As you already know, on Sunday, Kobe Bryant announced that this season would be his last in the NBA. The way this season started it was pretty apparent that this would be the end, but it was still a defining day in the history of the NBA. Bryant has played for the Lakers for 20 years, the only player in American professional sports to spend 20 years with one franchise. He’s 37 now and entered the league at the age of 17, so young his parents had to co-sign his rookie contract. He’s 3rd all-time in points scored and has been honored as an All-Star 17 times in his 19 years in the league.
He has 5 NBA championships to his name, 2 NBA Finals MVPs, and 1 regular season MVP. Kobe was on the All-NBA first team 11 times, All-Defensive team 9 times, led the league in scoring in 2005-06 and 2006-07, and of course scored 81 points in a game 10 years ago this season. Kobe has career averages of 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. He will surely always be disappointed he couldn’t get 6 rings to match his childhood idol Michael Jordan, but what he has done for the league and the game of basketball is something he can always cherish (in addition to those rings and records.) When Jordan retired in 1998, the league needed a star with similar skills and swagger. Kobe stepped right in and did not disappoint.
As Kevin Durant said about Kobe today, “He was our Michael Jordan”. Sometimes it’s tough to realize as a fan the time and effort on the basketball court that players put forth growing up, but it’s very clear that Kobe Bryant was an inspiration to the younger players in the league today. Just as Michael Jordan did for Kobe, Kobe has paved the way for Durant, his peers, and many of the players we’ll see in the NBA in the next five years. Between Bryant’s work ethic, skill level, and marketability he was and will always be a remarkable and all-time great NBA basketball player. Kobe is not just an NBA player, he is a world superstar.
In a media heavy world where people want to know the most possible about NBA players, there will never be enough stories of the work that Kobe put in day in and day out. Here’s a collection of stories including a particular conditioning and shooting session at 4am the morning of a team USA basketball scrimmage, which didn’t end until 11am, when the team had shootaround.
Kobe’s career was defined by clutch shots, championship runs, verbal fights with teammates, criminal allegations, huge point totals, and highlights for the fans of basketball. Don’t forget however what he’s done for his teammates and opponents. He rode Andrew Bynum’s ass in practice his rookie year because he saw a little of himself in the 17-year old center, helping Bynum to become the second best center in the league at the time. He argued with Shaq because he wanted to see the Big Diesel work harder in practice (and pass him the ball among other things), but didn’t let these arguments affect the team when it came time for the playoffs. He talked trash to his opponents, and talked trash to his teammates. And while it didn’t always work (see Smush Parker), it’s just the type of competitor he is.
As a Wizards fan I’ll never fully understand the emotional impact he’s had on the Laker’s franchise, but same as them I look forward to seeing his statue outside of Staples Center one day next to the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Jerry West.
Just as there’s not enough stories about the greatness of Kobe, there’s not enough room to write about him and his legacy. Read up on him, watch his highlights, and please please tell your kids.
Hopefully we’ll see Kobe in action on Wednesday in his last trip to Washington, and below are some of the greatest plays and games of Kobe’s career, starting with Jordan’s last trip to Los Angeles in 2003.
55 points, final game against MJ
The Alley Oop to Shaq
The Revenge Plays
34 Game Winners
NBA.com Top 10 Plays of 2005-2006 NBA Season
NBA.com Top 10 Plays of 2007
Then Madison Square Garden Record 61 Points
NBA.com Top 10 Plays of 2009
Kobe Bryant’s Top 10 Plays of the 2011-2012 NBA Season
NBA.com Top 10 Plays of Career