Born Kobe Bean Bryant on August 23 1978 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania to a former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and named after the city of Kobe in Japan. After the elder Bryant ended his NBA career in 1984, the family moved to Italy where he played in the Italian league. Kobe spent his early life in Italy where he grew up alongside two elder sisters Shaya and Sharia who were also athletes. Kobe as a child was good in both basketball and soccer. In 1991 the family returned to Philadelphia, Kobe joined the Lower Merion High School Basketball team, where his team led in the state championship for four years in a row.
Because he had his eye on the NBA, he started training with the 76ers. Though he had good grades and high SAT scores Bryant decided to go into NBA straight from high School. In 1996 he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick of that year’s NBA draft and was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
STATS AND NBA CAREER
During his second season with the Lakers, Bryant was voted a starter for the 1998 all-stars NBA game, thus making him the youngest all-star in the history of the NBA at just 19. Bryant, a shooting guard as at then teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal to win three consecutive NBA titles and was voted best team All-NBA from 2002 to 2004. He also landed multimillion dollar endorsement deals with Adidas, Sprite and other top sponsors.
After O’Neal left in 2004, the Lakers struggled but Bryant still was consistent and performed brilliantly. In January 2006, he scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptures which is the second highest single-game mark in NBA history, and he also was the top scorer in the league that year and the next.
Bryant was named the most valuable player in the league in 2008, and he also carried his team to the NBA finals where they lost to the Boston Celtics, but he was not that unlucky the next year 2009 as his team “Lakers” beat the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA finals. Shortly after they won the championship, Bryant was part of the memorial service in honor of his late friend and king of pop “Michael Jackson”. The Lakers won their second straight title the following year 2010 as they defeated the Celtics in finals in what many saw as retaliation for their 2008 loss to the Celtics in the finals.
Bryant played for the US Olympic basketball teams in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics where the team won consecutive gold medals, playing alongside teammates like Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, among several other top players.
In April 2013 Bryant suffered a torn Achilles tendon but worked very hard to return to the courts before fracturing his knee just six games into the 2013/2014 season. Bryant who has become a veteran NBA all-star then surpassed Michael Jordan for third all-time NBA scoring list in December 2014, but for the third straight year, an injury ended his season abruptly when he sustained a torn rotator cuff in January 2015.
KOBE’S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PARENTS
Kobe Bryant and his parents Joe and Pam Bryant enjoyed a sweet relation until Kobe decided to Marry Vanessa. The parents didn’t actually approve the relationship because Vanessa was so young. They were more worried because of lack of prenuptial agreement in their marriage given that Kobe was already wealthy at the time. This disagreement didn’t seem to have done a brutal damage to Kobe’s relationship with his parents, as he would refer to his Mom as a fire cracker, a woman he got almost got all his features from after the marriage incident.
But in 2013, Kobe had a big fall out with his parents that he had to file a law suit against his parents and stopped talking to them. It all started when his Mother tried to sell his memorabilia behind his back. It was reported that Pam Bryant was paid four hundred and fifty thousand dollars in advance which she used to purchase a house in Las Vegas. Kobe was so angry that he had to file a law suit against his parents to block the sale of his own things. In Kobe’s words, “I said to them, I’m going to buy you a nice house and the response is that’s good enough? Then you are selling my things? Ever since then Bryan never spoke to his parents and never left any tiny opening for a happy reunion. The situation was so serious that Kobe had to write a letter to him younger self that, saying that had he known he wouldn’t have given control of his money over to his parents. This was Kobe’s advice after this experience…“The most important advice I can give you is to make sure that your parents remain your parents and not your managers. Trust me setting things up right from the beginning will avoid a ton of tears and heartaches”
It seems Kobe never recovered from this painful experience till his death as he reportedly had not found peace within his own family before his passing. His parents didn’t even attend his retirement ceremony or his funeral. In his retirement speech, Kobe thanked everyone from NBA legends, friends, wife and kids but not his Mom and Dad.
Though Bryant returned in time for the start of the 2015/2016 season, he struggled to make any impact alongside his young Lakers teammates. In November 2015, he announced he would retire at the end of the season, his words “this season is all I have left to give”. He wrote these words on the players Tribune website “my heart can take the pounding, my mind can handle the grind but my body knows it’s time to say goodbye”
That announcement drew widespread reactions from fans, players and coaches, particularly NBA commissioner Adam Silver. In his statement Silver said “With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game,” Silver went further to add “Whether competing in the finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game”.
On April 13, 2016, Bryant dazzled a sold-out crowd at the Staples Center and fans everywhere in the last game of his career, scoring 60 points and leading the Lakers to a win against the Utah Jazz. It was Bryant’s sixth 60-point game of his career.
After the game, Bryant spoke to the crowd. “I can’t believe how fast 20 years went by,” he said. “This is absolutely crazy … and to be standing at center court with you guys, my teammates behind me, appreciating the journey that we’ve been on — we’ve been through our ups, been through our downs. I think the most important part is we all stayed together throughout.”
An all-star lineup of Laker icons also paid tribute to Bryant, including O’Neal, Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Lamar Odom and Magic Johnson. “We are here to celebrate greatness for 20 years,” Johnson said. “Excellence for 20 years. Kobe Bryant has never cheated the game, never cheated us as the fans. He has played through injury, he has played hurt. And we have five championship banners to show for it.”
In November 2015, Bryant announced his upcoming retirement from the Lakers with a poem on The Players’ Tribune website, titled “Dear Basketball.” The athletic great soon sought the best in other fields to turn his poem into a short film, including Disney animator Glen Keane and composer John Williams.
The result was a beautifully rendered five-minute, 20-second film, which debuted at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival. Oscar voters took note, leading to the unexpected sight of Bryant accepting an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 2018 ceremony.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science short films and animation branch also extended an invitation for Bryant to become a member of the organization. However, in June 2018 it was revealed that the Academy’s governors committee had rescinded the invitation, saying the retired basketball great needed to show more efforts in the field before being considered for membership.
SEXUAL ASSAULT CHARGE
In 2003 Bryant was charged with a one count charge of sexual assault on a 19 year old hotel worker in Colorado, Bryant accepted that he was guilty of adultery but innocent of rape, in 2004 the charge against Bryant was dismissed and he settled lawsuit filed by the worker against him out of court
In his philanthropic endeavors, Bryant partnered with a not for profit organization known as “Profit after School All-Stars” as part of the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant family foundation. Profit after school is not for profit organization that partners with schools across the United States of America to extend school hours for low-income children. Bryant was committed to this organization and most often gave motivational speeches and at the same time raised money for the organization. He also ran an annual basketball camp called the Kobe Bryant academy to help nurture young aspiring basketball players.
Kobe also has a Make-a-Wish foundation where he granted over 250 wishes of Children who were suffering from a life threatening disease. Kobe Bryant didn’t leave those suffering from cancer behind. He demonstrated his support to those suffering from cancer by sending them inspiring messages and also raised money for research and medical expenses. Precisely, in 2012 he was among the All-stars who raised eighty one million dollars ($81m) for research through stand up cancer. The National Museum of African American History and Culture also benefited from Kobe’s large heart when he and his wife Vanessa donated around one million dollars ($1m) to the museum when it opened in 2016. Kobe and Vanessa Bryant was one of the National Museum of African History and Culture founding donors.
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY
Bryant married 19-year old Vanessa Laine in April 2001, the marriage produced four daughters, Natalie Diamante (born 2003), Gianna Maria-Onore(born 2006), Bianka (born 2016) and Capri(born 2019)
After few years of their marriage, Kobe started growing apart from his loving, devoted wife Vanessa, and Vanessa has a suspicion that Kobe was being unfaithful. Two years into their marriage, a cheating scandal shook their family perfect life. Kobe admitted his mistake and swore to be faithful going forward. He also bought his wife a four million dollar apology ring. Because of the love of the family, Vanessa forgave him; she was pregnant then.
Eight years later, Vanessa filed for a divorce because of irreconcilable differences according to her. However, it was clear that cheating accusations was the reason this time again. But that did not last long as Vanessa called off the divorce. This represents that their love for each other was stronger that the storm of cheating. Funny enough, Vanessa’s friend would advise her to take a walk and take over one hundred million dollars from Kobe but Vanessa did not yield to their advice. Their marriage was safe and sound after this incidence. Despite Kobe’s shortcomings, she adored Vanessa as his queen.
On 26th day of January 2020, Kobe was onboard a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter alongside his daughter Gianna and other occupants heading to thousand Oaks California where Bryant was scheduled to coach a tournament game at the Mamba Sports Academy, but the helicopter crashed in Calabasas; a Los Angeles suburb killing Bryant, his daughter and all occupants in the helicopter including the pilot. His death sent shockwaves throughout the world of sports and the whole world in general. Bryant and his daughter Gianna were laid to rest in private Funeral on February 7, 2020, and they were honoured in a memorial service held at the Staples center in February 24th.
Though Kobe had his shortcomings, his love and commitment to the people who was in need and sick speak volumes of him. His commitment to the well being of others is worthy of emulation. He was a loving father and husband and carried his friends and teammates along. Kobe was a very humble man despite his massive achievement. Little wonder why the great NBA legends like Michael Jordan and the host of others who had working relationship with him has never spoken ill of him. In a speech given by Michael Jordan in Kobe’s memorial service; full of tears, Michael Jordan spoke highly of Kobe and the vacuum his death has created in his life. In his words, “When Kobe Bryant died a piece of me died.”