A star player of the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant is an American NBA basketball small forward who has been awarded a series of NBA honours since he emerged on the basketball scene in 1996. Bryant is known for his outstanding shooting abilities which have earned him a career average of 24.6 points per game, as well as being regarded as one of the NBA’s finest defensive players.
Son of the Los Angeles Sparks former head coach, Joe Bryant, Kobe Bryant was born into the world of professional basketball, although his early passion was for European Football. After growing up in Italy, Bryant moved back to the USA in 1991, at the age of 13 and embarked upon a successful high school basketball career during his teenage years. Following his high school graduation, Bryant joined the NBA and was initially picked to play for the New Orleans team, the Charlotte Hornets. During the NBA’s selection process, however, Bryant also made an impression on the LA Lakers manager, Kerry West, and 15 days after being selected for the Hornets he was traded for the new Lakers centre Vlade Divac, starting his NBA career with the Los Angeles team.
Bryant’s NBA career got off to a slow start seeing him on the bench more than he was off it, but after winning the Slam Dunk Contest in 1997 his talent on the court began to be recognised. That same year Bryant was named runner up for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year contest and was also named the youngest NBA All-Star starter. From the 1997-98 season onwards, Bryant has been awarded at least one NBA honour each year to date.
By 1999 Bryant had become one of the Lakers’ star players and was regarded as one of the basketball league’s finest shooting guards. From then on Bryant was included in the All-NBA, All-Star or All-Defensive teams each year to date and was named NBA player of the month on numerous occasions. More importantly for his team, Kobe played a significant contribution in raising the success of the Lakers, forming an unbeatable centre-guard combination with Shaquille O’Neal. Under the direction of coach Phil Jackson, formerly of the Chicago Bulls, the Lakers were promoted to the elite class of NBA teams and, after outstanding play by Bryant, the team won the NBA Championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
In the 2002-03 season, Bryant had his finest season of his career, scoring an average of 30 points per game, and on one memorable stretch, scoring 40 points or more in nine consecutive matches. He also gained career records in steals, rebounds and assists and was voted on to both the All-Defensive and All-NBA First teams for the first time. The following season the Lakers made a push for their fourth consecutive NBA Championship win but, despite having some of the best players in the league, Bryant and his team were beaten in the final by the Detroit Pistons.
From early on in his career with the Lakers, Bryant was one of the NBA’s most popular players but in 2003 his reputation was tarnished when a rape charge was made against him. After making a public apology to his female victim, Bryant was not convicted but the scandal meant he was dropped from several major endorsements. The following year Bryant was shrouded by controversy once again when he had a high profile dispute with fellow team mate, Karl Malone, after Malone allegedly made inappropriate comments to Bryant’s wife. Soon after the dispute Malone threatened to leave the Lakers but a few months later he retired from the game instead.
The 2004-05 season was one of Bryant’s worst seasons to date, marked when Shaquille O’Neal left the Lakers, leaving Bryant all the more vulnerable to scrutiny. That same year former coach, Phil Jackson, published a book describing Bryant as uncoachable and at the end of the season Bryant failed to be elected into the NBA All-Defensive team.
High Scores and Suspensions
Following a difficult two seasons, Bryant got back on form in 2005-06 under the direction of re-instated coach, Jackson. Although the Lakers failed to get back their Championship status, they did make the play-offs, a marked improvement from the previous two seasons. Despite ending the season with a serious knee injury, Bryant still managed to achieve his highest career scores, earning 81 points in one memorable game against the Toronto Raptures, the second highest points scored in a single game in NBA history. Later in the season Bryant became the first player for forty years to score 45 points in four consecutive games and he also won his first ever league scoring title, with an average of 35.4 points per game.
Bryant continued to build on his scoring success in the following season, earning his second All-Star Game MVP trophy and making the second best scoring performance in his career in a match against the Portland Trail Blazers. That same season Bryant was also accused of a number of incidents of foul play. During a game against the San Antonio Spurs Bryant elbowed a Spurs guard in the face, earning him a one game suspension, an incident that was repeated two months later against the Minnesota Timberwolfs, resulting in his second suspension of the season.
To date Bryant is still playing for the LA Lakers although he has made a number of requests to be traded in recent months, all retracted at a later date. On December 2007 Bryant became the youngest player to reach a career total of 20,000 points and it is clear that he continues to be one of the Lakers most valued players.
- NBA Champion: 2000, 2001, 2002
- Scoring Champion: 2006, 2007
- NBA All-Star: 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
- NBA All-Star Game MVP: 2002, 2007
- All-NBA Selection (First Team) 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007
- All-NBA Selection (Second Team) 2000, 2001
- All-NBA Selection (Third Team) 1999, 2005
- All-Defensive Selection (First Team) 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007
- All-Defensive Selection (Second Team) 2001, 2002
- NBA All-Rookie Second Team: 1997
- NBA All-Star Slam Dunk Champion: 1997
- Naismith High School Player of the Year: 1996
- Gatorade Circle of Champions High School Player of the Year: 1996
- USA Today, All-USA First Team: 1996
- Adidas ABCD Camp Senior MVP: 1995
- Named to the USA Today All-Time All USA First Team: 2003
- Tournament of Olympic Qualifiers Gold Medal: 2007