown NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles.[16] He was also a fan of soccer teams Barcelona, AC Milan, and Manchester City.[17]

Bryant died, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash at Calabasas, California in January 2020.[18]

High school basketball

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 in Ardmore, located in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion. He played on the varsity basketball team as a freshman. Bryant became the first freshman in decades to start for Lower Merion's varsity team, but the team finished with a 4–20 record. The following three years, the Aces compiled a 77–13 record, with Bryant playing all five positions.[19] During his junior year, he was named Pennsylvania Player of the Year while also earning a fourth-team Parade All-American nomination.[20]

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.[21] 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 steals, and 3.8 blocked shots in leading the Aces to a 31–3 record.[22]

Bryant received several awards for his outstanding performance during his senior year at Lower Merion. These included being named Naismith High School Player of the Year, Gatorade Men's National Basketball Player of the Year, a McDonald's All-American, a first-team Parade All-American and a USA Today All-USA First Team player.[23] Bryant's varsity coach, Greg Downer, commented that he was "a complete player who dominates" and praised his work ethic, even as the team's top player.[22]

The 17-year-old Bryant made the decision to go directly into the NBA, becoming only the sixth player in NBA history to do so.[19] His basketball skills and SAT score of 1080 would have ensured admission to any college he chose, but he did not officially visit any campuses.

Professional career

1996 NBA draft

Celtics general manager Jan Volk on Kobe Bryant during a pre-draft workout in 1996 had the following to say:

If you closed your eyes and thought a little bit, you might have thought you were watching Michael Jordan. He did everything well — beyond well. He was exceptional in everything that he did. And then we commented, as I recall, on how reminiscent he was of Michael.[24]

Before the 1996 NBA 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."[25]

Bryant was the first guard drafted directly out of high school. The Lakers were looking to trade their starting center Vlade Divac for a player's draft rights to free up salary cap space to make an offer to free-agent center Shaquille O'Neal. Since Bryant was still 17 at the time, 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. Bryant signed a three-year rookie contract totaling $3.5 million.

Los Angeles Lakers (1996–2016)

Adjusting to the NBA (1996–1999)

File:Kobe Bryant Michael Jordan.jpg
Bryant (left) being defended by Michael Jordan

Bryant debuted in the Summer Pro League in Long Beach, California. As a rookie in 1996–1997, 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 (18 years, 72 days; a record since broken by Jermaine O'Neal and former teammate Andrew Bynum), and also became the youngest NBA starter (18 years, 158 days).[26] 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 participated in the Rookie Challenge and won the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest, becoming the youngest dunk champion at the age of 18.[27] Bryant's performance throughout the year earned him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team with fellow bench teammate Travis Knight.

In Bryant's second season, he received more playing time and began to show more of his abilities as a talented young guard. Bryant was the runner-up for the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year Award.[28]

The 1998–1999 season marked Bryant's emergence as a premier guard in the league. With starting guards Van Exel and Jones traded, Bryant started every game for the lockout-shortened 50-game season. During the season, Bryant signed a six-year contract extension worth $70 million, which kept him with the Lakers until the end of the 2003–2004 season.[29]

Three-peat (1999–2002)

Bryant taking a shot 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 Lakers became championship contenders behind the center-guard combination of Bryant and O'Neal. Jackson utilized the triangle offense that he implemented to win six championships with the Chicago Bulls; this offense would help both Bryant and O'Neal rise to the elite class of the NBA. Three championships were won consecutively in 2000, 2001, and 2002, further cementing this view.[30]

Bryant was sidelined for six weeks prior to the start of the 1999–2000 season due to a hand injury that he had incurred during a preseason game against the Washington Wizards. When Bryant was back and playing over 38 minutes a game, he had an increase in all statistical categories during the 1999–2000 season. 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 Second Team and All-NBA Defensive Team for the first time in his career (the youngest player to receive All-Defensive honors).[30] With a 116–111 victory in Game 6, the Lakers won their first championship since 1988.

Statistically, the 2000–2001 season saw Bryant perform similarly to the previous year, but he averaged six more points per game (28.5). It was also the year when disagreements between Bryant and O'Neal began to surface. The Lakers would go on to win their second championship to Los Angeles in as many seasons. 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 third year in a row (no game in 1999).

In the 2001–2002 season, Bryant played 80 games for the first time in his career. On January 14, 2002, Bryant recorded a then career-high 56 points to go along with five rebounds and four assists in a 120–81 win over the visiting Memphis Grizzlies. He continued his all-round play by averaging 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. Bryant also had a career-high 46.9% shooting and once again led his team in assists. He claimed his first All-Star MVP trophy after a 31-point performance in Philadelphia. While making the All-NBA Defensive Team again, Bryant was also named to the All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career.

The road to the Finals would prove a lot tougher than the record run the Lakers had enjoyed the previous year. The series would stretch to seven games, the first time this had 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, against the New Jersey Nets, Bryant averaged 26.8 points, 51.4% shooting, 5.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game, which included scoring a quarter of the team's points.[31] At age 23, Bryant became the youngest player to win three championships. Bryant's play was notable and praised for his performance in the fourth quarter of games, specifically the last two rounds of the playoffs.[31] This cemented Bryant's reputation as a "clutch player."

Challenges and records (2002–2013)

Bryant at the free-throw line, 2005

In the 2002–2003 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 First Teams, and came in third place in voting for the MVP award.

Bryant was arrested for sexual assault before the next season began. This caused him to miss a number of games due to court appearances, or have to travel to play games later on the same day after attending court.[32]

O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and Brian Grant.[33] The following day, Bryant declined a six-year, $100 million offer to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers and re-signed with the Lakers on a seven-year, $136.4 million contract.[34]

Bryant was closely scrutinized and criticized during the 2004–2005 season with his reputation badly damaged from all that had happened over the previous year. A particularly damaging salvo came when Jackson wrote The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul. The book detailed the events of the Lakers' tumultuous 2003–2004 season and had several criticisms of Bryant, including Jackson calling Bryant "un-coachable."[35] 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. During the season, Bryant also engaged in public feuds with Malone and Ray Allen.

The 2005–2006 season marked a crossroads in Bryant's basketball career. Despite past differences with Bryant, 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's individual scoring accomplishments posted resulted in the finest statistical season of his career. 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. A month later, at the 2006 NBA All-Star Game, the two were seen laughing together.

On January 22, 2006, Bryant scored a career-high 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, Bryant's 81-point game was the second-highest point total in NBA history, surpassed only by Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962. 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 to do so. By the end of the 2005–2006 season, Bryant set Lakers single-season franchise records for most 40-point games (27) and most points scored (2,832). 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.

Later in the season, it was reported that Bryant would change his jersey number from 8 to 24 at the start of the 2006–2007 season. Bryant's first high school number was 24 before he switched to 33.[36] After the Lakers' season ended, Bryant said on TNT that he wanted 24 as a rookie, but it was unavailable as it was worn by George McCloud, as was 33, retired with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bryant wore 143 at the Adidas ABCD camp and chose 8 by adding those numbers.[36] Throughout the 2006–2007 season, his jersey became the top selling NBA jersey in the United States and China.

Bryant driving towards the basket

During the 2006–2007 season, Bryant was selected to his ninth 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. Over the course of the season, Bryant became involved in a number of on-court incidents.

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 Jordan last did it in 1987.

Bryant's Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics in six 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, after scoring 39 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 8 assists. This record was later 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 and the Lakers' medical staff will just have to continue to monitor on a day-to-day basis."[37]

Aided by the trade for All-Star Pau Gasol, Bryant led his team to a West-leading 57–25 record. The Lakers swept the Nuggets in the first round and on May 6, 2008, and Bryant was officially announced as the league MVP. He said, "It's been a long ride. I'm very proud to represent this organization, to represent this city." 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. Stern stated, said the award was a "richly deserved honor." "I just don't think you find people this competitive who play this game," he said. "You just don't. He's always wanted to be the best, and he is the best today."[38] 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. 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.

Derek Fisher and Bryant with President Barack Obama during the White House visit honoring the Lakers' 2009 championship

In early September 2008, Bryant decided not to have surgery to repair his right pinkie.[39] In the 2008–2009 season, Bryant led the Lakers to tie the franchise record for most wins to start the season going 17–2, and by the middle of December they compiled a 21–3 record. He was selected to his 11th consecutive All-Star Game as a starter, 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. 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. During the 2009 NBA All-Star Game, Bryant tallied 27 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 steals and was awarded All-Star Game co-MVP with former teammate O'Neal. Bryant was runner-up in the MVP voting behind LeBron James and was selected to the All-NBA First Team and All-Defensive First Team for the seventh time in his career.

The Lakers earned their second straight trip to the NBA Finals in 2009, defeating the Orlando Magic in five games. Bryant was awarded his first NBA Finals MVP trophy upon winning his fourth championship. He became the first player since West in the 1969 NBA Finals to average at least 32.4 points and 7.4 assists for a Finals series and the first since Jordan to average 30 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists for a title-winning team in the Finals.

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

During the 2009–2010 season, Bryant made six game-winning shots including a buzzer-beating, one-legged 3-pointer against the Miami Heat on December 4, 2009. Bryant considered the shot "one of the luckiest he has made."[40] A week later, Bryant suffered an avulsion fracture in his right index finger in a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Despite the injury, Bryant elected to continue playing, rather than take any time off to rest the injury. 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. Bryant also became the youngest player (31 years, 151 days) to reach 25,000 points in his career during the season, surpassing Chamberlain.[41] He continued his dominant clutch plays making yet another game-winning three-pointer against the Sacramento Kings, and what would be the game-winning field goal against the Boston Celtics. The following day, he surpassed West to become the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. After being sidelined for five games by 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. Two weeks later, he made his sixth game-winning shot of the season, against the Toronto Raptors.

On April 2, 2010, Bryant signed a three-year contract extension worth $87 million.[42] 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 advanced to the NBA Finals for a third straight season. In a rematch against the 2008 Champion Boston Celtics, Bryant, despite shooting 6 for 24 from the field, led the Lakers back from a 13-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. This marked the first time the Lakers won a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Bryant said that this was the most satisfying of all of his five championships.[43]

Bryant and fellow Lakers meet with President Barack Obama in honor of the 2010 championship.

Bryant wanted a sixth championship to match Jordan's total. In his ninth game of the 2010-2011 season, playing against the Denver Nuggets, Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to reach 26,000 career points.[44] On January 30 against the Celtics, he became the youngest player to score 27,000 points. 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.

Bryant received experimental platelet-rich plasma therapy called Orthokine in Germany to treat the pain on his left knee and ankle,[45] and Mike Brown replaced the retired Jackson as coach of the Lakers in the off-season. Bryant began the season playing with an injured wrist.[46] On January 10, 2012, Bryant scored 48 points against the Suns, and went on to score 40, 42, and 42 in his next three games.[47] It was the sixth time in his career he scored 40 or more points in four straight games, a feat exceeded only by Chamberlain (19 times). At the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, Bryant scored 27 points to pass Jordan as the career scoring leader in the All-Star Game.[48] He suffered a broken nose and a concussion in the third quarter of the All-Star Game after a hard foul from Dwyane Wade.[49] In April, Bryant missed seven games with a bruised left shin. He returned three games before the end of the regular season. The Lakers were knocked out of the playoffs by Durant and Oklahoma City in the second round of the playoffs, losing in five games in what would be Bryant's final playoff appearance.[50]

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. After starting the season 1–4, coach Brown was fired and 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.[51] On December 5 against New Orleans, Bryant became the youngest player (34 years and 104 days) in league history to score 30,000 points. On December 18, in a 101–100 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, Bryant scored 30+ points in his seventh consecutive game, the longest streak by an NBA player after turning 34 years old; it was the fourth-longest such streak in his career.[52] In a move to improve the team's defense, D'Antoni began having Bryant guard the opponent's best perimeter player. 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.[53]

Bryant dunking against the Milwaukee Bucks, 2013

With a disappointing 17–25 start to the 2012-2013 season, D'Antoni had Bryant became the primary facilitator on offense.[54] In two crucial wins in March, Bryant 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 West in 1970.[55]

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. 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. 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. Bryant had surgery on April 13 to repair the tear, and it was estimated he would miss six to nine months. He ended the season with his customary numbers scoring an average of 27.3 points, 46.3 percent shooting, 5.6 rebounds, and 6 assists. The New York Times called his leading of the Lakers back into playoff contention "perhaps some of the finest work of his career."[56] 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.[55]

Injury-plagued years (2013–2015)

Bryant shooting against Marcin Gortat of the Washington Wizards, 2014

Bryant resumed practicing in November 2013, after the 2013–2014 season had already begun. On November 25, he signed a two-year contract extension with the Lakers at an estimated value of $48.5 million.[57] He remained the league's highest-paid player, although he accepted a discounted deal; he had been eligible to receive an extension starting at $32 million per year.[58] Bryant's contract became a polarizing topic, with detractors arguing that stars should take less money to allow their team more financial freedom, while supporters countered that the NBA's biggest stars were being paid less than their true value.[59]

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.[60] 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. He sat out the game.[61] 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.

Bryant returned for the 2014–2015 season, his 19th season with the Lakers, who had replaced D'Antoni with Bryant's former Lakers teammate, Byron Scott. On November 30, 2014, in a 129–122 overtime victory against the Toronto Raptors, Bryant recorded his 20th career triple-double with 31 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. At age 36, he became the oldest NBA player to achieve 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists in a game. On December 14, Bryant became the NBA's third all-time leading scorer, passing Jordan (32,292) in a 100–94 win against Minnesota.[62]

He was suffering from soreness in his knees, feet, back, and Achilles tendons and Scott planned to reduce his workload going forward.[63] Three times Bryant had exceeded 40 minutes in a game, and the coach blamed himself for overloading him after he started the season in such great shape.[64] In his second game back after resting, he had 23 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds in a 111–103 win over Denver, and became just the third player in league history to record multiple triple-doubles in a season at age 36 or older.

On January 21, 2015, Bryant suffered a rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder while driving baseline for a two-handed dunk against the New Orleans Pelicans. Though he was right-handed, he returned to play in the game and ran the offense while shooting, dribbling, and passing almost exclusively with his left hand.[65] He underwent season-ending surgery for the injury, with a return targeted toward the start of the 2015–2016 season.[66]

Final season (2015–2016)

File:Kobe Bryant vs Gary Neal.jpg
Bryant playing against Gary Neal of the Washington Wizards after announcing his forthcoming retirement, 2015

After recovering to play in the 2015–2016 preseason,[67] Bryant suffered a calf injury and missed the final two weeks of exhibition games. However, he played in the season opener to begin his 20th season with the Lakers, surpassing John Stockton's league record of 19 for the most seasons with the same team.

On November 29, 2015, Bryant announced via The Players' Tribune that he would be retiring at the end of the season. In his poem titled "Dear Basketball," Bryant wrote that he fell in love with the game at age six: "A love so deep I gave you my all/From my mind & body/To my spirit & soul." The 2015–2016 season "is all I have left to give./My heart can take the pounding/My mind can handle the grind/But my body knows it's time to say goodbye./And that's OK./I'm ready to let you go."[68] In a letter distributed to Lakers' fans before that evening's game against the Indiana Pacers, Bryant wrote, "What you've done for me is far greater than anything I've done for you. ... My love for this city, this team and for each of you will never fade. Thank you for this incredible journey."[68]

At the time of his announcement, his free throw attempts had dropped from his career average, and his game had become over-reliant on pump fakes and long-range shots. In his press conference after the announcement, he acknowledged his declining skills. [69]

File:LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant (24848589252).jpg
Bryant, in his final Cleveland game, defending LeBron James

Bryant requested that opposing teams on the road not hold any on-court ceremonies in his honor or present him any gifts in public. Still, he was honored around the league with video tributes and fan ovations. Previously, Bryant was respected but not beloved, and he was astonished at the cheers he was now receiving.[70]

On February 3, Bryant made seven three-pointers and scored a then season-high 38 points, including 14 of the team's 18 points in the last 5:02 of the game, for a 119–115 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. He became just the fourth NBA player over 37 years old to log at least 35 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a game, joining Jordan (3 times), Karl Malone (3), and Abdul-Jabbar[71]}} Bryant was the leading overall vote-getter for the 2016 All-Star Game with 1.9 million votes, ahead of Stephen Curry's 1.6 million. Having moved to small forward that season, Bryant was selected as a frontcourt starter for the first time.[72]

In the season finale on April 13, Bryant scored an NBA season-high 60 points against Utah in his last NBA game, outscoring the entire Jazz team 23–21 in the fourth quarter, in the Lakers' 101–96 victory.[73][74] He became the oldest player to score 60 or more points in a game at 37 years and 234 days old.

National team career

Bryant avoiding a collision in a game against China at the 2008 Summer Olympics

Bryant declined to play in the 2000 Olympics because he was getting married in the off-season. He also decided not to play in the 2002 FIBA World Championship. Bryant was originally selected for the FIBA Americas Championship in 2003 but withdrew after undergoing arthroscopic shoulder and knee surgeries. In the following summer, he had to withdraw from the Olympic team because of his sexual assault case. Along with LeBron James, he was one of the first two players to be publicly named to the 2006–2008 U.S. preliminary roster in 2006. However, he was once again sidelined after knee surgery and did not participate in the championship.

Bryant's United States national team career 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.

On June 23, 2008, he was named to the USA Men's Senior National Team for the 2008 Summer 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 on August 24, 2008, for its first gold medal in a worldwide competition since the 2000 Olympics.

Bryant rejoined the national team for the 2012 Summer Olympics. After winning another gold medal, Bryant decided to retire from the team. He finished his national team career with a record of 26-0 across three tournaments, winning a gold medal each time.[75]

Sexual assault case

In 2003, Bryant was charged with sexual assault;[76] criminal charges were dropped after the accuser refused to testify, and a lawsuit was settled out of court, with Bryant issuing a public apology and admitting to a sexual encounter he maintained was consensual.

The accusation tarnished Bryant's reputation, and the public's perception of him plummeted; his endorsement contracts with McDonald's and Nutella were terminated. In September 2004, the assault case was dropped by prosecutors after the accuser decided not to testify at the trial. Afterward, Bryant agreed to apologize to her for the incident, including his public mea culpa:

I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year." Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado. 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.[77]

Player profile

Bryant shoots a fadeaway over Shane Battier in 2009.

Bryant primarily played as a shooting guard. He was listed at 6 feet 6 inches (2.0 m) and 212 pounds (96 kg),[78]

He was often cited as one of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA.[79] He assigned himself the nickname of "Black Mamba," citing a desire for his basketball skills to mimic the eponymous snake's ability to "strike with 99% accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession."[80]

Bryant drew frequent comparisons to Jordan, after whom he modeled his playing style.[81] Like Jordan, he became most known for shooting a fall-away jump shot.[82]

Bryant established a reputation for taking shots in the closing moments of tight games, even when he was double or triple-teamed, and was noted as one of the premier closers in the NBA.[83] In a 2012 annual survey of NBA general managers, Bryant was selected for the 10th consecutive season as the player general managers would want to take a clutch shot with a game on the line.[84] Bryant enjoyed being the villain, and reveled in being booed and then silencing the crowd with his play.[70]

Throughout his career, Bryant was disparaged for being a selfish, high-volume shooter.[84] He missed more field goal attempts in his career than any other player in NBA history. In 2014, Bryant passed Havlicek's previous mark of 13,417 missed shots,[85] and he retired with 14,481. Phil Jackson, who coached Bryant for many years, stated that Bryant "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."[86]

In addition to his abilities on offense, Bryant also established himself as a standout defensive player.[87] Bryant rarely drew charges when he played defense, which he believed spared his body and contributed to his longevity.[88]

Bryant was also lauded for his relentless work ethic, dubbed the "Mamba mentality."[89] Throughout his first 16 seasons, his body was resilient, and he exhibited a high pain threshold while often playing through injuries. A fierce competitor, Bryant made opponents and teammates alike the objects of his scorn.[90] Many players considered him difficult to play with because of his high level of commitment and performance. According to sportswriter Mark Heisler of Forbes, "circa 2004–2007, Kobe was the most alienated superstar the NBA had ever seen."[91] After the departure of Shaquille O'Neal, he led the Lakers to two NBA championships; during this period, he became more of a mentor to his teammates than he had been earlier in his career. Bryant's longtime head coach Phil Jackson noted that the biggest difference between his first and second stints in coaching the Lakers was if Bryant talked to teammates in his earlier years with the Lakers, it was usually, "Give me the damn ball." During the latter period, "[Bryant] embraced the team and his teammates, calling them up when we were on the road and inviting them out to dinner. It was as if the other players were now his partners, not his personal spear-carriers."[92]

Basketball legacy

Widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bryant won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, which ranks second behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 19,[93] a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, a 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), and a two-time NBA Finals MVP.

Bryant handling the ball in 2014, when he became the first NBA player with over 30,000 points and 6,000 assists

Bryant was called "one of the greatest players in the history of our game" by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and was recognized as having "one of the most decorated careers in the history of the sport."[94] Reuters called him "arguably the best player of his generation,"[83] while both Sporting News and TNT named him their NBA player of the decade for the 2000s. In 2008 and again in 2016, ESPN ranked him the second-greatest shooting guard of all time after Jordan. His contemporary players called Bryant their generation's version of Jordan.[95] He was the Lakers' all-time leading scorer, and his five titles are tied for the most in franchise history.[96] Both numbers he wore during his career, 8 and 24, were retired by the Lakers on December 18, 2017. In his first year of eligibility, Bryant was named a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, weeks after his death, before being elected a couple of months later in April 2020.[97] His formal induction was delayed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In October 2021, as part of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary, Bryant was honored as one of the 75 greatest players of all time, by being named to the NBA’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.[98]

Bryant with U.S. President George W. Bush, Jason Kidd, and Deron Williams at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China

During the 2020 NBA playoffs, the Lakers' players wore 'Black Mamba' jerseys in honor of Bryant. Designed by Bryant himself, the black jersey features a snakeskin pattern with yellow accents and 16 stars representing the team's 16 championships at the time. Following a Game 2 win in the 2020 NBA Finals, LeBron James was asked about the jerseys and had this to say: "It's always special to represent someone that meant so much, not only to the game but also to the Lakers organization for 20-plus years. For us to honor him, being on the floor, this is what it's all about."[99]

Off the court


Bryant at a Nike store launch ceremony in Taipei, 2007

Before starting the 1996–1997 season, Bryant signed a six-year contract with Adidas that was worth approximately $48 million. 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,[100] and appearing on his own series of video games by Nintendo. 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. Many companies, like McDonald's and Ferrero SpA, terminated his contracts when rape allegations against him became public.[278] A notable exception was Nike, Inc., who had signed him to a five-year, $40–45 million contract just before the incident.

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.[101]

On December 13, 2010, Bryant signed a two-year endorsement deal with Turkey's national airline, Turkish Airlines, which 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. In September 2012, Bryant shot a commercial for Turkish Airlines with FC Barcelona star Lionel Messi, in which the duo competes to win the attention of a young boy.[102] In 2013, Forbes listed Bryant the fifth highest paid sports star in the world behind Floyd Mayweather, Cristiano Ronaldo, LeBron James, and Lionel Messi.[103]

Bryant was also one of the global ambassadors of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.[104]


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. Bryant performed at a 1997 concert by Sway & King Tech and recorded a verse for a remix of Brian McKnight's "Hold Me". [6] 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'", 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. Afterward, Bryant co-founded an independent record label, Heads High Entertainment, but it folded within a year.[6]

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"). The proceeds for downloads of both the single and ringtones were donated to impoverished schools for basketball facilities and equipment. The music video of the single also features Bryant. The song was also used by Sprite in its 2011 marketing campaign in China.[105]

Film and television

Bryant made his acting debut in 1996, appearing in an episode of Moesha. That same year, he guest starred as himself on an episode of Arli$$ (episode: "What About the Fans?") and Sister, Sister (episode: "Kid-Napped"). In 1997, he appeared on an episode of Hang Time, this was followed by a guest appearance on the Nickelodeon sketch comedy series All That (1998). Bryant was also the first choice for the role of Jesus Shuttlesworth in Spike Lee's 1998 film He Got Game, but he turned down the role, saying "this summer is too big for me."[106]

In 2018, Bryant became the first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and the first former professional athlete to be nominated and to win an Academy Award in any category for his film Dear Basketball.[107] The film also won the Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject and a Sports Emmy Award.[108] In addition to future animation projects, he had been in talks with animator veteran Bruce Smith for the last six months before his death about starting his own animation studio.[109]

Beginning in 2018, Bryant wrote, produced and hosted the television series Detail, which aired for multiple seasons on ESPN and ESPN+. It featured his insights into the game of basketball and in-depth analyses of games and individual players.[110]

Business ventures

In 2013, Bryant launched a production company called Granity Studios, which developed different media, ranging from films to television shows and novels.[111]

Bryant established Kobe Inc. to own and grow brands in the sports industry. The initial investment was a 10 percent stake in the Bodyarmor SuperDrink company for $6 million in March 2014. With The Coca-Cola Company purchasing a minority stake in the company in August 2018, the valuation of Bryant's stake rose to approximately $200 million.[112] His wife, Vanessa, serving as president of the company, continued and expanded the company after his death.[113]

On August 22, 2016, Bryant and his business partner Jeff Stibel launched Bryant-Stibel, a venture capital firm focused on different businesses including media, data, gaming, and technology, with $100 million in funding.[114] In 2018, Bryant and Sports Academy launched Mamba Sports Academy, a joint athletic-training business venture. After his death, the name was changed back to "Sports Academy," out of respect for Bryant.[115]


Bryant's book The Mamba Mentality: How I Play was published on October 23, 2018. The book looks back on his career with photos and his reflections.[116]

At the time of his death, he was working with Brazilian author Paulo Coelho on a children's book aimed at inspiring underprivileged children. After Bryant's death, Coelho deleted the draft, saying in an interview that "it didn't make any sense to publish without him." He did not say how many pages had been written or whether the book had a title.[117]

Bryant also co-wrote/produced several young adult novels through Granity Studios: The Wizenard Series: Training Camp, Legacy and the Queen, and Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof. A fourth novel, The Wizenard Series: Season One, was released posthumously in March 2020.[118]


Bryant was the official ambassador for After-School All-Stars (ASAS), an American non-profit organization that provides comprehensive after-school programs to children in thirteen US cities.[119] Bryant also started the Kobe Bryant China Fund to raise funds within China for education and health programs. He partnered with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation, a charity backed by the Chinese government.[120]

Together with his wife, Bryant founded the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation (KVBFF), "dedicated to improving the lives of youth and families in need, both domestically and globally, and encouraging young people to stay active through sports.[121] Bryant said he wanted more out of life than just a successful basketball career, and spoke of the injustice aimed at homeless people who are blamed for their situation, saying that homelessness should not be ignored or made a low priority.[4] After his death, Vanessa established the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation to honor the legacy of Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna "Gigi," with the vision of creating a world where young women had equal opportunity to pursue their dreams through sports.[122]

Bryant and his wife Vanessa were founding donors of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, with Bryant also donating his uniform he that he wore in the 2008 NBA Finals, the year he was named the league MVP.[123] During his lifetime, Bryant granted over two hundred requests for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.[124]


Fans gathered in front of Staples Center on the day of Bryant's death


At 9:06 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 26, 2020, a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter departed from John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, with nine people aboard: Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, six family friends, and the pilot Ara Zobayan.[125] The group was traveling to Camarillo Airport in Ventura County for a basketball game at Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks.[126]

Due to light rain and fog that morning, the Los Angeles Police Department helicopters and most other air traffic were grounded. At 9:45 a.m., the helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, and began burning. Bryant, his daughter, and the other seven occupants were all killed on impact.[127]

The helicopter was not equipped with a black box, and the Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, and the FBI launched investigations into the crash. On February 9, 2021, a year after the crash, the NTSB revealed that "poor visibility probably led pilot Ara Zobayan to become so disoriented in thick fog north of Los Angeles that he could not perceive up from down." The five board members also said Zobayan, who also died in the crash, ignored his training and violated federal regulations during the 40-minute flight.[128]

Tributes and funeral services

San Diego County Administration Center illuminated in Los Angeles Lakers colors on January 30 as a memorial to Bryant

On February 7, Bryant and his daughter were buried in a private funeral in Pacific View Memorial Park in the Corona del Mar neighborhood of Newport Beach, California.[129] A public memorial service was held on February 24 (2/24, marking both Kobe's and Gianna's jersey numbers) at Staples Center with Jimmy Kimmel hosting. Speakers at the service included Vanessa, Jordan, and O'Neal, along with Chino native, Laker fan and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi and Geno Auriemma, Taurasi's coach at Connecticut, where Gianna had been aspiring to play.[130]

On January 30, the first game after the crash was played at the Staples Center between the Clippers and the Kings; the Clippers honored Bryant before the game, with Southern California native Paul George narrating a video tribute to Bryant. The next day, the Lakers played their first game after the crash against the Trail Blazers. Ahead of the match, the Lakers paid tribute to Bryant and all who lost their lives in the crash with a ceremony held just before tip off, with Usher singing "Amazing Grace" and Boyz II Men singing the National Anthem, while Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth reunited to perform "See You Again" – originally their tribute to Paul Walker after his death while filming Furious 7 – at halftime. James also delivered a speech to the crowd before the game, and every player in the Lakers starting lineup was announced with Bryant's name.[131] The game was the second-most-watched in ESPN history, averaging 4.41 million viewers.[132]

The 2020 Pro Bowl was also played at Camping World Stadium in Orlando on the day of the crash, and before kickoff, NFC players who learned of Bryant's death conducted a prayer led by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, while various on-field and PA tributes were made during the game.[133]

The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards went ahead as scheduled at the Staples Center on the day of the crash, but included tributes by multiple artists and groups, including host Alicia Keys opening the show with a tribute speech in which she called Staples Center "the house that Kobe Bryant built" and joining Boyz II Men to sing "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday".[134] Bryant also appeared at the start of the In Memoriam segment of the 92nd Academy Awards following his Oscar in 2018 for Dear Basketball, and Spike Lee wore a suit in tribute to him at the ceremony.[135]

On February 15, NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced that the All-Star Game MVP Award would be renamed to the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player in Bryant's honor.[136]


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ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Bryant, Kobe. The Mamba Mentality: How I Play. MCD, 2018. ISBN 978-0374201234
  • Jackson, Phil, and Michael Arkush. The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul. Penguin Books, 2005. ISBN 978-0143035879
  • Jackson, Phil, and Hugh Delehanty. Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success. Penguin Books, 2014. ISBN 978-0143125341
  • Lazenby, Roland. Showboat: The Life of Kobe Bryant. Back Bay Books, 2017. ISBN 978-0316387149
  • Sielski, Mike. The Rise: Kobe Bryant and the Pursuit of Immortality. St. Martin's Press, 2022. ISBN 978-1250275721
  • The Editors of Sports Illustrated. Sports Illustrated Kobe Bryant: A Tribute to a Basketball Legend. Sports Illustrated, 2021. ISBN 978-1629379494

External links

All links retrieved December 31, 2021.


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