|High School:||Lower Merion High School|
|NBA draft:|| 1996, 1st round|
|Pro career:||9 seasons|
|Hall of Fame:|| None|
Kobe Bean Bryant (born August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an All Star shooting guard in the National Basketball Association. He currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers; he is also the son of former Philadelphia 76ers player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant. Although personal issues and criticism have lowered his esteem in the opinions of many, Bryant's uncanny mix of talent, skill, athleticism, and work ethic still inspire most to consider him one of the premier athletes in the game today.
Bryant was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At the age of 6 he, his two sisters, and his parents moved to Italy, where his father began playing professional basketball. While living there, he gradually became accustomed to the lifestyle and subsequently learned to speak the Italian language fluently. In 1994, the Bryants moved back to the United States. After a spectacular high school career in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion, at Lower Merion High School, Bryant achieved national recognition as a prodigal basketball talent. He then scrapped his original plans of continuing on to college by making the leap from high school directly to the NBA, a bold but controversial decision made by the then eighteen-year old. He was originally selected 13th by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft, but they traded him on July 11, 1996 to the Los Angeles Lakers for center Vlade Divac. Though young and somewhat introverted, Bryant's talent made an impression on his teammates on the practice court. Despite his natural talent, Bryant often had trouble relating to teammates away from the basketball court, and he struggled to make friends early in his career.
It was during this time that the 20-year old Bryant first met 16-year old Vanessa Laine on the set of a music video where Laine was working as a background dancer. The two began dating and were engaged six months later. They married on April 18, 2001 in Dana Point, California, while Laine was still a senior at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California. Their daughter Natalia Diamante was born on January 19, 2003. Bryant's parents initially disapproved of the marriage because of the couple's young age, but have since reconciled with Kobe. In November 2004, after Vanessa suffered a miscarriage (due to an ectopic condition) in the spring of 2005, the Bryants announced that they are expecting another child in May 2006.
Bryant's career trajectory as an NBA player out of high school has been nothing short of exceptional. By the age of 24, Bryant had already won many individual accolades, from his annual inclusion in the All-NBA teams and a seven time selection into the NBA All-Star team. Bryant, along with former teammate Shaquille O'Neal, helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers as perennial championship contenders, resulting in three consecutive NBA championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002. The Lakers also ventured to the 2004 Finals against the Detroit Pistons, but lost the series four games to one. Following the loss to the Pistons, Bryant opted out of his contract to test the free agent market. After flirting with the idea of joining several teams, including the Lakers' cross-town rivals the Los Angeles Clippers, he signed a new seven-year deal with the Lakers worth over $136 million on July 15, 2004.
Bryant's image and accomplishments on and off the basketball court made him one of basketball's most popular and marketable players. He became a spokesperson for major corporations such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola. For several years, he had an exclusive apparel and shoe deal with Adidas but is currently under a four-year, $45 million advertising contract with Nike .
Much of Kobe Bryant's meteoric rise to NBA superstardom is attributed to his consummate work ethic. In each of his years in the league, Kobe showed improvement in all areas of his game, from offense to strength to defense. On-court he is a very composed and competitive player with impressive concentration, able to deliver the toughest and clutch shots at the times most needed. These attributes, for the most part, have made him a premier player in the NBA.
On December 20, 2005, Bryant scored a career high 62 points during only three quarters of play in a 112-90 rout of the Dallas Mavericks. His 30 points in the third quarter alone surpassed the Lakers previous franchise record of 24 points in a single quarter. Bryant had outscored the entire Dallas Mavericks team 62-61 by the time he departed at the end of the third quarter. His career night was 9 points shy of Elgin Baylor's franchise record of 71, and may well have broken it had he stepped foot on the court during the fourth quarter.
Controversy and trial
Kobe Bryant is, however, open to a lot of criticism spawning from what critics consider a collection of personality flaws. Detractors have branded Bryant as a selfish, egotistic player who pads his own achievements at the expense of his team. These criticisms came under great discussion following sexual assault allegations stemming from his June 2003 encounter with 19-year old Katelyn Faber in a Vail, Colorado hotel room. Consequently, Bryant's "squeaky-clean" image was tarnished considerably.
Although these charges were eventually dropped in the fall of 2004 and a civil suit that followed was settled, Bryant's tarnished image continued to plummet. His endorsement contracts with McDonald's, Nutella, and Ferrero SpA were terminated. Furthering Bryant's blemished reputation was the public rift through the Laker core of O'Neal, coach Phil Jackson, and him. In well-documented episodes throughout their careers together on the Lakers, mainly over leadership of the team, O'Neal and Bryant have feuded in dramatic fashion. The 2000-era Lakers were built around the dominant center in O'Neal but Bryant seemed to tire of his formal role as "second fiddle" on the team. The two (Bryant and O'Neal) would often launch jarring verbal attacks at each other, including O'Neal's allegations of Bryant as a greedy ball-hog and Bryant's maligning of O'Neal as "fat."
Bryant also clashed with coach Jackson. While offensively efficient in Jackson's "triangle offense," Bryant had a personal distaste for Jackson's brand of ball and subsequently called it "boring." In games, Bryant would often disregard the set offense completely to experiment with his own one-on-one moves, incensing the normally calm Jackson. Bryant managed to test Jackson's patience enough that the "Zen Master" demanded a Bryant trade, although Laker management rejected the request. When Jackson's coaching contract ran out following the 2003-04 season and the Lakers failed to produce a championship despite sporting hall-of-fame caliber players in Karl Malone, Gary Payton, in addition to O'Neal and Bryant, Jackson was not invited back to coach the team. Many fans attributed Jackson's departure directly to Bryant, whom Laker owner Dr. Jerry Buss championed. Buss also seemed determined to facilitate O'Neal's departure from L.A.. Bryant was a free agent and O'Neal had two more years of record-breakingly high pay left on his contract.
For these reasons, many basketball fans have blamed Bryant for the break-up of the Lakers' dynasty after their one-sided 2004 Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons. Shaquille O'Neal was hastily traded to the Miami Heat, resulting in a complete overhaul of the Laker roster, with Kobe Bryant as its centerpiece. Bryant re-signed with the Lakers for the veteran maximum salary after a long flirtation with the Lakers' Staples Center suitemates, the Los Angeles Clippers, but only after Jackson and O'Neal were out of the picture, and it was guaranteed that he no longer had to play "second fiddle" in an offense that didn't use him as the focal point.
Bryant's first chance at the helm of a team would prove to be a very rocky one, however. With his reputation already badly damaged from the proceedings in Colorado, Bryant was closely scrutinized and criticized in the 2004-05 NBA season. The first salvo came from Phil Jackson in the hastily published The Last Season: A Team in Search of its Soul. The book detailed the sordid events of the Lakers' tumultuous 2003–04 season and hurled numerous harsh criticisms of Bryant. Along with other unsavory adjectives, Jackson called Bryant "uncoachable." Then, midway through the season, Rudy Tomjanovich suddenly resigned as Lakers coach, citing the recurrence of health problems and exhaustion (although many speculated that Tomjanovich, a two-time NBA champion coach, had despaired of getting his offense to work with the Lakers' depleted and bickering personnel). Without "Rudy T," stewardship of the remainder of the Lakers' season fell to career assistant coach Frank Hamblen. Despite the fact that Kobe was the league's second leading scorer at 27.6 points per game, the Lakers floundered and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.
"The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame..."
An episode of The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame..., a series that then aired on ESPN2 (now on ESPN Classic), focused on Bryant's alleged role in the demise of the Lakers. Its reasons why Bryant should not be held as the scapegoat...
- 5. Jerry West. After the 2001-02 season, he left the Lakers. O'Neal was quoted in the episode as saying that the tensions between him and Bryant would not have reached the level they had if West had still been there. ESPN2 argued that West was uniquely able to mediate between Shaq and Kobe.
- 4. Gary Payton and Karl Malone. The 2003-04 experiment with the aging superstars clearly did not work. Payton was never able to grasp the triangle offense, and was injured for much of the regular season. He came back for the playoffs, but was mostly ineffective. He also frequently complained about his role on the team. Malone's skills, though lessened by age, were still great enough that he played a major role during most of the season. However, Malone suffered the first major injury of his career near the end of the regular season. He attempted to come back during the Finals, but was a shadow of even his regular-season self. One sportswriter interviewed during the episode stated his belief that if Payton had been injured and Malone healthy during the playoffs, the Lakers may well have won the title.
- 3. Shaquille O'Neal. ESPN2 argued that his desire to be the undisputed team leader led to the tension.
- 2. Phil Jackson. He lost control of his team.
- 1. Jerry Buss. According to ESPN2, Buss was obsessed with re-creating the "Showtime" Lakers of the 1980s, with Kobe in the Magic Johnson role. In order to create such a team, he had to totally revamp his lineup, since many of its players—most notably Shaq—were ill-suited for an up-and-down full-court game.
- Three time NBA champion: 2000, 2001, 2002
- NBA All-Star Game MVP: 2002
- NBA All-Star: 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
- All-NBA First Team: 2002, 2003, 2004
- All-NBA Second Team: 1999, 2000, 2001
- All-NBA Third Team: 1998, 2005
- All-NBA Defensive First Team: 2000, 2003, 2004
- All-NBA Defensive Second Team: 2001, 2002
- NBA Slam Dunk Champion: 1997
- Co-holds NBA record for most made 3-point field goals in one game with 12 versus the Seattle SuperSonics on January 7, 2003.
- Co-holds NBA record for most consecutive made 3-point field goals in one game with 9, and shares the NBA record for most consecutive made 3-point field goals in one half with 8 (both came during the same game as above).
- Youngest player to score 10,000 points in his career (24 years, 193 days), set March 5, 2003, vs. the Indiana Pacers.
- Along with Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain, one of only three players in NBA history to score 40-plus points in 9 consecutive games.
- Scored a career-high 62 points in only 33 minutes of play on December 20, 2005 against the Dallas Mavericks, opting not to play in the 4th quarter.
- Set a Lakers franchise record of most points in a single quarter with 30 points in the 3rd Quarter on December 20, 2005, breaking a record previously jointly held by Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and himself.
- Named the 1996 Naismith High School Player of the Year.
- Led Lower Merion H.S. to a 31-3 record, including 27 straight wins, and the PIAA Class AAAA state title as a senior (1996).
- USA Today and Parade Magazine's 1996 National High School Player of the Year with a seasonal average of 30.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals and 3.9 blocks per game.
- Player profile at NBA.com
- NBA Fantasy Basketball Stats - Kobe Bryant
- Template:Espn nbade:Kobe Bryant