Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash Sunday in California at age 41, might be remembered as one in every of basketball’s all-time greats.
His staggering profession spanned 20 years and was spent solely with the Lakers. Amongst his accomplishments have been 5 NBA championships, 18 All-Star appearances, All-NBA First Crew honors on 11 events and 9 All-Defensive First Crew alternatives.
REACTIONS: Sports activities world pays tribute to Bryant
The self-styled “Black Mamba” grew to become the primary guard to be drafted straight out of highschool when he went 13th general to the Hornets within the 1996 NBA Draft. The Lakers despatched middle Vlade Divac to the Hornets for his draft rights.
Whereas he spent most of his first season enjoying restricted minutes off the bench, he displayed the famous person expertise that may go on to transcend the sport when, at 18, he grew to become the youngest participant to win the Slam Dunk Contest on the 1997 All-Star weekend.
It didn’t take lengthy for comparisons to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to emerge in his breakout season of 1998-99, when Bryant began all 50 video games in a season shortened on account of a lockout and earned a six-year contract extension price $70 million.
It was a call that shortly paid dividends because the Lakers established one of many league’s biggest dynasties, profitable the title in every of the following three campaigns with Bryant forming a formidable partnership alongside dominant middle Shaquille O’Neal.
Their relationship was fractious — Bryant’s hard-working philosophy and insatiable want for enchancment, the “Mamba Mentality.” typically at odds with what he perceived to be a much less skilled strategy from O’Neal. Their chemistry on the ground, nevertheless, was plain because the Lakers gained the NBA Finals in 2000, 2001 and 2002, solely the fifth three-peat in league historical past.
Bryant and O’Neal parted methods after the 2004 NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons, and the next 12 months the Lakers missed the playoffs for the primary time in 11 seasons. A optimistic response to adversity is the hallmark of a champion, and Bryant was seemingly spurred onto higher heights by that setback.
Within the 2005-06 marketing campaign, Bryant averaged a league-high 35.Four factors per recreation in the course of the common season — he scored a career-high 81 factors in a 122-104 victory in opposition to the Toronto Raptors in January 2006, an iconic efficiency with a tally that solely Wilt Chamberlain has bettered.
His wait for one more ring continued, nevertheless with upset losses to the Phoenix Suns within the first spherical of the postseason in 2006 and 2007. Once more, Bryant stepped up his stage in response and was named NBA MVP because the Lakers returned to the Finals in 2008, however they went down Four-2 to the Boston Celtics.
There was quickly purpose for celebration as Bryant led the USA to gold on the Beijing Olympics in 2008 — one thing he did once more in London 4 years later — and his look forward to a fourth ring was over when the Lakers overcame the Orlando Magic within the 2009 Finals after a formidable 65-17 report within the common season.
The Lakers rallied from Three-2 down within the following 12 months’s Finals to triumph in Sport 7, however the franchise slumped into obscurity following the departure of head coach Phil Jackson.
A torn Achilles ended Bryant’s season in April 2013 and accidents quickly grew to become a persistent downside for him, however at 35 he earned a two-year, $48 million extension that ensured he remained the league’s best-paid participant.
He mentioned goodbye to the NBA in 2016 in usually distinguished style — a 61-point recreation in opposition to the Utah Jazz within the season finale on April 13. Bryant was honored by the Lakers along with his Nos. eight and 24 jerseys being retired to the rafters at Staples Heart.
Bryant’s last recreation was a becoming farewell and a testomony to the perseverance and dedication that rightfully earned him the standing of a legend and big of the game.