LOS ANGELES - They say a picture is worth a thousand words and when it comes to the legacy of Kobe Bryant, those pictures spark nostalgia for not only one of the greatest players to don the Purple and Gold, but also as one of the league’s most remarkable worldwide icons.
Aug. 24 (8/24) officially marks Kobe Bryant Day, also known as Mamba Day, in celebration of the two jersey numbers Bryant wore during his 20-year NBA career. All 20 seasons for the 18-time All-Star were spent with the Los Angeles Lakers, playing a crucial role in producing five championships for the franchise.
To celebrate his excellence on and off the court, Kobe Bryant Day was declared by the Los Angeles City Council following his retirement in 2016. In Aug. 2020, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted in favor of declaring Aug. 24 as Kobe Bryant Day for the longtime OC resident. However, the day continues to be celebrated beyond Southern California as his legacy reached admirers worldwide.
Kobe Bryant Day also happens to follow his heavenly birthday. Mr. Bryant would have celebrated his 45th birthday this year.
- Babies born on Kobe Bryant's birthday received Lakers care package from UCLA Health
- Nike releases new Kobe Bryant sneakers on what would have been his 45th birthday
While he is often remembered as being one of the greatest athletes around the globe, the Lakers legend is remembered beyond the world of sports for his "Mamba Mentality."
It’s a mindset many have said not only helped them in high-pressure situations like having a game on the line but has also helped his fans overcome challenging times in their lives or has helped guide them into bettering themselves. With Bryant being the proud father of four daughters, others have used the mentality to become better parents.
To help commemorate the special day, below are just some pictures that tell his story.
Kobe Bryant Becomes a Laker
Can you believe Kobe Bryant was almost a Charlotte Hornet? At just 17 years old and weeks after winning the basketball state championship with his Lower Merion High School teammates, Bryant was the 13th overall pick of the 1996 NBA Draft by Charlotte. Bryant was then traded to Los Angeles in exchange for Vlade Divac.
Jerry West, GM, Kobe Bryant and Head Coach Del Harris (Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)
Capturing the Beginning Stages of a Superstar
It didn't take long for Bryant to make an impression in the league and was named the NBA Rookie of the Year following the 1996-97 season.
In 2001, John W. McDonough took an astonishing aerial view of Bryant in action.
Kobe Bryant in action vs Dallas Mavericks in Los Angeles on Feb. 17, 2001. (Photo by John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Getty Images)
The Kobe and Shaq Era
Coached by Phil Jackson, the Lakers went on to win three consecutive champions between 2000 and 2002. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal are often regarded as one of the best duos in NBA history. The image below shows the dynamic duo following their first championship together when Bryant was 21 years old.
Kobe Bryant holds the Larry O'Brian trophy. (AFP/AFP via Getty Images)
Kobe Switches Jersey Numbers
As his own rebirth, Bryant switched his jersey number from No. 8 to No. 24 ahead of the 2006-07 season.
Kobe Bryant does a layup during game vs Detroit Pistons in Los Angeles in 2006 (Photo by John W. McDonough/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)
Kobe Becomes a Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist
Born for greatness, Bryant shined on the worldwide stage. Bryant won gold medals with Team USA in 2008 and 2012.
USA's Kobe Bryant celebrates with teammates at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 24, 2008. (FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)
The Rebirth of the Showtime Lakers
In 2008, the Lakers acquired big man Pau Gasol in a trade from Memphis. It was a roster move that certainly paid off as the Lakers went on to win back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Perhaps the highlight of the Kobe and Pau Era was witnessing Kobe cement his legacy by winning his 5th NBA Championship in a 7-game series against Boston. The pictures of the purple and gold confetti falling down at Staples Center, also known as "The House Kobe Built," are like a moment frozen in time.
Kobe Bryant victorious after winning championship vs Boston Celtics in Los Angeles on June 17, 2010. (Photo by John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant celebrates after the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Bryant named his four closest teammates as Gasol, Derek Fisher, Caron Butler and Ronnie Turiaf in a 2015 interview.
Kobe Bryant smiles as he holds two NBA Finals Larry O'Brien Championship trophies with teammates Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher on September 25, 2010. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
When fans think of who they consider "the greatest," they often think of who left everything they had on the court every single night and Mamba certainly meets that criteria. Bryant often fought through his injuries to put on a show for the fans and at 37, he made the difficult decision to retire from the NBA.
In his final game, Bryant put on a 60-point spectacular in downtown LA.
Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center on April 13, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Building A Media Empire
In 2013, Bryant founded his own multimedia company called Granity Studios. The company produces various projects including books, podcasts, and films.
In his final interview with FOX 11, Bryant said he used his projects as a way to connect with his daughters.
In 2018, he made history and became the first person to have won both an NBA Championship and an Academy Award. Bryant, along with Glen Keane, won an Oscar for the animated short film, "Dear Basketball."
Filmmaker Kobe Bryant, winner of the Best Animated Short Film award for ‘Dear Basketball’ during the 90th Annual Academy Awards on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
To recap, some of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team member’s accolades include 15-time All-NBA selection, 18 All-Star game appearances, five NBA championships and two Olympic gold medalists.
Following his retirement, Bryant showed a different side of himself as his interviews often focused on being a family man and his most significant life accomplishment as a father.
His daughter, Gigi, was determined to carry on her father’s basketball legacy and aspired to play college hoops at UConn before going to the WNBA. To support her dream, the girl dad continued to move the game forward as an advocate for women’s basketball.
In their last known public appearance, Kobe and Gigi were seen smiling courtside at Staples Center (now the Crypto.com Arena) bonding over the game they loved. In the photo, Kobe Bryant proudly wore an orange hoodie with the WNBA's white silhouette logo printed on it.
Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna Bryant attend a basketball game between the LA Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks on December 29, 2019 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
Every year on Aug. 24, fans can reflect on his legacy and can realign their goals using their version of the "Mamba Mentality" to help make their dreams a reality – just like Kobe did.