Who was Kobe Bryant?

 

Kobe Bryant spent his early years in Italy and joined the NBA straight out of high school. A dominant scorer, Bryant won five NBA championships and the 2008 MVP Award with the Los Angeles Lakers. Although later seasons were marred by injuries, he surpassed jordan  for third place on the NBA all-time scoring list in December 2014 and retired in 2016 after scoring 60 points in his final game. In 2018, Bryant earned an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Dear Basketball. On January 26, 2020, he was in a helicopter crash that killed Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gigi and seven others.

Kobe Bean Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Named after a city in Japan, Bryant is the son of former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant.

In 1984, after ending his NBA career, the elder Bryant took the family to Italy, where he played in the Italian League. Growing up in Italy alongside two athletic older sisters, Shaya and Sharia, Bryant was an avid player of both basketball and soccer. When the family returned to Philadelphia in 1991, Bryant joined the Lower Merion High School basketball team, leading it to the state championships four years in a row. With an eye on the NBA, he also started working out with the 76ers.

After suffering a torn Achilles tendon in April 2013, Bryant worked hard to return to the court before fracturing his knee just six games into the 2013-2014 season. The veteran All-Star surpassed Michael Jordan for third all-time on the NBA scoring list in December 2014, but his season ended due to injury for the third straight year when he sustained a torn rotator cuff in January 2015. 

Retirement

Although Bryant returned in time for the start of the 2015-2016 NBA season, he personally struggled alongside his young Lakers teammates. In November 2015, he announced that he would retire at the end of the season. "This season is all I have left to give," he wrote 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."

The announcement drew a strong reaction, particularly from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. "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 said in a statement. "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."

Wife and Kids

Bryant married 19-year-old Vanessa Laine in April 2001. The couple became parents to four daughters: Natalia Diamante (b. 2003), Gianna Maria-Onore (b. 2006, d. 2020), Bianka (b. 2016) and Capri (b. 2019).

Death

On January 26, 2020, Bryant was onboard a Sikorsky S-76 helicopter that crashed in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas.