Kobe Bryant was a dominant athlete on the court and was the closest player to Michael Jordan in his era when he played 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In debates over the greatest NBA player of all time, it's likely Bryant's name always will come up alongside Jordan, LeBron James and Magic Johnson, among others.
Bryant was selected in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets. He was chosen out of Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania and was selected after players like Kerry Kittles, Vitaly Potapenko, Todd Fuller and Erick Dampier, to name a few. He then was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers before the start of the season for Vlade Divac.
He played with a chip on his shoulder and that drive to be the best overtook his entire career.
Bryant won five NBA championships – only second to Jordan in that regard. He won three straight with Shaquille O’Neal in a Lakers dynasty that spanned several seasons. Toward the latter half of his career, Bryant won two more with Pau Gasol. In 2009 and 2010, he was the NBA Finals MVP.
Bryant won one MVP award in 2008. He averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists that year. However, they would fall short in the NBA Finals, losing to the Boston Celtics in six games.
“Mamba” had plenty more accolades to his resume.
- 18-time NBA All-Star
- 4-time NBA All-Star Game MVP
- 11-time All-NBA First Team
- 2-time All-NBA Second Team
- 2-time All-NBA Third Team
- 9-time NBA All-Defensive First Team
3-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team
- 2-time NBA scoring champion
- NBA Slam Dunk champion
- NBA All-Rookie Second Team
- Los Angeles Lakers’ all-time leading scorer
- Naismith Prep Player of the Year
He also won two gold medals with Team USA – in 2008 and 2012. As his career was over, he won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film for “Dear Basketball.”
Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash in California. He was 41.