Over the course of Kobe Bryant’s legendary career, he has had many ups and downs. After an amazing career at Lower Merion High School, Kobe became the 13th overall draft pick and the most successful player in league history who went straight to the NBA from high school. In addition to the glory of winning five NBA titles, Kobe has also experienced humbling moments that may have deterred less determined athletes from achieving future success.
Kobe is undeniably one of the greatest athletes of his generation. From the beginning, he was in competition with Allen Iverson, who he overtook after defeating the 76ers in the NBA Finals. From there, the comparisons escalated to the historic context, where the competition is with legends like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and his fellow Lakers legends like Magic and Kareem. While some may consider him to still be quite some distance behind, he has firmly planted himself as one of the ten greatest players in the sport’s history.
However, this article is not dedicated to the monumental achievements that Kobe has accomplished in his career. Instead, it will focus on the moments during which Kobe faltered and was put through the wringer of media hysteria. In hindsight, some of these moments were overblown and simply a superstar not acting at his best, while other incidents were serious enough to warrant official investigations and even legal action. Here are the 15 moments Kobe would like us to forget.
15. Kobe Buys the “Make Up” Ring
In the wake of the scandal surrounding Kobe’s sexual assault charges stemming from an encounter with 19-year-old resort employee, Vanessa Bryant acquired some new jewelry. The 8-carat purple diamond ring was impossible to miss and the $4 million price tag was only part of the reason. Kobe and Vanessa picked up the ring only three days after Eagle County, Colorado prosecutors announced that he would be facing sexual assault charges. Despite the media circus surrounding the allegations, Kobe and Vanessa left the store holding hands and appeared together to fight the charges.
14. Kobe Runs Dwight out of LA
Dwight Howard joined the Los Angeles Lakers following some intervention from the NBA, which prevented a trade for Chris Paul from being finalized. The Lakers sought to recreate some of the magic they previously had with the combination of Shaq and Kobe. Unfortunately, Dwight had a completely different mental build that was severely affected by some of Kobe’s domineering qualities in the locker room. Despite leading the league in rebounding and finishing second in field goal percentage in his one LA season, Dwight left when he hit free agency the following summer.
13. Shaq Wins Title in Miami
The rivalry between former teammate Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe was one of the defining relationships in the National Basketball League for over a decade. When Shaq finally had enough of Los Angeles, he set his sights across the country and joined the Miami Heat. In Miami, Shaq forged a great working relationship with Dwyane Wade and the duo found success faster than Kobe was able to rebuild with the Lakers. When Shaq and Wade won the NBA Title in 2006, it briefly satisfied the Shaq supporters before Kobe was able to overtake him a few seasons later.
12. Chris Childs’ 1-2 Combo
In April 2000, during a tightly contested matchup of the Lakers and New York Knicks, tempers flared between Kobe and Chris Childs. After the two exchanged some physical defense, Childs lost his temper when Kobe caught him high with an elbow. Childs took matters into his own hands and delivered a 1-2 combination that he admits weren’t thrown at full speed. The pair was quickly separated by officials and teammates and both players were ejected for their troubles. They both received suspensions and it was a moment both players would like to forget.
11. Kobe’s Torn Achilles
Late in the 4th quarter of an April 2013 battle between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors, Kobe was trying to drive to the hole to tie the game at 109. Suddenly, the Black Mamba rolled up on the ground and grabbed his left ankle. It was immediately apparent that the injury was serious and Kobe was noticeably having trouble walking. That did not stop Kobe from sinking both of the ensuing free throws to tie the game before his team fouled to allow a substitution. The Lakers would go on to win the game, but Kobe would not return until December.
10. Kobe Phones in 4th Quarter of Game 7
Down by 21 points in the 4th quarter of Game 7 of their first round Western Conference Playoff series against the Phoenix Suns, Kobe Bryant had enough. After pulling off miracle shots in Game 4 to force overtime and the eventual game winner, the Lakers clawed to a 3-1 series lead. Kobe had dropped 50 in the previous game, but took only 16 shots in the final game of the series with only three of those coming in the 2nd half. The Lakers would go on to lose by 31 and rumors began circulating that Kobe was a quitter.
9. Vanessa Files for Divorce
Celebrity relationships are the carnival sideshows of the social media age. They are heavily scrutinized and few more so than the marriage of Kobe and Vanessa Bryant. Their relationship survived the media frenzy of his five championships and sexual assault allegations. It came as a shock to many in December 2011, when Vanessa filed for divorce and hired heavy hitters Laura Wasser and Samantha Klein to represent her. After two years of divorce proceedings, the couple announced their reconciliation on Facebook and Instagram and remain together today.
8. Phil Calls Kobe Uncoachable
Phil Jackson is probably the greatest coach in the history of the NBA. He forged Michael Jordan into a superstar and helped Kobe elevate his game to the highest level. His influence helped Kobe win all five of the Lakers’ NBA titles, but last summer discussed how untenable their situation in Los Angeles was. Jackson mentioned in his book The Last Season and in an interview with GQ that Kobe was uncoachable and that often he could feel the hatred Kobe felt toward him. In spite of their differences, this fractured relationship influenced the NBA’s best team during an entire decade of basketball.
7. Pistons Crush Lakers in Five Games
The Lakers went into the 2004 NBA Finals as the heavy favorite over the Detroit Pistons. Boasting four future Hall of Famers on their roster, the Lakers were stunned by the Pistons in Game 1 and were never able to recover. After an overtime win in Game 2, the Pistons defense began suffocating the Lakers holding them to 68, 80, and 87 points in the final three games of the series. Kobe had a lackluster 38.1% field goal rate, and the series loss resulted in the resignation of Phil Jackson and the trade of Shaquille O’Neal to Miami.
6. Shaq and Phil Leave LA
On the heels of their embarrassing loss to the Detroit Pistons where they were thoroughly dominated, the Los Angeles Lakers were forced to make some changes. Phil Jackson resigned suddenly in the wake of the defeat and the Lakers were forced to make a decision to trade one of their superstars. Shaquille O’Neal was shipped off to Miami, which left Kobe to lead the remnants of the franchise. All would eventually find their way back to the NBA Finals, but who knows what could have been achieved if these three could have worked out their differences.
5. Kobe Destroys Andrew Bynum
Andrew Bynum was expected by many to be an NBA superstar for years to come. He won two NBA Championships early in his career with the Lakers after starting it as the youngest player to ever play in the league. However, Bynum was never able to fully blossom into a superstar and many cite Kobe Bryant as the reason. Kobe has publicly criticized Bynum on several occasions, but his 2007 criticism of the Lakers refusing to include Bynum in a trade for Jason Kidd started their relationship off on the wrong foot. It only got worse for Bynum from there, who seems to have settled into early retirement.
4. Kobe Shouts Gay Slur at Referee
Throughout his career, Kobe hasn’t always been able to keep his cool in stressful situations. During a 2011 game with the San Antonio Spurs, Kobe lost it after receiving a technical foul from referee Bennie Adams. He stormed towards the bench, punched his seat, and threw a towel. He followed this up with yelling to get Adams’ attention and then sitting back and saying a gay slur directed at the official. TNT cameras caught the words as they were said and quickly cut away. Kobe was decried in the court of public opinion and fined $100,000 by David Stern.
3. Kobe’s Rap Career
Like many NBA superstars, Kobe Bryant has a passion for hip-hop music. Unfortunately for humanity and ears everywhere, Kobe decided to pursue his secondary passion. Early in his career he spent time with producer Steve Stoute, where he absorbed the hip-hop lifestyle during the offseason. Their relationship culminated in a rap song called K.O.B.E. which featured a hook from Tyra Banks and a spectacularly disastrous debut. Kobe retreated to the studio and continued recording, but the rap career never manifested into crossover success.
2. Shaq Diss Rap Video
Warning: This video is NSFW!
Unlike Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal is a versatile crossover superstar that is capable of spitting bars with confidence and flow. The freestyle diss track was an instant viral sensation that forced major media outlets to pay increased attention to their obviously destroyed relationship. Shaq worked the crowd into a frenzy before dropping the improvised track chorus about his posterior. Shaq played it down saying it was a freestyle where nothing should be taken serious, but the damage done to their relationship was irreparable.
1. Sexual Assault Allegations
Kobe Bryant has overcome a lot in his career, but he will likely never outrun the allegations of sexual assault that he faced beginning in July 2003 with his arrest. Kobe admitted to the adulterous affair, but denied the assault allegations. The details of the alleged assault were detailed in court proceedings, but the prosecution was derailed when the accuser would not take the stand to testify. The charges were dropped, but the accuser filed a separate civil suit which was settled out of court. Kobe publicly apologized to his accuser, but has never admitted guilt.
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