Kobe Bryant was born on August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents named him after the famous beef of Kobe, Japan. Kobe’s father, Joe Bryant, was a former NBA player who spent 8 years in the league. Due to his father’s career, Kobe spent part of his childhood in Italy where he learned to speak Italian fluently.
- Kobe started playing basketball when he was 3 years old and his family was still living in Philadelphia.
- He quickly fell in love with the sport and would spend hours practicing his moves and shots.
When Kobe was 6 years old in 1984, his father retired from the NBA and moved the family to Rieti, Italy to continue playing professionally. This gave Kobe an international upbringing. (H4)
- Kobe played soccer and basketball in Italy but continued to improve his basketball skills by studying NBA games on videotape.
- He especially admired players like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Julius Erving.
At age 13 in 1991, Kobe and his family moved back to Philadelphia where he enrolled in Lower Merion High School.
- Led his high school team to a 77-13 record over 4 years
- Named Naismith High School Player of the Year in 1996
- Graduated high school in 1996
Kobe Bryant declared for the 1996 NBA draft straight out of high school. He was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick but was then immediately traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. (H3)
- Became first guard to ever be drafted straight into the NBA from high school
- Won the 1997 NBA Slam Dunk Contest at age 18
- Became a full-time starter for the Lakers during his 2nd NBA season
- Formed dynamic duo with center Shaquille O’Neal, winning 3 straight NBA titles from 2000-2002
MVP Season and First Finals MVP
The Lakers failed to win another championship after 2002 as tensions rose between Kobe and Shaq. This resulted in the Lakers trading Shaq to Miami in 2004. (H3)
Now the undisputed leader of the Lakers, Kobe stepped up by having by far his best individual season in 2005-06:
- Averaged career-high 35.4 points per game
- Scored 81 points in one game vs. Toronto Raptors, 2nd most in NBA history
- Won scoring title by averaging 43.4 points per game in January 2006
- Led NBA with 27 40+ point games
- Won the MVP award, finishing with the highest point total in MVP voting since 2000 (Shaq)
Kobe then led the Lakers back to the Finals in 2008, winning his first NBA Finals MVP award.
In 2008, the Lakers acquired all-star big man Pau Gasol in a trade from the Memphis Grizzlies. Gasol gave Kobe the elite sidekick he needed to get the Lakers over the hump. (H3)
The two led the Lakers to 3 straight NBA Finals appearances from 2008-2010. The results:
- 2008-09: Kobe wins first title without Shaq, destroying Orlando in Finals
- 2009-10: Kobe wins consecutive Finals MVPs with epic Game 7 win vs. Celtics
- 5 championships ties Kobe with Magic Johnson for most titles as a Laker
Kobe continued to perform at a high level in his mid-30s, earning two more All-NBA selections. However, a series of injures began taking their toll. He played just 6 games in 2013-14 and then 35 games in 2014-15 before retiring. (H3)
In his final game on April 13, 2016, Kobe scored 60 points leading the Lakers past the Utah Jazz.
He ended his legendary 20 year NBA career with the following achievements:
- 25.0 points per game average (4th all-time)
- 33,643 total points (4th all-time)
- 18 All-Star selections (tied most ever)
- 11 1st team All-NBA selections (tied most ever)
- 5 championships with 2 Finals MVPs
- 2 time scoring champion
- 2008 Most Valuable Player
Kobe Bryant’s Legacy and Death (H2)
Kobe was known first and foremost for his intense competitive spirit and work ethic, which led to him being called the “Black Mamba.” (H3) Some examples:
- Would practice for hours and hours before and after team practices
- Played through multiple injuries like a torn rotator cuff and broken fingers
- At age 34, he ruptured his Achilles yet still managed to shoot 2 free throws before leaving the arena
- Came back from potentially career-ending injuries to average 27 points at age 36
This legendary competitiveness and “Mamba Mentality” made Kobe one of the most feared yet respected players in NBA history.
Life After Retirement and Death
After his playing career ended in 2016, Kobe found success in new pursuits like business and creative arts. He also spent more time coaching his daughter Gianna who had become a promising young basketball player. (H3)
- Won an Oscar in 2018 for Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball” which he wrote and narrated
- Started Kobe Inc. business venture in 2016 along with an investment firm
- Began coaching Gianna’s AAU basketball team
- Gianna dreamed about one day playing for UConn women’s basketball
However, tragedy struck on January 26, 2020 when Kobe and Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash along with 7 others while traveling to one of Gianna’s basketball games. Kobe was 41 years old and Gianna was only 13.
Their shocking deaths devastated fans worldwide who grieved the loss of one of basketball’s greatest players and fathers. Over 20,000 fans attended a memorial service at the Staples Center celebrating Kobe and Gianna’s lives.
Kobe’s wife Vanessa and three surviving daughters have worked to continue his legacy through the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation and media projects like books and documentaries.
Kobe Bryant’s Ranking Among All-Time Greats
Kobe put up historic offensive numbers during the regular season that make him one of the most dominant scorers ever.
Some notable achievements:
- 4th all-time in points scored (33,643) behind only Kareem, Malone and LeBron
- 25.0 PPG career average, 6th best ever behind Jordan, Wilt, Elgin Baylor, LeBron and West
- 2x NBA scoring champion (2006, 2007)
- 18x All-Star selection (tied most ever with Kareem)
- 15x All-NBA selection (tied most ever with Duncan, LeBron)
- 11x All-NBA First Team (3rd most behind Kareem and LeBron)
- 2x All Star Game MVP
- 2008 Most Valuable Player
By any measure, Kobe’s 20 year body of work puts him among the most outstanding regular season performers ever.
However, what truly made Kobe an all-time great was his ability to raise his play come playoff time. His postseason feats include: (H3)
- 5 NBA championships
- 2 Finals MVP awards
- 4 1st-Team All-NBA selections
- 18 consecutive playoffs appearances
- 220 total playoff games played, most ever
- 33.1 PPG per 100 playoff possessions, highest ever
Kobe lived for championship basketball in a way few players can match. His blend of regular season and postseason brilliance cement him firmly among the NBA’s upper pantheon of superstars.
Most modern analysts and former players now rank Kobe Bryant somewhere between 8th to 11th on the list of the greatest NBA players ever. Players typically ranked ahead of Kobe include (in varying order):
- Michael Jordan
- LeBron James
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Bill Russell
- Wilt Chamberlain
- Magic Johnson
- Larry Bird
- Tim Duncan
Kobe directly trails the top 3 consensus players in Jordan, LeBron and Kareem. His career achievements surpass the likes Russell and Chamberlain who played in less competitive eras. And his 5 championships and scoring prowess give him an edge over fellow greats Johnson, Bird and Duncan.
In terms of peak dominance, only Jordan can claim to have reached higher levels than Kobe in his early/mid 2000s stretch. But LeBron ultimately compiled more MVPs and Finals appearances across a longer stretch of consistent excellence.
So in the eyes of most experts, Kobe slots in as the NBA’s 9th or 10th best player ever, with a strong case to be made for 8th. And by any measure, that puts him comfortably among the top 10 greatest players to ever grace the hardwood.
Kobe Bryant lived one of the most accomplished and captivating careers in sports history. His legendary “Mamba Mentality” of obsessive competitiveness spearheaded 5 NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.
While his life was sadly cut short, Kobe’s immense popularity and impact on basketball will live on for generations. The images of his fadeaway jumpers, tenacious defense and triumphant fist pumps have been etched into NBA lore forever.
What number was Kobe Bryant?
Kobe wore number 8 from 1996 to 2006 and then number 24 from 2006 until he retired in 2016. Both numbers have been retired by the Lakers franchise.
How many points did Kobe score in his 81 point game?
On January 22, 2006, Kobe exploded for 81 points in a 122-104 win over the Toronto Raptors. This stands as the 2nd highest single game point total in NBA history behind only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point outburst.
How many championships did Shaq and Kobe win together?
Kobe teamed up with center Shaquille O’Neal to lead the Lakers to three straight NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. Their dominance gave Kobe the first three of his eventual five rings.
How much were Kobe’s career earnings?
According to Basketball Reference, Kobe earned around $328 million in total salary over his 20 year NBA career before taxes and fees. His career earnings trail only Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kevin Durant.
What number does LeBron wear for Kobe?
LeBron James wears number 23 for the Los Angeles Lakers. But when Nike started producing LeBron’s shoes, he chose number 6 to pay homage to Kobe’s sneaker line. Kobe wore number 8 (24 upside down) early in his career when LeBron was coming up.
So in basketball, business and culture, Kobe Bryant’s “Mamba Mentality” legacy persists in those he inspired to be better.