Today we’ll look into one of the greatest players of all time and my favorite player. He played 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers and stayed loyal to them his whole career. Kobe, aka the Black Mamba had both of his jersey numbers, number 8 and 24, retired by the Lakers. Today’s topic is “How Good Was Kobe Bryant”.
Before the Black Mamba:
Kobe Bean Bryant was born on August 23rd, 1978 and was the youngest of three children. His father, Joe Bryant, was a former NBA player. Kobe’s father moved his family to Italy when he was six years old, and this was when Kobe first started to take basketball seriously. He became a student of the game and his grandfather would mail him games to study. He moved back to Philly when he was 13 and started the 8th grade. He attended Lower Merion High School and played on varsity only as a freshman. He also became the first freshman to start on varsity, but his team didn’t have such a successful season with a 4-20 record. Knowing how competitive Kobe is, the losing didn’t continue much longer. His junior season he averaged 31 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 3.8 blocks and 2.3 steals. His senior year, he topped his numbers and averaged 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4 steals and 3.8 blocks per game. After the 20 losses he took his freshman year, the next three seasons the team only lost a total of 13 games in three years and Kobe was named the Pennsylvania Player of the Year his junior season. He received other awards such as the Naismith High School Player of the Year, Gatorade Men’s National Player of the Year, and was named a McDonald’s All-American. He was heavily recruited by top division one schools, but decided to head straight to the NBA draft after high school.
Rookie/NBA Draft (1996):
Before the 1996 NBA draft, Kobe worked out for the Lakers. They were happy with his performance, but he was picked 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets then traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers also made salary cap space for Shaquille O’Neal, and one of the most dominating dynamic duos was formed. Also, keep in mind Kobe had to have his parents co-sign his contract because he was only 17 at the time of the Draft. His contract totaled $3.5 million for three years. As a rookie Kobe played behind Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel, but as the season continued he started to see more minutes and eventually became the youngest NBA starter at the time. He won the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest and was also the youngest to do this as well at 18 years old. Kobe got his first taste of the playoffs, but they were eliminated by the Jazz 4 game to 1.
In Kobe’s second season he made some improvements in his game and got more playing time. He was the runner-up for the Sixth Man of the Year Award and he became the youngest player to be voted to the All-Star game. His teammates Shaq, Van Exel, and Jones were also All-Stars and this was the first time since 1983 that four players from the same team were selected. He doubled his average points per game and averaged 15.4 this season.
In the 1998-1999 season the Lakers traded Jones and Van Exel, so now he would take on more pressure with those two guards gone. They made the playoffs, but were swept by the Spurs in the semi-finals. He signed a six-year contract extension worth $70 million at the end of this season.
In 1999, the Lakers gained a legend to the team by hiring Phil Jackson as the new head coach. Phil’s approach to the game and his system for the team made the Lakers the team to beat. Phil added in his triangle offense that he previously used while coaching Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Kobe started to come more into his prime as one of the elite shooting guards at the time, while Shaq continuously dominated the paint. The Lakers won their first championship since 1988 and this was only the beginning.
The following 2000-2001 season, the Lakers continued their streak and won their second championship. Kobe averaged 29.4 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.1 assists during the playoffs. He made the All-NBA Second Team and All Defensive Team for a second year in a row.
Going into the 2001-2002 season, the Lakers had a target on their back and was number one of everybodies hit list. The league was determined to stop Kobe and Shaq, but it wasn’t possible. Kobe won his first All-Star MVP trophy, and was named All-NBA First Team for the first time in his career. He averaged 25 points per game in the regular season, and 26.8 points in the playoffs. He was shooting 51.4% from the field and proved that he was just as clutch as every other legend out there. He became the youngest player to win three championships, and the Lakers finally had their three-peat.
Kobe proved all the critics wrong and instead of everyone wanting to be like Mike, everyone wanted to be like Kobe. The Lakers started the 2002-2003 season strong. He averaged 40.6 points per game for the whole month of february. The lakers came up short this year and lost in the western conference semifinals in six games to the Spurs.
The next season, 2002-2003, Kobe took a tough break and was arrested for sexual assult, which made him miss some games. The Lakers acquired Karl Malone and Gary “The Glove” Payton, hoping for another chance at a fourth NBA title. He had come clutch moments carrying the Lakers to the NBA Finals, but they were upset by the Detroit Pistons who won their first title since 1990. And this was the end of Phil Jackson and the Lakers. Kobe decided to stay with the Lakers and re-signed for seven more years, but Shaq, Odom, Butler, and Grant all left and were traded away.
There was some drama that occurred from the previous season going into the 2003-2004 season as well. Jackson called Kobe “uncoachable” and Rudy Tomjanovich left halfway through the season. It didn’t affect the Black Mamba as he continued to average 27.6 points per game. With Kobe now carrying the Lakers alone, they missed the playoffs for the first time in over 10 years. This was the beginning of a decline of the goat.
Going into the 2004-2005 season Kobe’s image started to decline as well and the Lakers didn’t experience much success. The 2005-2006 season Phil Jackson and Kobe dropped the drama and he returned as the head coach for the Lakers. On December 20th, 2005, Kobe scored 62 points in three quarters and he actually outscored the whole Mavericks team by himself. He lead the Lakers to the playoffs again but didn’t make it out alive.
Going into the historic 2005-2006 season for Kobe, he scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. He holds the second highest number of points scored below Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962. He averaged 35.4 points per game, won the league’s scoring title and also won his first regular season MVP award.
Going into the 2006-2007 season, it was the end of the #8 Kobe. He changed his number from 8 to 24 at the beginning of this season. The Lakers lost early in the playoffs this season.
During the 2007-2008 season, Kobe wasn’t happy with the Lakers front office and said he wanted to be traded if Jerry West didn’t return. He changed his mind after talking to Phil about the decision. He became the youngest player to score 20,000 points at the time, but now Lebron James holds the record. He injured his shooting hand and needed surgery, but he played through the pain. Now with Kobe having some help from Pau Gasol, thez led the Lakers to the playoffs, but took a loss to the Celtics in the Finals. This was the fifth time he led the Lakers to the Finals without the help of Shaq, for those who claim that Shaq made him better.
Going into the 2008-2009 season, he was voted to another All-Star game and earned Co-MVP with the one and only Shaquille O’Neal. He was close to winning another MVP title, but came in second the Lebron James. The Lakers made it once again to the NBA Finals, and he became the first player, since Jerry West (1969), to average 32.4 points and 7.4 assists in a Finals series.The Lakers won their fourth title and Kobe was the Finals MVP.
In the 2009-2010 season, they made the playoffs again, and went to the Finals for a third time consecutively. They came head to head with the Celtics again, but this time came out on top. Kobe earned his fifth title, and his second Finals MVP.
Coming off another championship season, Kobe was chasing MJ and his six NBA titles. He became the youngest to score 27,000 points, and he won his fourth All-Star MVP title. In 2010-2011 season, Phil decided to retire and Mike Brown took over the coaching duties. The Lakers lost early in the Playoffs to OKC.
Going into the 2012-2013 season, the Lakers added Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to the roster. He became the youngest player to score 30,000 points, which is something that only Hall of Famers have accomplished in a career. They struggled to make the playoffs, but clinched the eighth spot in the west. On April 10th, Kobe became the first player ever to have 47 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 3 steals, but unfortunately a couple days later on April 12 he suffered from a torn achilles tendon. After rupturing his achilles, he did the one thing that only Kobe would do, and still shot his free throws while being hurt. The Lakers reached the playoffs, but lost in the first round.
The next season, he signed a two-year contract extension with the Lakers. Kobe was nearing the end of his career but he entered his 19th season with the Lakers for the 2014-2015 season. At 36 years old, he became the oldest player to score 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a game. He passed Jordan on the all-time scoring list with scoring 32,292 points as well. He injured his shoulder in January and under-went surgery missing the rest of the season.
In Kobe’s final year, which was the 2015-2016 season, he played in his last All-Star game. In his last game, he didn’t the unexpected and scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz. The Lakers had another losing season, but Kobe finished his legacy with a boom and became the oldest player to score 60 points in a game being 37 years old.
There is no question on how good Kobe was during his NBA career. He was the next Michael Jordan of basketball. He was a true student of the game, which is one of the reasons why he was so good. He dedicated his life to being the best basketball player he could be and he will never be forgotten.
Rest in peace Kobe!