There was a time not so long ago when Kobe Bryant was the NBA’s golden boy, but now he is often the forgotten middle child, sandwiched in between Michael Jordan and LeBron James and frequently overlooked in the never ending GOAT debate that these three have been locked in for what seems like an eternity. It is no secret that Kobe is nearing retirement, and the past few years have been cruel to the star that once struck so much fear into his opponents. A number of injuries have plagued the 36-year-old in recent times, and now it appears that his ageing body seems unable to carry the lofty weight of his team-mates and the expectations of the Lakers' supporters. Despite this, he has recovered from his torn Achilles like only he can and has impressed this season, even though the Lakers have an abysmal record so far.
Nonetheless, Kobe has five rings and dozens of personal accolades which will cement him as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. He has also done what many stars have tried and failed to do (including LeBron), which is to essentially win a title all by himself, which he did in both 2009 and 2010. Nowadays it seems like the only way to win is with a ‘Big 3’ or under Greg Popovich’s command, but Kobe’s rings were earned either in a lethal combination with Shaq, or more or less on his own. In addition to his success, Kobe has also been one of the most exciting players to watch since he came into the league in 1996. He came in as a high flying, explosive youngster, and became one of the all time great scorers that can score in any number of different ways. He has worked tirelessly at his game, making him one of the smoothest, slickest players in recent times with dozens of polished moves in his arsenal.
Kobe’s dedication and commitment to basketball make him an interesting character, with some suggesting that he is perhaps a little too professional. Those around him have made a number of fascinating, insightful comments into his incredible drive and determination to be the best. In the later stages of his career he has become known to be a merciless player with ice in his veins, and he has developed a frosty demeanour which could be a result of the damaging rape allegations that he faced, his very public feud with Shaq, or the weight of a storied franchise on his shoulders.
Here are 15 interesting facts about the Lakers superstar.
15 He is named after a Japanese steakhouse
Kobe is not a common name, and this could be because it is actually a special type of Japanese beef. Kobe’s parents were eating in a Japanese steakhouse in Philadelphia called Kobe, and they clearly had such a good time that they decided to name their son after the restaurant. During the 2001 Finals, which saw Kobe’s Lakers take on the Philadelphia 76ers, the steakhouse temporarily changed its name to ‘The Answer’ in support of Allen Iverson and the 76ers. Kobe was clearly not amused, as the Lakers dominated the series 4-1.
14 Brandy was his prom date in 1996
Just before 17-year-old Kobe Bryant was about to enter the NBA he had his senior prom, and his date was none other than popular singer Brandy. She was not in school and therefore never got the opportunity to go to prom, so Kobe stepped in and took her to his. What a smooth operator. Kobe was a big fan of Brandy’s, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to ask her when they met, despite her not knowing who he was. He even flew her and her mom out to Pennsylvania for the event.
13 He is an A.C Milan fan
Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant, Kobe’s father, decided to play professionally in Italy, moving his family with him which led Kobe to spend a large part of his childhood growing up in Italy. He inevitably got caught up in soccer, and became a huge A.C Milan fan, who were enormously successful at the time (Kobe likes trophies). He has remained a fan ever since, and even keeps an A.C shirt and scarf in his locker. His favourite player was Marco van Basten.
12 He was the first guard to come out of high school
In the days before the “one and done” rule, it was quite common for teams to select players straight out of high school. Kobe is one of the most notable players to make the jump, and he was also the first guard to be drafted from high school. He was selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft. Before Kobe, big men including KG, Shawn Kemp (enrolled but never played in college), Darryl Dawkins, Bill Willoughby and Moses Malone (ABA) were selected. After Kobe demonstrated that guards could also make the jump, an influx of high school guards were drafted, including T-Mac, Sebastian Telfair, J.R Smith, Shaun Livingston and Monta Ellis.
11 He eyed a career as a rapper
Early in his career, Bryant was not content with being the next big NBA star, and wanted to add world famous rapper to his resume. He lived in hip-hop executive Steve Stoute’s mansion for three weeks in 1998, and was signed to his Sony Entertainment label. He also performed rap battles in clubs, but he wasn’t the only NBA star spitting lyrics. The market was saturated with raps from Shaq, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd and Cedric Ceballos, and the appeal was wearing off. A release date was set for Bryant’s debut album, Visions, but the first single stalled and the album was never released.
10 He met his wife when he was recording rap
One good thing to come out of Kobe’s short lived rap career is that it is in this period where he met Vanessa Laine, who he would marry a few years later. They met when they were in the same building, where she was serving as a background dancer and he was recording his own rap. The two have been together ever since, but their relationship has been heavily publicized in relation to the dropped rape allegations, where Kobe admitted to sleeping with another woman, as well as Vanessa filing for divorce before dropping it in 2013. The couple also have two daughters, Natalia (11) and Gianna (8).
9 He was nearly drafted by the Clippers
Kobe worked out with the Clippers before the 1996 draft, and made a big impression on them. Despite a successful workout, the Clippers decided against a teenage Bryant as they felt the city of L.A “wouldn’t take us seriously” as they were looking to change their fortune. Bryant was drafted by the Hornets and immediately traded to the Lakers, where he would become a Los Angeles legend in purple and gold and win five rings. The Clippers were not taken seriously for many years to come, and have only just emerged as a regular playoff team in the last few seasons.
8 He holds the record for most consecutive All-Star selections
The NBA has been bursting with talent throughout Kobe’s career, and particularly in the West, but Kobe always comes out on top when it comes to All-Star selections. He became the youngest All-Star in the 1998 event at just 19 years old, and has been selected every year since then to represent the West. Despite an injury plagued season, he was still selected to the team last time out but respectfully declined and was replaced by James Harden. He has thrived in these games over his career, dazzling the crowds and justifying his global popularity, as well as picking up four MVP awards.
7 Mike D’Antoni was his favourite player growing up
I’m sure Mike D’Antoni feels pretty smug knowing that Kobe has said he was one of his favourite players growing up, even if his time as Lakers coach proved to be a disaster. Kobe lists D’Antoni as one of his favourite players as he grew up watching him in Italy, where D’Antoni was an elite player for Olimpia Milano and played alongside Kobe’s dad. This meant that Kobe saw all of their games, and D’Antoni even remembers a young Kobe coming on the court at half time to shoot around. They would cross paths again in the NBA, where they have been seen speaking Italian to one another, throwing a few insults each other's way most likely.
6 He has been in the NBA for more than half his life
The 36-year-old has been in the NBA since he was just 17 years old, meaning that he has spent more time in the NBA than he has out of it. His parents had to co-sign his first NBA contract because he was so young, and he became the youngest player to ever appear in an NBA game in the 1996-97 season opener against the Timberwolves. We have seen him blossom into one of the all time great players and one of the best athletes of his generation, and although there have been a few bumps in the road, when he retires he can look back on his career with great pride and satisfaction.
5 He did not show up to Shaq’s wedding
The Kobe-Shaq feud was an on-going saga throughout the 2000’s, adding plenty of drama and spice to the NBA. The pair won it all together and were like brothers at times, but this all fell apart over the years and particularly around the time when Kobe was facing rape allegations in 2003. In Shaq’s autobiography, there is an excerpt that quotes Brian Shaw claiming that Kobe didn’t attend Shaq’s wedding and that Kobe did not invite any of his team-mates to his own. His reluctance to socialize and spend time with his teammates reflects the idea that he is perhaps, overly professional in his approach and consequently has isolated himself from those around him.
4 He is about to leapfrog Jordan in total career points
At the time of writing, Kobe is a mere 31 points away from surpassing Jordan to become the third highest scorer in NBA history, with Malone second and Abdul-Jabbar leading the pack with 38,387 points. Kobe has surpassed 32,000 and judging by his play this season he seems hell bent on racking up as many points as possible before retiring, as matching Jordan’s six rings now seems impossible. It could be said that Kobe has the advantage in that he has had more court time as he skipped college and did not spend seasons in and out of retirement, and also the fact that the modern era is not as tough and physical defensively. Nonetheless, Kobe is one of the greatest and most entertaining scorers the game has ever seen and has proven impossible to guard at times.
3 He has been selected to the All-Defensive teams 12 times
Kobe is best known for his smooth offensive game and prolific scoring ability, in particular for pouring in 81 points in a game against Toronto in 2006. He is also one of the greatest defenders of his generation, being selected to the All-Defensive teams 12 times (9 First Team selections and 3 Second Team selections). In order to win basketball games and championships, you need to be able to shut down your opponent and stop them from scoring. Kobe has proven this throughout his career, being an excellent on and off ball defender, using his size, speed and strength to guard small guards through to larger small forwards. His nine First Team selections are a record which he shares with Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett and Michael Jordan, fine company to share an NBA record with.
2 His first words to Jordan were “you know I can kick your a** one on one”
Most people would be in awe of Michael Jordan and stumble for words, but Kobe Bryant is not most people. Phil Jackson has stated that Kobe was obsessed with surpassing Jordan as the greatest player from a very young age, and proved this when he first met Jordan before a game between the Lakers and Bulls. Jackson arranged a meet between the two with the hope that meeting MJ would shift Kobe’s attitude, but as soon as they shook hands Kobe claimed “you know I can kick your ass one on one”. Fifteen years later, this is still one of the most discussed topics by fans and pundits around the world.
1 He is the first player to reach 30,000 points and 6,000 assists
Not only is Kobe about to leapfrog Jordan to third on the all-time scoring list, but he has also become the first player to reach 30,000 points and 6,000 assists. His scoring ability is well known and heavily documented, particularly dropping 81 points and his four consecutive 50+ point games in 2007, but this statistic proves that he is more than just a scoring machine. When he wants to, Kobe can be an excellent passer of the ball and get his teammates involved. He has also played alongside some fantastic players that have helped him reach this impressive record, including the likes of Shaq, Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, Rick Fox, Karl Malone, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash.
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