On November 30th, 2015, the 5-time NBA World champion announced that he will officially retire from the game of basketball after 20 years of career at the end of this season.
His beloved team, the Lakers, have been in a deep state of crisis since 2012, with a lack of talent and a dysfunctional organisation. Notwithstanding this, nobody forgot about the greatness of the black mamba and we’re all saddened by the thought of not seeing more action from him after this season. What he brought to the game is amazing. I’m not just referring to his technique and to his as elegant as lethal style, but above all stand his passion and his competitiveness.
Because of those combined skills, many compared him to Michael Jordan. Nobody would put him ahead of n. 23, yet there is no doubt that Bryant will go down in the Hall of fame as one of the best to ever play the game.
How did the legendary story of Kobe start? Let’s look back at the success of one of basketball’s greatest.
Born in 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he spent his early years in Italy, where his father Joe Bryant, ex-NBA athlete, played basketball. That’s where he first fell in love with the sport.
He came back in the States in 1991, joining Lower Merion High School in Philly. At the age of 18, he had become the top rated high school player in the country, bringing his team to the state championships four years in a row.
Even with excellent marks at school, he decided not to go to college to join the NBA draft in 1996. He was picked 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, who subsequently traded the pick to the Los Angeles Lakers. Probably one of the greatest steals and worst trades at the same time in the history of sports.
The Hornets realised their mistake only after having to admire Kobe’s abilities week by week with LA. In his second season the guard was already nominated for the All Star Game, becoming the youngest all star in NBA history at only 19 years of age. His Laker squad was a very skilled one, and none was bigger than center Shaquille O’Neal, another all time great.
The duo was incredible: with Shaq’s unstoppable strength and Kobe’s lethal shots no team could stop them from winning three straight championships from 2000 till’ 2003. This had not been accomplished by the Lakers since 1954. Unfortunately, they both had big egos and stardom. They also had different approaches to the game, different mentalities. Kobe likes to hang on to the ball and many, Shaq included, accused him of not passing enough. Ultimately the drama and controversy led to Shaq leaving LA to join Miami in 2004.
Kobe kept playing at a high level. A pivotal moment in his career, an historic game that is now in the books, occurred on January 22nd, 2006 against the Toronto Raptors. After a tough loss and one of his worst shooting nights, Kobe put up an insane 81 points on the board and brought the win for LA 122-104. Wilt Chamberlain, with his 100 – point game in 1962 is the only player before Bryant that to this day has scored more in a single NBA contest.
“It’s really a testament to the power of imagination, honestly,” Bryant told ESPN.com earlier this month. “There’s a lot of players who come up now who don’t think 80 points is possible. You think 50, and if you’re really hot — 60. I never had that limit. Ever. I never, ever thought that way. I always thought 80 was possible. I thought 90 was possible. I thought 100 was possible. Always. I think that game is a testament to what happens when you put no ceiling to what you’re capable of doing.”
Chris Bosh, Raptors center/forward, 2003-10; current Miami Heat center/forward said to ESPN “It just seemed like they were multiplying his points they added up so fast. I’m sitting there thinking: “I just ran up and back twice, and he went from 50 to 60. What the hell?” That’s how he had it going. He just took the game over”.
Bryant was not satisfied. In 2008 he was nominated MVP and the year later he led the Lakers to a championship. Still not satisfied, he added another ring in 2010. After that, the Lakers started to struggle. Kobe torned his Achilles in 2013, but returned to play in 2014. Determined and passionate, he passed Michael Jordan for third on the all-time scoring list.
Yet, he got injured once again. This year, he realised it was time to retire. He wrote a heart warming letter “to basketball” on the Player’s Tribune, in which he stated: “”This season is all I have left to give. My heart can take the pounding. My mind can handle the grind but my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.” So after two decades, two Olympic gold medals, five championship rings, 17 All-Star selections, an 81-point game and more than 32,000 career points, we shall enjoy his last season left to later say goodbye to another legend stepping off the court.
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