Kobe “Bean” Bryant. A name that will live on forever. On Sunday, January 26, 2020, tragedy struck as Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, John’s wife Keri, their daughter Alyssa, Christina Mauser, Sarah Chester, Sarah’s daughter Payton, and the pilot, Ara Zobayan all had their lives cut short due to a tragic helicopter crash.
Kobe Bryant will leave behind a legacy and touched the hearts of people from all over the world. In this article, we will look back to Kobe’s illustrious NBA career and the impact he had on the lives of many.
Kobe Bryant was just 17 years of age when he was drafted with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac in a move that would change the Lakers franchise forever. During his first couple of seasons, Kobe came off the bench and played behind guards Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones.
As the season went on, his minutes increased and by the end of the season, he had carved out a huge role with the team. The Lakers made the playoffs in Kobe’s rookie year behind excellent play from newly signed center Shaquille O’Neal. They would make it to the Western Conference Semifinals where they would fall short to the Utah Jazz.
The Lakers would lose in 5 games, but it was game 5 where Kobe had the well-documented game in which he would airball 4 shots at the end of the game.
Kobe used this as fuel and would drastically improve his game as the years went on. Kobe’s sophomore season was a lot better as he increased his point total and averaged 15.4 points per game. This was enough to make him the youngest All-Star starter in NBA history and he would finish 2nd in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Kobe would go on to dominate the league after his sophomore year and the duo of Kobe-Shaq would be one of the best in NBA history. Together, they would go on to win three straight championships, make multiple All-Star and All-NBA teams, and dominated the Western Conference for half a decade.
Looking back at their three-peat, we start with the first championship they won together, in 2000.
Kobe Bryant in the first round of the 2000 NBA playoffs would average 27.8 points per game on 49.6% shooting from the field at only 21 years old. His play would dip down, but his presence would prove to be crucial as the Lakers would not have made it to the Finals without him. This year was also the year where Kobe and Shaq led the infamous comeback against the Portland Trail Blazers in game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
Their 2001 playoffs run was the year that the Lakers went 15-1 en route to their 2nd consecutive title.
In the 2001 playoffs, Kobe would average 25 points per game in the first round, 35 points and 9 rebounds per game in the second round, and 33.3 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists in the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. Kobe was the first option as the Lakers destroyed the Western Conference and they would have not made the Finals without him.
Lastly, we look at the 2002 playoff run that saw the Lakers capture their third straight championship. Kobe was the leading scorer in 2 out of the 4-playoff series that year and played a vital part in the Lakers beating the Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, an extremely controversial series.
After their three-peat, the Lakers would make the Finals one more time in 2004 where they ultimately fell short to the Detroit Pistons.
The Kobe-Shaq duo did not last as long as it should have due to a feud between the two and the Lakers decided to trade Shaq to the Miami Heat. Without Shaq, Kobe became even more dominant but, never found the same team success.
With frustrations building up, Kobe requested a trade from the Lakers and instead of sitting out, he continued to fight, and the Lakers eventually became successful once again. They would trade for Pau Gasol on the first of February of 2008 and this move would be the one to put them over the top as behind Kobe and Pau, the Lakers would win back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
After their championship runs, Kobe was nearing the end of his career and his Achilles injury in 2013 would be the “nail in the coffin” on his career. He would play 3 more seasons after the injury and go out in the most Kobe way possible, scoring 60 points in his final game.
After Basketball, Kobe would continue to care for his wife and 4 daughters, he won an Oscar for his short film Dear Basketball and continued to have a lasting impact on the league, even after his retirement. He developed his daughter, Gigi, into a basketball phenom and she would have been well on her way to making it to the WNBA
In his 20-year career, Kobe was a 5-time champion, an 18-time All-Star, 15-time All-NBA player, made the All-Defensive team 12 times, won an MVP, and scored 33,643 points, the 4th-most all-time. He gave us multiple historic seasons and most importantly, Kobe was an amazing father figure and a caring person. He impacted the lives of many NBA players and will continue to for the rest of the time.
Rest in Peace,