One year later: Celebrating Kobe Bryant's career highlights
LOS ANGELES - A year after the world lost one of the biggest sports icons in history, the legacy of Kobe Bryant continues to live on through generations of athletes, the city of Los Angeles, philanthropy, literature and beyond. To celebrate his life, we are looking back on some of his biggest moments.
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1996: Kobe Bryant enters the NBA draft
Before entering the NBA draft, Kobe Bryant led Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania to the school's first state title in 50 years and was named the Naismith Prep Player of the Year.
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It’s hard to imagine Kobe Bryant playing for another NBA team, but the iconic NBA star who spent 20 years wearing purple and gold was first drafted by the Charlotte Hornets who then traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac.
At just 17-years-old, he was drafted in the first round and as the 13th overall pick. The 1996 NBA draft class was elite and included Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, and Jermaine O'Neal.
Jerry West, GM, Kobe Bryant and Head Coach Del Harris (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)
Even as a teenager, it was apparent Bryant was destined for greatness. According to the New York Times, he signed an endorsement deal with Adidas a month before even entering the draft.
1997: An outstanding rookie season
Bryant wasted no time making a name for himself in the NBA. As a rookie, Bryant won the NBA Slam Dunk contest and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
1998: NBA All-Star game debut
During his sophomore season, Mr. Bryant made his debut NBA All-Star game appearance. Bryant, along with fellow NBA greats Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and Karl Malone were starters for the Western Conference team at the event held at Madison Square Garden.
2000: Kobe Bryant wins his first NBA championship title
At 22-years-old, while most of Bryant's high school peers were graduating college, Bryant won his first NBA championship title.
The Lakers won the NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers in six games. Often named one of the best NBA duos in history, Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were teammates from 1996-2004.
Bryant made his second NBA All-Star Game appearance and was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.
2001: Bryant, Lakers continue to dominate
The Lakers were unstoppable. Kobe and Shaq brought back the NBA Finals Championship trophy to Los Angeles for the second year in a row.
Allen Iverson gave everything he had, but the Lakers were too ferocious and swept the Philadelphia 76ers.
2002: The Lakers three-peat
Bryant was consistently relentless on the court throughout his career, but the 2002 season was one of Bryant's best. Not only did he win his third NBA championship, but he was also the NBA All-Star Game MVP.
The Lakers swept the New Jersey Nets in the NBA Finals during the 2001-02 season.
2003: Black Mamba is born
Determined to separate his professional and personal life, Bryant gave himself the nickname "Black Mamba," inspired by watching Quentin Tarantino’s "Kill Bill."
"There’s a difference between who you are and what you are. What I am when I step on that court is… I become that. I am that killer snake and I’m stone cold," he said during "Kobe: The Interview."
The NBA superstar was named All-NBA First Team, NBA All-Defensive First Team, and made his fifth NBA All-Star Game appearance.
He also opted to break his contract with Adidas and signed with Nike.
2006: Bryant switches jersey numbers
After the LA icon made the switch from No. 8 to No. 24 and in 2006, Bryant had one of the greatest performances in NBA history.
On January 22, he scored a historic 81 points in the Lakers 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors.
Bryant, who averaged 35.4 points per game, was the NBA scoring champion during the 2005-06 season. He also won the honor in 2007.
2007: Shining bright amongst the stars
For the second time, Bryant was named NBA All-Star Game MVP.
2008: MVP and Olympic honors
In his 20-year NBA career, 2008 is often considered Bryant's best season. He was named the NBA MVP for the 2007-08 season over Chris Paul, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard.
Not only did he have a stellar season, but he also became an Olympic gold medalist at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
2009: Black Mamba in full force
"Black Mamba" was in full force in 2009 and is also in contention as Bryant's best season.
He scored 61 points against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 2.
Using his Mamba Mentality, Bryant shared the NBA All-Star Game MVP with Shaq who was playing for the Phoenix Suns. Bryant was also named the NBA Finals MVP.
In the 4-1 series, the Lakers won the NBA Finals against the Orlando Magic.
2010: Another spectacular season
Bryant won his fifth NBA Finals Championship and was named Finals MVP.
The Los Angeles Lakers were victorious over the Boston Celtics in an intense seven-game series.
2012: Bryant earns his second Olympic gold medal
The USA Olympic men's basketball team was loaded with talent. The roster included Bryant, along with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Tyson Chandler, and Anthony Davis.
The Olympic squad won the gold at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
The USA's Kobe Bryant and teammates during the national anthem at the Men's Basketball Final between USA and Spain at the North Greenwich Arena during the London 2012 Olympic games. London, UK. 12th August 2012. (Photo: Steve Christo) (Photo by Steve
2016: Sealing his NBA legacy with a dynamic season
Bryant's final All-Star game was one to remember with his second oldest daughter, Gianna, by his side. Bursting with confidence, it was apparent his daughter shared his love for the game.
On April 13, Bryant's final performance in a Lakers uniform was unforgettable as he orchestrated a 60-point extravaganza in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center.
Overwhelmed by his emotions, Bryant played it cool like he was known to do when he made his famous "Mamba Out" speech during a post-game ceremony dedicated to him.
2018: Making history in Hollywood
Produced by his own multimedia company, Bryant wrote "Dear Basketball," which won an Academy Award in 2018. Bryant is the only person in history to win an NBA championship and Academy Award.
To review, some of Kobe's accolades include 2 Olympic gold medals, 18 NBA All-Star game appearances, 5 NBA Finals Championship rings, 2 NBA Finals MVPs, and an NBA MVP.
A new era: 2019 - present
Bryant's legacy continues to live on through sports, entertainment and so much more. He was an advocate for women's sports and helped provide opportunities for youth in under-resourced communities.
His multimedia company, Granity Studios, continues to operate under his Mamba Mentality. His podcast "The Punies," is available for listening. In his final interview with FOX 11's Liz Habib, he said he created the podcast to bond with his children.
His novel "Geese Are Never Swans," which addresses the mental health issues athletes often face, was posthumously released on July 21, 2020.
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His sixth novel EPOCA: The River of Sand was released on December 15, 2020.
The Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation, renamed shortly after the passing of Kobe and Gianna Bryant, keeps their legacy alive. The nonprofit organization works to contribute to charitable endeavors in sports.
Bryant gave his all and poured his heart and soul into everything he did to make a difference. Though he is gone, he is not forgotten and his legacy will live on.
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