Kobe Bryant was an American professional basketball player. As a shooting guard, Bryant entered the National Basketball Association directly from high school, and played his entire 20-season professional career in the league with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant won many accolades: five NBA championships, 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), 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 all-time postseason scoring lists.
- Full name: Kobe Bean Bryant
- Profession: Basketball player
- Born: 23 August 1978, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
- Died: 26 January 2020, Calabasas, California, United States
- Height: 1.98 m
- Spouse: Vanessa Laine Bryant (m. 2001–2020)
- Buried: 7 February 2020, Pacific View Memorial Park & Mortuary, Newport Beach, California, United States
- Children: Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, Natalia Diamante Bryant, Bianka Bella Bryant, Capri Kobe Bryant
About Kobe Bryant
Bryant was born on 23 August 1978 in Philadelphia, United States. The youngest of three children and only son of former NBA player Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant.
He was also the maternal nephew of NBA player John “Chubby” Cox. His parents named him after the famous beef of Kobe, Japan, which they saw on a restaurant menu.
His middle name, Bean, was derived from his father’s nickname “Jellybean.” Bryant’s family was Catholic and he had always practiced his faith.
Bryant started playing basketball when he was aged three, and the Lakers were his favourite team when he was growing up.
When Bryant was six, his father retired from the NBA and moved his family to Rieti in Italy to continue playing professional basketball at a lower level.
After two years, they moved first to Reggio Calabria, then to Pistoia and Reggio Emilia. Kobe became accustomed to his new lifestyle and learned to speak fluent Italian.
He was especially fond of Reggio Emilia, which he considered a loving place and where some of his best childhood memories were made.
Bryant began to play basketball seriously while living in Reggio Emilia. Bryant’s grandfather would mail him videos of NBA games for Bryant to study.
Another source of inspiration was animated European films about sports, from which he learned more about basketball.
He also learned to play soccer and his favourite soccer team was A.C. Milan. During summers, Bryant would come back to the United States to play in a basketball summer league.
When Bryant was thirteen, he and his family moved back to Philadelphia, where he enrolled in eighth grade at Bala Cywynd Middle School.
Bryant earned national recognition during a spectacular high school career at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, located in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion.
He played on the varsity basketball team as a freshman. Bryant became the first freshman in decades to start for Lower Merion’s varsity team, but the team finished with a 4–20 record.
The following three years, the Aces compiled a 77–13 record, with Bryant playing all five positions. During his junior year, he averaged 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 3.8 blocks and 2.3 steals and was named Pennsylvania Player of the Year while also earning a fourth-team Parade All-American nomination, attracting attention from college recruiters in the process.
Duke, Michigan, North Carolina and Villanova were at the top of his list. However, after high schooler Kevin Garnett went in the first round of the 1995 NBA draft, Bryant also began contemplating going directly to the pros.
At Adidas ABCD Camp, Bryant earned the 1995 senior MVP award while playing alongside future NBA teammate Lamar Odom.
While in high school, then 76ers coach John Lucas invited Bryant to work out and scrimmage with the team, where he played one-on-one with Jerry Stackhouse.
In his senior year of high school, Bryant led the Aces to their first state championship in 53 years. During the run, he averaged 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4 steals, and 3.8 blocked shots in leading the Aces to a 31–3 record.
Bryant ended his high school career as Southeastern Pennsylvania’s all-time leading scorer at 2,883 points, surpassing both Wilt Chamberlain and Lionel Simmons.
Bryant received several awards for his outstanding performance during his senior year at Lower Merion.
These included being named Naismith High School Player of the Year, Gatorade Men’s National Basketball Player of the Year, a McDonald’s All-American, a first-team Parade All-American and a USA Today All-USA First Team player.
Bryant’s varsity coach, Greg Downer, commented that he was “a complete player who dominates” and praised his work ethic, even as the team’s top player.
In 1996, Bryant took R&B singer Brandy to his senior prom. Ultimately, the 17-year-old Bryant made the decision to go directly into the NBA, becoming only the sixth player in NBA history to do so.
Bryant’s news was met with a lot of publicity at a time when prep-to-pro NBA players were not very common (Garnett being the only exception in 20 years).
His basketball skills and SAT score of 1080 would have ensured admission to any college he chose, but he did not officially visit any campuses. In 2012, Bryant was honoured as one of the 35 Greatest McDonald’s All-Americans.
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 favourite 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, with a civil suit later settled out of court. Bryant denied the assault charge but admitted to a sexual encounter and issued a public apology.
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. He gave himself the nickname “Black Mamba” in the mid-2000s, and the epithet became widely adopted by the general public.
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 at age 41, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, United States.