Sports require discipline, especially if you want to be a professional athlete. Achieving greatness in a sport requires obsession; the love for the nitty gritty. It requires an individual to muster whatever will power they have in order to finish the last repetition, catch, or shot.
If you were lucky enough to watch the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996-2016, you know that Kobe Bryant was the epitome of pushing past your own self perceived boundaries. He was a basketball player, a businessman, a husband, and a father.
Kobe entered the NBA at 17 years old, right after high school, and spent the rest of his 20 year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Kobe is known for changing his jersey number in the middle of his career from 8 to 24. He started his career with number 8 because it was the number he wore when he played basketball in Italy, and it is a nod to his number in the Adidas ABCD camp, 143, which adds up to 8. During his early high school career, Kobe wore 24 before switching over to 33. He said he wanted to switch because "It is kind of a clean slate. I started new." This started a new era of growth. An era where he would continue to grow on and off the court.
Kobe Bryant was born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It is in this city where his roots run deep.
Before there was a Kobe Bean Bryant, there was Joe "Jellybean" Bryant. He was a famous basketball player in Philadelphia for decades. His stardom began when he had a standout career at Bartram High School in the 1970s. He received so many collegiate offers that he and his coach stopped counting. Joe would eventually go to La Salle University, a local school up in North Philadelphia.
While playing in high school, he was acquaintances with another star player by the name of John Cox. He became fond of his sister Pam Cox, who he would see visiting her grandma on the same block that his grandma lived in West Philadelphia. Eventually, the two would get married and would have their first son, Kobe, in 1978.
Initially, Joe Bryant was drafted by the Golden State Warriors, but they could not come to an agreement about his contract, so the Philadelphia 76ers took full advantage. They signed Bryant to a $800,000 contract in 1975 and the rest was history.
At the age of 6, Kobe Bryant moved to Italy after his father finished an eight year career in the NBA. There his father played for five seasons with Lazio, Calabria, Tuscany, and two seasons with Reggio Emilia. While growing up in Italy, Kobe played for Pallacanestro Reggiana, a youth basketball team, and became fluent in Italian.
Kobe returned to the United States when he was 14 years old, and he already had his sights set on playing basketball. He enrolled in Lower Merion High School, where he would be one of the most dominant players in the country, and was the first freshman to play on a varsity team in many years.
Although there are many positives in the story of Kobe Bryant, there is also a dark cloud that hovers over the positive impact that he made in the game of basketball and beyond. This is infamous sexual assault allegation. In July of 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a women in his hotel room in Colorado. Bryant admitted to having had an adulterous encounter with the 19 year old that he viewed as consensual. He apologized for his mistakes and the case was eventually closed in 2005 after they reached a settlement.
After this incident, Kobe shifted his focus to what was really important: his family and the game of basketball.
Kobe Bryant has two older sisters: Sharia (43) and Shaya (42).
Sharia Washington lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and is currently working at Fit Body Bootcamp as a personal trainer and faculty leader. She also works as a director of sales for SUN50, a sun protection apparel brand. Sharia studied at Temple University from 1993-1998 and received her bachelor's degree in business administration.
Shaya Bryant-Tabb also lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and she is a Group Dining and Events Manager at ARIA Resort and Casino. She studied international business at La Salle University, which is also her father's alumni.
You would think that having a brother who is as financially successful as Kobe would come with its benefits, but that is far from the truth. Kobe removed money from their relationship a long time ago. He said that "They're very smart, college-educated women. I'm really proud of them. Now they have a better sense of self, instead of being resentful because they are relying on me." Kobe encouraged them to embody this sense of independence and drive that he has been living his entire life, and because of this his relationship with his sisters has grown stronger over the years.
Since his retirement, Kobe was known for being more involved with his family. In his immediate family is his wife Vanessa, and his four daughters Natalia (born 2003), Gianna (2006-2020), Bianka (born 2016), and Capri (born 2019). Him and his wife met on the set of a music video in 1999 and got married in 2001.
The two older sisters are heavily involved with sports. Natalia is a volleyball player in her senior year of high school, and Gianna loved playing basketball, just like her dad. Kobe was heavily involved with coaching Gianna's basketball team at Mamba Sports Academy. They went there often for practices and tournaments. If you look at her highlight tape, you will notice Kobe's patented fade away jumper in her arsenal of moves. Kobe was proud of having daughters. In an interaction with an ESPN reporter Elle Duncan, the reporter asked him if he would have another daughter and said "I would have five more if I could."
Kobe Bryant was an amazing basketball player, but he also had interests in other areas. One hobby he dipped his feet into was hip hop. His most well known song is called Hold Me, and he was featured on it with Brian Mcknight. Bryant also made an appearance in the Destiny's Child Bug-A-Boo music video. The scene at 2:09 in the video shows Kobe getting ready for practice (most likely five hours early) while the group runs through the men's locker room. He also rapped with his friend Kevin Sanchez, who was a well known rapper from Philly in the 1990s. Together they'd hang out and work on writing some rhymes. They would find rap battles in the local mall, at Temple University, or in his local barbershop. Kobe would travel with Kevin to see him battle other people in the Philadelphia area. The two started to get more serious about their craft when they started the rap group called Cheizaw and signed a record deal with Sony. Kobe did not make it big in hip hop, but he made an impact on the culture because of how synonymous basketball is to the music genre.
Kobe was also a huge fan of soccer. Kobe immersed himself into Italian culture by not only playing basketball, but soccer too. He has even said that learning about spacing in soccer helped him utilize similar techniques that translated into basketball. Before his family left Italy in the early 90s, he already established AC Milan as his favorite team. Eventually, he would befriend soccer legends Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi and this titled his fandom towards FC Barcelona.
After his family returned to the United States from Italy, he attended Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. His constant curiosity of the game, and a few helpful tips from his father, helped him become a dominant force right off the bat. Upon his enrollment, he was the first freshman to be on the varsity basketball team in decades.
During his first year, the team had a horrible record of 4-20. However, in the next three seasons, the Lower Merion Aces had a record of 77-13. Bryant contributed by playing all five positions.
In his senior year, Kobe averaged 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4 steals, and 3.8 blocks a game. Lower Merion went 31-3 that year and won their first state championship in over 50 years. He later became the Gatorade high school player of the year and was a McDonald's All-American. His stardom was officially rising.
After a successful high school career, Kobe decided in May of 1996 that he would enter the NBA draft. The Charlotte Hornets drafted him with the 13th overall pick, but he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Upon entering the NBA, Kobe Bryant became the sixth player to ever be in the NBA without playing a college game. In the first couple years, his stats were subpar at best. In his rookie season he averaged 15.5 minutes per game with 7.6 points per game. He then became a starter at the age of 19 in 1998, and that is when things began to ramp up. That year he averaged almost 20 points a game, made the All-Star Team and was the youngest starter.
Just two years later, Kobe would win his first championship with the Lakers. That team ended up winning three in a row (2000-2002). Then he would win his fourth and fifth championships in back to back years from 2009-2010. Kobe was a natural shooter and finisher who was known for his competitiveness. His extremely high basketball IQ and work ethic, mixed in with a talented group of players, are what lead the Lakers to these championships. Many people would not have guessed that this 17 year old kid would have the most points in Lakers history (32,670).
His career averages are as follows:
Games Played: 1346
Field Goal %: 44.7
3 Point %: 32.9
Here are some career highs:
Points: 81 vs Toronto on Jan 22, 2006 (second highest behind Wilt Chamberlain)
Rebounds: 16 vs Toronto on Jan 24, 2010
Assists: 17 vs Cleveland on Jan 15, 2015
Steals: 7 vs Utah on Feb 13, 2006
Field Goals Made: 28 vs Toronto on Jan 22, 2006
Free Throws Made: vs New York on Jan 31, 2006
vs Cleveland on Jan 30, 2001
Three Pointers Made: 12 vs Seattle on Jan 7, 2003
Blocks: vs Charlotte on Feb 02, 2001
vs Philadelphia on Feb 20, 2000
vs Vancouver on Dec 11, 1999
Finally here rankings from his illustrious career:
Kobe made his Olympic debut in the 2008 Beijing Games. In the previous Olympics, the United States basketball team was knocked out by Argentina. In 2008, a new team came to play: the Redeem Team. Kobe, along with other world class athletes like Carmelo Anthony, Lebron James, and Dwayne Wade, lead the team to win a gold medal against Spain in the finals. They beat Spain again in London 2012, and Kobe's name continued to be written in history books.
After his retirement, he continued to stay active in the Olympic community. He attended the 2016 United States Olympic Trials for women's gymnastics, and met all the competitors. He also spoke at the Los Angeles Olympic bid presentation in 2018. Bryant expressed that having the Olympics in Los Angeles would be a beautiful thing because of the amount of cultures that will be represented.
The Black Mamba was notorious for the amount of pain he could endure. He constantly pushed his own limits, but sometimes his injuries were severe enough to keep him sidelined. Here is a timeline of Kobe's injury history.
1999-2000: A broken wrist that caused him to miss the first 15 games of Phil Jackson's first year as a Laker head coach.
2000 NBA Finals: Bryant suffered a sprained ankle and had to miss Game 3 in the championship against the Indiana Pacers. In game 4, Shaq fouled out, but Kobe scored 28 points and gave the Lakers a 3-1 lead in the series.
2003-2004: Underwent shoulder surgery in the middle of the season.
2004-2005: Kobe sprains his ankle and is out for a month. The Lakers failed to make the playoffs for the first time since the 1993-1994 season.
2007-2008: Kobe leads the Lakers to a Western Conference title with an injured back. He has also been playing with an injured index figure the last couple seasons, and it does not heal properly because he refuses to sit out because of an injured finger.
2010: Kobe has his knee drained several times and still wins a second consecutive championship. He later said that he was rarely practicing in the middle of the season because he had little to no cartilage in his knee.
April 12, 2013: Kobe tears his left achilles tendon while playing his 80th game against the Golden State Warriors. He was fouled while trying to drive around a player with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Bryant knew something was wrong right away. In an interview, he talked about how he went to feel for his achilles to see if it was there, and it was not. Kobe being Kobe, he tried to pull the tendon up (which is not possible). He got up anyways, sunk the two free throws, proceeded to the locker room, and the Lakers ended up winning 118-116.
2015: He tore his rotator cuff. Kobe later disclosed that he had been apparently playing on a torn labrum "for a long time."
The film, Dear Basketball, is based on Kobe's retirement letter that was published in the Players Tribune in 2015. It is essential a love letter to the game of basketball, where Bryant expresses his passion for the game. It is a nostalgic piece that reflects on Kobe's very first time he picked up a basketball. This planted the seed that would bring him all the accolades listed above.
Not only was Kobe Bryant an extremely talented basketball player, he was also a businessman. He looked past his NBA career and realized that in order to sustain his wealth he must invest in assets, and that is exactly what he did.
Before even retiring from the NBA, Kobe co founded the venture capital firm Bryant Stibel. Today, they have more than $2 billion in assets, and have successful exits such as Dell and Alibaba. They have also invested in Epic Games, which is the creator of Fortnite.
Bryant then went on to found Granity Studios, a media company that focuses on storytelling in sports. This is the same company that helped make Dear Basketball, his Oscar winning animated film. They have also released books, including the autobiography The Mamba Mentality: How I Play. Another documentary called Kobe Bryant's Muse was created when he partnered with Alibaba Group to make the film.
If you have seen Kobe walking around with a bottle of Body Armor, that is because he also invested in the company, and made millions of that investment when Coca Cola bought a stake.
Bryant was also famous for his iconic shoes, and partnership with Nike. By the time he retired, he had 11 different models of shoes with Nike. In 2017, he partnered with Nike and the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club to launch the Mamba League and give children access to free sports. Kobe then got into a partnership with Sports Academy to create Mamba Sports Academy, which is a training center for local people and athletes.
Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven other people died in a helicopter accident on January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, CA. Bryant and his daughter were all headed to a basketball tournament being held at Mamba Sports Academy. There were foggy conditions on the day of the crash, but everybody was still given permission to fly. Kobe's death was unexpected and a tragedy that was felt all throughout the world, and especially Los Angeles, California; where he spent all 20 years of his NBA career.
Kobe Bryant transcended the boundaries of what it means to be an athlete. He was infatuated with the game of basketball. This obsession made him curious about the intricate things in the sport that others might blow off. Such as what position the referees have to be in during certain points of the game so he could play more aggressively if he had to. His stardom not only connected the city of Los Angeles, but the entire world. Kobe's game was a universal language that everybody could appreciate. His 'Mamba Mentality' developed into a way of life for millions, maybe even billions, across the world. It is the willingness to be uncommon amongst uncommon people; to be so passionate about what you are doing that you lose track of time, and are willing to go an extra mile to test your limits. Kobe was a basketball player, a champion, a father, and a husband. In an excerpt from his poem, he wrote, "A love so deep I gave you my all - to my mind and body, to my spirit and soul." If his legacy were to be summed up in one sentence, this would be it. Whether he was a father, basketball player, filmmaker, or business man, Kobe lived to love what he did, and we should all do the same.
Kobe had a work ethic that was unmatched from any other player in the league. He just wanted to be the greatest player in the history of the game. He would watch film, get in the weight room, be the first player at shootarounds, and the last player to leave the court for shootarounds. It just showed how great of a player he was and the hunger and drive he had to want to be great. He watched tape of a lot of great players when he came into the league, but the player he wanted to emulate the most was Michael Jordan, who played the same shooting guard position as Kobe. Many people have said that he is the closest thing we will ever see to Michael Jordan. He not only worked on his offensive game, but he also worked on his defense to become a lockdown defender. He wanted to guard the other team's best player on a nightly basis. Kobe would go down as a superstar, a player that could carry a team all the way to a championship but for a while, it was questioned whether he could do so. Kobe played with and won championships with Shaquille O'Neal and many thought that Kobe could not win by himself. But Kobe proved these people wrong winning championships without Shaq later in his career.