Kobe Bryant was one of those rare players that managed to secure some type of award in every season that he played. Bryant, the all-time leading scorer in Lakers’ history, was the first guard in NBA history to play 20 seasons with the same team. The “Black Mamba” wasn’t just a standout in the NBA world, but also a two-time gold medalist in the Olympics.
From the start of his career in 1996 to its eventual end in 2016, Bryant became a global phenomenon. Some believe that Bryant is and was the closest replica to Michael Jordan we ever had. Bryant was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. When you look at his year-to-year accomplishments, you will understand why.
1996-1997 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion, NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Bryant impressed in his first-ever professional basketball game. Bryant debuted in the Summer Pro League in Long Beach, California by scoring 25 points in front of a standing room-only crowd. In his final game, Bryant scored 36 points and averaged 24.5 points per game.
Bryant came off the bench in his rookie season and played behind Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel, but he later became the youngest player (18 years, 72 days) to play in an NBA game. This record has been broken since, but he remains the youngest Slam Dunk Contest champion in BA history.
1997-1998 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star
In Bryant’s second season, he saw his points per game jump from 7.6 to 15.4. With the Lakers playing small, Bryant played small forward alongside the guards. He finished the year as the runner-up in the Sixth Man of the Year voting.
Mid-season, Bryant became the youngest NBA All-Star starter in NBA history. The 19-year old famously told his All-Star teammates that he wanted to guard Michael Jordan.
1998-1999 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-NBA Third Team
As Bryant turned 20 years old, he began to turn the page on emerging as the league’s premier guard. With both Van Exel and Jones traded, Bryant started every game during the lockout-shortened season (50 games). Bryant’s play was rewarded with a six-year contract extension worth $70 million.
Bryant missed the All-Star Game but was just 0.1 points away from averaging 20 points per game. The Lakers were eventually swept by the Spurs in the Western Conference Semifinals, making it the second straight year the Lakers bowed out in the second round.
1999-2000 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: NBA Champion, All-Star, All-NBA Second Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team
Once Phil Jackson took over the Lakers, Bryant’s career began to surge. Bryant became a member of the All-NBA, All-Star, and All-Defensive teams. The Lakers became championship contenders with the elite combination of Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who utilized the triangle offense that Jackson used to win six championships with the Chicago Bulls.
Bryant missed six weeks prior to the season due to a hand injury but came back to lead the team in assists and steals. The Lakers won 67 games, Shaq won MVP, and Bryant was the youngest player to ever make an All-Defensive Team.
In the 2000 Finals against the Pacers, Bryant injured his ankle and missed Game 3. However, Bryant returned for Game 4 and scored 22 points in the second half to lead the Lakers to an overtime victory, which included a game-winning shot. After closing out the series in game 6, the Lakers had won their first title since 1988.
2000-2001 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: NBA Champion, All-Star, All-NBA Second Team, All-NBA Defensive Second Team
Bryant averaged 28.5 points per game and also led the team in assists. Despite issues between Bryant and O’Neal beginning to surface, the Lakers would go 15-1 altogether in the playoffs. The team swept Portland in the first round and Kings in the second round. In the Semifinals, Bryant recorded a 48-point, 16-rebound performance in the series-clinching win.
The Lakers then swept the Spurs in the Conference Finals before losing their first game to the 76ers in the NBA Finals. The team would win the next four games and Bryant averaged 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists in the series. After the series, O’Neal called Bryant “the best player in the league.”
2001-2002 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: NBA Champion, All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive Second Team
The season featured Bryant’s first season playing 80 games. During the season, Bryant recorded a then-career-high of 56 points over the Grizzlies. Bryant finished with a career-high 46.9% field goal percentage and once again led the team in assists. He claimed his first All-Star Game MVP after scoring 31 points despite listening to loud boos from a Philly crowd.
The Lakers would complete the three-peat, but this road was much tougher. After sweeping the Trail Blazers in the first round, the Lakers defeated the Spurs 4-1 in the Semifinals. In the Conference Finals, the Kings owned home-court advantage but were luckily able to overcome tough officiating to make the Finals. Bryant averaged 26.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists on 51.4% shooting in the Finals against the Nets. At the age of 23, Bryant became the youngest player to win three championships.
2002-2003 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team
On January 7, 2003, Bryant set an NBA record for three-pointers in a game when he made 12 against the SuperSonics. Bryant averaged over 30 points per game and displayed one of the greeted shooting runs we have ever seen in the sport.
Bryant posted 40 or more points in nine consecutive games, averaging 40.6 points per game for the month of February. Despite receiving All-NBA First Team and Defensive Team honors, the Lakers lost to the Spurs in the Semifinals.
2003-2004 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team
After failing to make the NBA Finals, the Lakers acquired former All-Stars Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Bryant was arrested for sexual assault before the season and missed some games due to court appearances. However, Bryant returned and helped the Lakers win the Pacific Division title, including making two buzzer-beaters against the Trail Blazers to clinch the game.
With Shaq, Malone, Payton, and Bryant in the starting lineup, the Lakers made the NBA Finals but were upset by the Detroit Pistons in five games. Bryant shot just 35% from the field. The repercussions saw Jackson leave as a coach, and Shaq traded to the Miami Heat. Bryant declined an offer from the Clippers and resigned with the Lakers on a seven-year contract.
2004-2005 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star, All-NBA Third Team
Bryant’s reputation was so criticized at this point after books painted him as an “uncoachable” player, while many believed it was Bryant’s fault that Shaq was sent to Miami. By the end of the year, Bryant had feuds with Karl Malone and Ray Allen. Bryant was the runner-up in the scoring title, but the Lakers finished 34-48 and missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.
2005-2006 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, NBA Scoring Champion
Despite past differences, Phil Jackson returned to coach the team. Bryant was at a crossroads in his career, electing to take a higher path. With Jackson back, Bryant sailed to new heights, including winning the scoring title. In December 2005, Bryant scored 62 points in three quarters against the Mavericks. Then, in January, Bryant scored the second-most points ever in a game by posting 81 points against the Raptors.
The season also saw a renewed relationship between Shaq and Bryant. Before the All-Star game, the two shook hands and hugged. Back to Bryant’s scoring, became the first player since 1964 to score 45 points in four consecutive games, joining Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. He also became the fifth player ever to win the title by averaging at least 35 or more points.
2006-2007 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team, NBA Scoring Champion
Before the start of the 2006-2007 season, Bryant changed his number from 8 to 24. Bryant’s high school number was 24. Despite winning the scoring title for a second straight year, Bryant was in the middle of numerous on-court incidents. In January, Bryant struck Manu Ginobili in the face and was suspended for the following game. In March, he appeared to repeat the same action against Timberwolves guard Marko Jaric.
The adversity never got to his head as he continued to score in high amounts. Bryant once scored 65 points to end a seven-game losing streak. The following game he scored 50 points, and then he added another 60 points game. He became the second Laker ever to record three straight 50 or more games. By the end of the season, Bryant finished the year with ten 50-point games. Bryant’s jersey was the highest-selling jersey in the United States and China.
2007-2008 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team
Outside of Bryant’s trade request drama, he had another successful season. Bryant became the youngest player to reach 20,000 career points. The record has since been broken by LeBron James. The Lakers traded for Pau Gasol this season, and with his help, the Lakers owned the best record in the Western Conference with 57 wins.
Bryant won the MVP and All-NBA First Team for a third straight season. The Lakers qualified for the NBA Finals, the fifth time in Bryant’s career, but lost to the Boston Celtics in six games.
2008-2009 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team
Bryant helped the Lakers tie a franchise record for most wins to start the season after a 17-2 start. By December the team was 21-3. In a matchup against the Knicks in February 2009, Bryant set a record for most points scored at Madison Square Garden with 61 points. He later won All-Star Game Co-MVP with his former teammate in Shaq.
The Lakers tied for the best record in the NBA and Bryant was runner-up in the MVP voting. In the playoffs, the Lakers defeated the Jazz in five games and then closed out the Rockets in seven games. In the Conference Finals, the Lakers took down Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets in six games to record their second straight trip to the NBA Finals.
In the FInals, the Lakers defeated Dwight Howard and the Magic. Bryant was awarded his first Finals MVP after averaging 32.4 points, 7.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.4 steals. It was the first time since Jerry West in 1969 for a player to average at least 32.4 points per game.
2009-2010 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: NBA Champion, Finals MVP, All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team
Even though he had established himself as one of the most clutch players in the league, Bryant solidified that statement with six game-winning shots in the season. He also added to his toughness resume. Despite suffering an avulsion fracture in his right index finger, Bryant continued to play rather than take time to rest.
Bryant became the youngest player (31 years, 151 days) to record 25,000 career points, which surpassed Wilt Chamberlain. The following day he surpassed Jerry West as the all-time leader in points in Lakers history. Eventually, the injury caught up to him as Bryant missed nine games, but the Lakers claimed the No.1 seed.
The Lakers defeated the Thunder, Jazz, and Suns on route to making the NBA Finals for the third straight season. In the Conference Finals, Bryant set a franchise record for 13 assists in a game. In the Finals, the Lakers defeated the Celtics in seven games. Despite shooting 6-for-24 from the field, Bryant led the Lakers back from a 13-point deficit, scoring 10 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter to go along with 15 rebounds. Bryant would win Finals MVP and call this championship the most satisfying of all his five championships.
2010-2011 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star, All-Star Game MVP, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive First Team
Bryant wanted to match Michael Jordan’s six championships, but the Lakers were looking to complete a second three-peat with Bryant as the ringleader. Along the way, Bryant became the youngest player in history to record 26,000 and 27,000 career points. He also went from No. 12 to No. 6 on the career scoring list.
Among other awards, Bryant was the leading vote-getter for the All-Star Game. The team’s quest for a three-peat was ended in the second round. The Lakers were swept by the Mavericks.
2011-2012 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star, All-NBA First Team, All-NBA Defensive Second Team
This season featured a lot of new turns. Bryant received experimental platelet-rich plasma therapy to treat pain in his left knee and ankle. Mike Brown also replaced the retired Phil Jackson as the coach of the team. Before the season started, ESPN ranked Bryant as the seventh-best player in the league, which was something he referenced in January when he scored 48 points against the Suns.
He went on to score more than 40 points three more times. At the All-Star Game, Bryant’s 27 points passed Jordan as the career scoring leader in All-Star Game history. Bryant missed seven games with a bruised left shin and he returned with three games left in the season. He needed just 38 points to pass Kevin Durant for the scoring title but elected to sit out. The Lakers were eventually defeated by Durant and the Thunder in the Semifinals of the playoffs.
2012-2013 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star, All-NBA First Team
Before the season, the Lakers acquired All-Star center Dwight Howard and former MVP guard Steve Nash. In November, Bryant surpassed Magic Johnson as the career leader in steals, but the game was overshadowed by the Lakers falling to 0-3 for the first time in 34 years. After starting the season 1-4, Brown was fired as coach and replaced by Mike D’Antoni.
Bryant became the youngest player in history to record 30,000 career points, becoming one of five players to ever accomplish the milestone. In December, Bryant scored more than 30 points seven games in a row, the longest streak by an NBA player after turning 34 years old. Bryant led the league in scoring through the first 42 games, but the team was 17-25 overall.
Due to injuries to the team, Bryant was playing almost 48 minutes each game down the stretch. On April 10, 2013, Bryant became the first player in NBA history to get 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals, and four blocks in a game. Then, two days later, Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon against the Warriors, ending his season. The Lakers secured the No. 7 seed but were swept in four games by the Spurs.
2013-2014 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star
After missing the first 19 games, Bryant began playing on December 8. Bryant’s tenure was brief as he suffered a lateral tibial plateau fracture in his left knee nine days later that sidelined him for six weeks. Despite being sidelined, Bryant was voted to start his 16th All-Star Game, but Bryant did not feel deserving of the selection.
Bryant missed the All-Star Game due to pain in his knee. Bryant never returned after the team ruled him out the rest of the season on March 12, 2014, citing his need for more rehab. The Lakers finished 27-55 and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
2014-2015 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star
The Lakers replaced D’Antoni with Byron Scott as head coach before the season. Bryant appeared to be finally healthy after recording his 20th career triple-double on November 30th. Two weeks later, Bryant became the third all-time leading scorer bypassing Michael Jordan. In the first 27 games of the season, Bryant averaged 26.4 points.
However, Scott left Bryant on the bench for three straight games after one of the worst performances in his career, which included nine turnovers, 25 points, and an 8-for-30 shooting night. It turns out that Bryant was suffering soreness in his knees, feet, back, and Achilles tendon. Scott blamed himself for overloading him at the start of the season. When Bryant came back, he became the third player in league history to record multiple triple-doubles in a season at the age of 36 or older.
On January 21, 2015, Bryant suffered a rotator cuff tear in his right shoulder. He underwent season-ending surgery and finished the season shooting a career-low 37.3%. Byrant was voted to the All-Star Game again despite being injured and the Lakers missed the playoffs after finishing 21-61 overall.
2015-2016 NBA Season
Accolades and Awards: All-Star, 60 Points, Mamba Out
Bryant missed the final two weeks of exhibition games with a calf injury but made the season opener to begin his 20th season with the Lakers, a record for most seasons with the same team. On November 29, 2015, Bryant announced he would be retiring at the end of the season and his farewell season began.
On February 3, Bryant became just the fourth NBA player over 37 years old to record 35 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a game. He ended as the leading overall vote-getter for the All-Star Game with 1.9 million votes. It was the first time he played in an All-Star Game since 2013. Players tried to feed Bryant the ball, so he could finish as the All-Star Game MVP, but he declined.
In the season finale, Bryant went out with a bang. He scored an NBA season-high 60 points against the Jazz, which included outscoring the entire Jazz roster 23-21 in the fourth quarter. He became the oldest player to score 60 or more points in a game. The Lakers missed the playoffs with their worst record in franchise history at 17-65.
Credit for idea: Sports Kingdom