Dunks, Game Winners, and Crazy Moves! It’s Kobe Bryant’s Top 40 Plays!
Kobe Bean Bryant (/ˈkoʊbiː/ KOH-bee; August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020) was an American professional basketball player. A shooting guard, Bryant entered the National Basketball Association (NBA) directly from high school, and played his entire 20-season professional career in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, was named the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), and was a two-time NBA Finals MVP winner. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, he led the NBA in scoring during two seasons, ranks fourth on the league’s all-time regular season scoring, and ranks fourth on the all-time postseason scoring list.
Bryant was the son of former NBA player Joe Bryant. He attended Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, where he was recognized as the top high-school basketball player in the country. Upon graduation, he declared for the 1996 NBA draft and was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick; the Hornets then traded him to the Lakers. As a rookie, Bryant earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest, and he was named an All-Star by his second season. Despite a feud with teammate Shaquille O’Neal, the pair led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexual assault by a 19-year-old hotel clerk. Criminal charges were brought and then dropped after the accuser refused to testify. A civil suit was later settled out of court. Bryant denied the assault charge but admitted to a sexual encounter. He subsequently issued a public apology, but the allegations were considered to have harmed his public profile and led to the loss of several sponsorships.
After the Lakers lost the 2004 NBA Finals, O’Neal was traded and Bryant became the cornerstone of the Lakers. He led the NBA in scoring during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons. In 2006, he scored a career-high 81 points; the second most points scored in a single game in league history, behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962. Bryant led the team to two consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010, and was named NBA Finals MVP on both occasions. He continued to be among the top players in the league through 2013, when he suffered a torn Achilles tendon at age 34. Although he recovered from that injury, he suffered season-ending injuries to his knee and shoulder, respectively, in the following two seasons. Citing his physical decline, Bryant retired after the 2015–16 season.
At 34 years and 104 days of age, Bryant became the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points. He became the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history on February 1, 2010, surpassing Jerry West. Bryant was also the first guard in NBA history to play at least 20 seasons. His 18 All-Star designations are the second most all time, while it is the record for most consecutive appearances as a starter. Bryant’s four All-Star MVP Awards are tied with Bob Pettit for the most in NBA history. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won two gold medals as a member of the U.S. national team. In 2018, he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his 2017 film Dear Basketball.
Bryant died on January 26, 2020, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, and college baseball coach John Altobelli, were also killed.