On Wednesday, April 13th, 2016 Kobe Bryant will play his last game as an L.A. Laker and NBA superstar. Love him or hate him, Kobe has been one of the most dominant players in the NBA with a career spanning 20 years – all of which with the same franchise.
Father time hasn’t been that generous to Bryant the last couple years, however, there’s been a flash of some vintage Kobe in the recent weeks as he wraps up his ‘Farewell Kobe Bryant’ tour of his 2015-2016 season.
Kobe was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and garnered national attention when he started all 4 seasons for the varsity basketball team at Lower Merion High School. Declining offers to play for Duke, North Carolina and Michigan, Bryant declared himself for the 1996 NBA Draft.
Bryant was 17 years old when he was drafted in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets who agreed to send his draft rights to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac. It wasn’t until his second year as a Laker that Kobe began to breakout. He was voted sixth man of the year, and was the youngest player ever to start an NBA All-Star Game. Kobe’s career would take shape in the 1999 season when Phil Jackson became his head coach. He would go on to win 3 Championships with Phil Jackson, 2 of which were with Shaq, and a total of 5 NBA Rings after winning back-to-back Championships in 2009 and 2010.
Kobe is a 2x NBA Finals MVP, the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player and an 18x NBA All-Star. He is 3rd all time in points scored (33,243) and 3rd in field goal attempts (25,838 – no shocker there). He holds NBA records for most seasons played for a single NBA franchise and is the only player in NBA history with more than 30,000 points, 6,000 assists and 6,000 rebounds. Ther’s a whole other list of accolades you could google rather than make this into a highlight piece.
One such notable highlight is that Kobe scored the second most points in a game in NBA history. On January 22nd, 2006, Bryant put up 81 points vs the Toronto Raptors in front of his home crowd at the Staples Center.
Kobe scores 81 points in a single game:
Kobe Bryant the Rapper?
Kobe signed a rap deal with Sony Entertainment in the late 90’s with his group “CHEIZAW,” although short lived as the label ultimately pushed for a solo career that saw the release of a 12″ single. “K.O.B.E.” was released in 1999 and featured vocals from Tyra Banks. The b-side “Thug Poet” featured a then relatively unknown 50 Cent and Broady Boy as they spit bars over a trackmaster produced track and Nas sample. Plans for the debut album “Visions” were scrapped when the lead single ‘K.O.B.E’ failed to reach any type of success. Bryant started a label of his own, Heads High Entertainment, that folded within a year. Even his strong Philly roots couldn’t help Kobe become a hip-hop artist, but hey, has there ever been an NBA player that’s had success on the mic? Would Shaq be considered the most successful NBA/rapper?
There’s no doubt that Kobe Bryant will go down as one of the greatest players in NBA history. We can argue over whether he is one of the Top 5. He is mentioned as the “Jordan of our time” by his peers such as Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade.
Kobe is without a doubt one of the most clutch players to ever step foot on the court. When the Lakers were down, you knew that with Kobe on the court there was always a chance of not only a comeback, but the chance of a last second shot to put them on top.
As a Celtics fan, there is nothing more gratifying than knowing we will never have to face Kobe Bryant again. EVER. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you would always know there’d be a high level of competition when playing vs Kobe.
His records may be broken, but his impact and storied past will certainly remain apart of the NBA for generations to come.
Farewell Kobe Bryant.
[UPDATE: Kobe scored 60 points in his last game in the NBA at the Staples Center vs the Utah Jazz]