It is finally starting to sink in that Kobe Bryant is retired. This past year marked Kobe’s final season as an NBA player and was a year-long tribute to one of the greatest players in NBA history. The impact that Kobe had on basketball is almost unfathomable and the memories which he left fans with are unbelievable, to say the least. On his “farewell tour” this past season, the love and appreciation with which basketball fans held for Kobe was exemplified each time he played in a different arena. Every opposing team compiled a video tribute for Kobe and each away crowd was quick to give the Black Mamba a lengthy standing ovation.
This level of appreciation does not simply happen for every NBA player who announces his plans to retire. These types of goodbyes are reserved for the legends of the game; the players who leave such a great legacy on the game that it’s difficult to let them go. Kobe Bryant was certainly one of those players. It is crazy to think that he came into the league twenty years ago and after two decades of Kobe dominating the league, next season won’t feature number 24.
As difficult as it is to imagine the NBA without Kobe, his retirement allows us to reflect on the wonderful career he had and leaves us curious as to what his next steps will be. Perhaps he will follow in the footsteps of friend and one-time foe, Shaquille O’Neal, and become an NBA analyst. Maybe he will sail into the sunset and retire to a beach house in Italy where he spent part of his early life. Whatever Kobe decides, one thing is guaranteed: it will make for a great story. Kobe was notorious for doing things that made for great stories over his career. Here are fifteen of the most insane Kobe Bryant stories.
15. 60 Points In His Final Game
In his final game as a professional basketball player, Kobe once again showed why he is one of the NBA all-time greats. In front of his home crowd in Los Angeles, Kobe dropped a ridiculous 60 points versus the Utah Jazz, in what would be one of the greatest final games of anyone’s career. To put this into perspective, before that game, the last time Kobe dropped at least 60 points was seven years prior against the New York Knicks in 2009. At 37 years old at the time of his final game, it is quite insane that he was able to perform as if he were in the prime of his career. In the final two minutes of the game, the Lakers were down by 10 points to the opposing Jazz. That was before Kobe went on a one-man-mission and scored an unanswered 13 points, which included one of his iconic jumpers in the last minute to steal the lead. Kobe scored 23 points in the 4th quarter to finish with a total of 60 points… more than any other player scored in one game in the entire 2015-2016 NBA season.
14. Entered the NBA Straight Out Of High School
As a 17 years old, playing basketball in Philadelphia, Bryant was the first ever guard to be selected out of high school at the NBA draft. Although he was originally taken by the Charlotte Hornets at the 13th overall spot, he was part of a draft-day-trade which sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers. As he was still 17 years of age at draft, and considered a minor, his parents had to co-sign his first contract with the Lakers. Eventually, he would resign with the Lakers as an 18 year old, being able to consent to his own decision as a legal adult. At the time of his first professional game in 1996, Kobe was the youngest player to ever play in a game at 18 years old, 72 days (a record that has now been broken). However, Kobe still holds the NBA record for the youngest player to ever start a game at 18 years, 158 days.
13. He Was Named After A Japanese Delicacy
With a name as wicked and unforgettable as Kobe Bryant, you would think that the origin story behind his name would be just as awesome. However, the actual tale behind how he was named is a little anti-climactic and a little comical too. Bryant’s parents chose the name Kobe after going out to dinner at a Japanese restaurant and seeing that the establishment had Kobe Beef on its menu. Basically, Kobe was named after a Japanese delicacy, for no other reason besides that this particular dinner menu had kobe beef as one of the entrees. Although it could be considered an unorthodox way to name a child, the name that Bryant’s parents chose will go down in history as one of the more memorable ones, and certainly as one of the most revered in the game of basketball. In the world of livestock, kobe beef ranks near the top in terms of quality just like in the world of basketball, kobe reigns as one of the greatest players of all-time.
12. 40 Mile Bike Ride Through A Desert
The stories about Kobe’s training regiments are seemingly unending and a professed by former teammates as some of the most inspiring things they’ve ever witnessed in a gym. However, one story of Kobe’s conditioning may top them all. While in Las Vegas for a USA Basketball training camp, Kobe decided to go on a 40 mile bike ride through the desert at night. His trainer recalls Kobe asking to include bike training into his cardio conditioning and, upon arriving in Vegas the first night, rented a bike for himself, his trainer, and his bodyguard to ride through the desert. This is a testament to Kobe’s greatness; he trained night and day –literally – to become the most dominant player on the court. Even in the twilight of his career, Kobe recognized that playing in the 2012 Olympic Games would mean playing against the top players in the world, so he made sure he was training harder than any of them. Even after finishing his desert bike ride at 2:00 a.m., Kobe was back in the gym working out at 7:30 in the morning.
11. NBA Record For Longest Tenure With One Team (20 years)
Along with all of his other accolades and achievements, Kobe can add loyalty to his résumé. He holds the NBA record for the longest tenure with a single team, as he spent his entire 20 year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Considering how often players sign with other teams or are exchanged for other players in the modern-day NBA, it is incredible that Kobe was able to remain loyal to the Lakers franchise for two decades. Kobe, of course, had the option to seek out potential suitors during free agency on several different occasions, but each time chose to remain a member of the Lakers. So not only is Kobe one of the greatest players of all-time, he is also the most loyal player in the history of the NBA, a feat worth appreciating – especially now when fans find it hard to trust the loyalty of their players (sorry Oklahoma City fans).
10. 81 Points In One Game
During a game against the Toronto Raptors, Kobe had a night to remember. In the game of his career (statistically) Kobe posted a jaw-dropping 81 points against a lowly Raptors squad. This was the 2nd highest point total recorded in a single game in NBA history, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point performance way back in 1962. Kobe perhaps regards this game as his greatest individual achievement as in his letter to fans announcing his retirement, he included the picture of him holding his arm above his head walking off the court after his 81 point performance. The amazing thing is, Kobe sat out the first six minutes of the second quarter. In those six minutes, Kobe could have easily collected another 10 points and could have finished with 90 points, and potentially close to 100. In the first half, Kobe had 26 total points but erupted in the second half for 55 leaving him with his incredible 81 point performance.
9. Turkish Airline Endorsement Deal
Of all of Kobe’s endorsement deals, the one he signed with Turkish Airlines, may have been one of his more lucrative deals but also his most widely criticized endorsement as a celebrity. The deal was agreed to back in 2010 and was a key part of the airline’s commitment to expand its operations to the United States. It was a two year agreement that saw Kobe featured in a promotional film advertising Turkish Airlines on international television channels and movie theaters across 80 countries. Additionally, Kobe appeared on billboards, and in digital and print advertising alongside the Turkish Airlines logo. The airline profited over $500 million in 2009 so it makes sense financially as to why Kobe decided to promote the company. However, he was heavily criticized by Armenian groups, in particular Armenian-Americans, who did not appreciate the international context of Kobe’s deal considering the ugly history between Armenia and Turkey.
8. Assault Allegations
Definitely the low point of Kobe’s career, and probably one of the lowest points of his personal life too, came in 2003 when a Colorado hotel employee accused Bryant of raping her. The incident led to Bryant being arrested and a formal charge against him for rape which, if found guilty, faced a penalty of anywhere between probation to life in prison. Bryant vehemently denied the allegations – although he admitted to sexual relations with the woman that he had considered consensual – and was later forced to publicly apologize to the individual in question. The charges facing Kobe and the trial were both eventually dropped due to his accuser’s unwillingness to testify. However, a civil lawsuit was later filed against Bryant which led to a settlement between the two parties, the details of which were undisclosed to the public. This entire incident came as a shock to both the basketball world and from outside of it and can easily be marked as the darkest part of Kobe’s career.
7. Kobe vs. Shaq
Kobe’s feud with former teammate Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most infamous and well-documented intra-team controversies in the history of professional sports, let alone the history of the NBA. The two all-stars are undoubtedly two of the most dominant players to ever play in the NBA. They played together on the L.A. Lakers from 1996-2004, before Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat as a result of locker room tension. The feud started almost immediately after the two players began to play with one another in 1996, and it is likely a result of the divergent personalities of the two men; Shaq’s demeanor being centered around humor and often times indifference, while Kobe’s was extremely serious and strictly business. Whatever the true origins of the feud were, there was certainly no cure as it continued well into the new millennium, even after winning three consecutive NBA championships together! All of this tension reportedly led to several fights during Laker practices with Kobe apparently punching Shaq on a number of occasions. It has also been reported that Shaq once said that he “would murder” Kobe. The mutual dislike did not end once they were no longer teammates however, as both men wouldn’t even acknowledge the other in the media for a brief period of time.
6. Took R&B Singer Brandy To His Prom
Most teenagers quiver in fear at the thought of asking their crush out to their high school prom. Some teens are even forced to go alone because they are unable to find a date. Kobe Bryant was not your ordinary teenager. As one of the nation’s top high school basketball prospects, Kobe received national media attention in the latter years of his high school career. This attention gave Kobe the ability and the confidence to ask R&B phenom Brandy out to his prom, after they had met at an awards show in 1996. Brandy was also 17 years old at the time, but was already a platinum-selling R&B artist who had won herself a Grammy award and had her own television show. Can you imagine the looks on Kobe’s peer’s faces when he walked in with a famous R&B singer to the prom? It would be completely surprising if the pair of Kobe and Brandy did not end up winning the prom king and queen.
5. He Was A Professional Rapper
Although it was known for its brevity, Kobe Bryant did in fact have a professional rapping career at the turn of the millennium. Perhaps following in teammate Shaquille O’Neal’s footsteps, Bryant attempted to pursue rap as a legitimate hobby off of the basketball court. He released just one studio recorded song, titled “K.O.B.E.”, which featured supermodel Tyra Banks, but was also recorded on the remixes off several other recordings. Some of the more notable features of Kobe included being featured on Destiny’s Child’s remix of their song “Say My Name”, as well as collaborating with mega-rappers 50 Cent and Nas. Ironically, Kobe also spent some time behind the mic with teammate/friend/enemy Shaq who had a brief rapping career of his own. For a player – and individual – as serious as Kobe is, it is quite surprising that he would have let loose in the studio by pursuing a career in the rap industry.
4. He Played High School Teammates To 100 In Games Of 1-On-1
Most high schoolers mess around on the basketball court after school for an hour or so and then go home to do homework. Not Kobe Bryant. When Kobe was in high school in Philadelphia, he used to make his basketball teammates play him in 1 on 1. These games were anything but ordinary 1 on 1 duels, as Kobe made his teammates play him up to 100 points. Most 1 on 1 games are up to 11 points, or 21 at most. But with Kobe and his insane work ethic, he would not stop at these trivial numbers… rather, he tortured his teammates with his skill for hours, embarrassing them in front of all their peers. Essentially, Kobe was using his teammates as practice dummies in order to sharpen his skills which, for those teammates should be considered an honour as Bryant entered the NBA right out of high school. In his worst 1 on 1 game in high school, Kobe still managed to win 100-12.
3. $100 Million Venture Capital Fund
Now in his retirement, Kobe has lots of time to relax, spend time with his family, hang out with friends… and oh yeah, start a $100 million investment firm. The venture capital fund “Bryant Stibel” was started by Kobe and long-time investing partner, Jeff Stibel, who has been investing with Kobe for several years. The plan for Kobe’s new firm is to invest in technology, media, and data companies and the firm is expected to invest $100 million over the next few years. Already, the firm has current investments in a variety of companies including the popular online sports publication The Player’s Tribune and videogame designer Scopely. It is expected that Kobe will bring his skills in marketing, branding, and establishing strong working relationships in order to help the firm choose successful investments. So much for a relaxing retirement… it hasn’t even been a calendar year since Kobe’s last game and he’s already well into beginning a new career.
2. Origins of the “Black Mamba” Nickname
In 2003, after a tumultuous offseason that saw Bryant be accused of sexual assault, Kobe decided to come up with a nickname for himself as a way of dealing with the issues brought on by his lawsuit. It’s almost as if he wanted to create an alter ego so as to focus on basketball. The nickname Kobe decided to use was “Black Mamba”, a title he learned from watching Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill, in which the Black Mamba was used as a code name for a deadly assassin. Bryant told the media that after watching the movie, he studied up on snakes in his down time, in particular the Black Mamba snake, and was inspired by how similar the snake’s traits were to his approach to basketball. The Black Mamba is known for its aggressiveness and agility; traits that Kobe definitely possessed on the court, which enabled him to be one of the NBA’s deadliest assassins with the rock, so to speak.
1. He Called Out His Entire Team For Being Sub-Par
Let’s be honest: great players are allowed to yell at teammates once in a while to motivate them. Well, Kobe took this privilege to the next level when he called out his entire team during a Lakers’ practice. At 36 years of age at the time of this particular practice, Kobe was scrimmaging against the much younger reserve players and had his own way of “motivating” them. As the media was allowed to watch the practice, Kobe began calling out teammates left, right, and center. In particular, D’Angelo Russell, Nick Young, and Jeremy Lin took the brunt of Kobe’s venom, but the rest of the team did not escape criticism from the Black Mamba; he told the Lakers’ GM that practice is supposed to make him a better player and that his teammates weren’t good enough to improve his game. In his on-court aggressiveness, Kobe likened his supporting cast to toilet paper, calling them all soft, citing it as the reason they had lost so many games that season.
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