Kobe Bean Bryant, aka The Black Mamba, would have celebrated his 43rd birthday today. Bryant died in a helicopter crash that also killed eight other people, including his daughter Gianna Bryant, on 26 January 2020. Bryant, who was posthumously inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021, was only 41 at the time of his death.
As an NBA player, Kobe Bryant spent 20 years with the Los Angeles Lakers. He entered the league as a precocious 18-year-old, as part of the enviable 1996 Draft Class that also included the likes of Allen Iverson, Ray Allen and Steve Nash. Although he was drafted at No. 13 by Charlotte, Bryant was soon traded to the Lakers, where he would go on to have one of the most memorable NBA careers of all time.
Vanessa Bryant: Kobe Bryant Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech
Forging a formidable duo with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant would play a pivotal role in landing the Lakers a three-peat between 2000 and 2002. He would go on to win league MVP in 2008 after which he would guide the Lakers to two more NBA titles in 2009 and 2010, also winning Finals MVP for his stellar play.
Bryant averaged 25.0 ppg for his career while ranking fourth on the all-time scoring list with 33,643 points. He was an 18-time NBA All-Star, nine-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, two-time scoring champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist with Team USA. Away from the game, Bryant also picked up an Oscar for his 2017 animated film, Dear Basketball.
Kobe Bryant: Legacy and legend
But even beyond the stats and awards, Bryant has remained an inspirational figure for his peers and those that have followed. His tenacity and ability to deliver in clutch situations won him fans across the world. Recently, former NBA player Caron Butler disclosed a sensational story about playing with Bryant on the 2004-05 Lakers.
“I’ve never told this story,” Butler said on a podcast. “We was in Charlotte, and we was in the huddle, and he was like, the game was tied. There was only four seconds, three seconds on the shot clock. Rudy T [Rudy Tomjanovich] drawing up all type of s— on the board, and he swiped it off again, and Kobe said, ‘F— that. Just give me the ball right here.’ He was like, ‘Whoever want to take the ball out going to be part of history.’ And Lamar [Odom] was like, ‘I want to be part history.’ He threw that s— in, man. Kobe hit the shot, blouses, game.”
Caron Butler insane Kobe Bryant story:
Current NBA players such as DeMar DeRozan, Devin Booker and Giannis Antetokounmpo have all admitted to being influenced by Bryant. Antetokounmpo, who won the Finals MVP after the Milwaukee Bucks bested the Phoenix Suns 4-2 in the 2021 NBA Finals, confessed to how Bryant challenging him to become league MVP and then win a championship motivated him.
Speaking to reporters following the Bucks’ Finals win, Antetokounmpo said, “Kobe Bryant thinks I can do this, I can play at a higher level and lead my team and win an MVP. I had to do it. I had to work hard…”
Giannis on Kobe Bryant inspiring him to win an NBA championship
This is why the Kobe Bryant story endures. He left his mark on and off the court. Even as the next generation of NBA stars chase greatness, Bryant remains an overpowering influence on them. Bryant went too soon, but his legend and legacy will never fade.
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