Kobe Bryant: Career Defining Moments of the Lakers Legend

Kobe Bryant tragically passed away on 26th January 2020 in a Helicopter crash. Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine dead.

Kobe Bryant last suited up for the Los Angeles Lakers on April 13  2016, against the Utah Jazz. In a Hall of Fame career, Bryant was the face of the Lakers and one of the faces of the NBA. His accomplishments speak for itself. Bryant won five championships, was a league MVP, two-time Finals MVP and made 18 All-Star teams.

He’s one of the greatest to have ever played Basketball. His statistics speak volumes for themselves. In 20 seasons, Bryant played 1,346 games. He averaged 25 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.4 steals a game. During the post-season, he averaged 25.6 points,  5.1 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 220 games.

In tribute to his legendary career, let’s take a look back at the major events of his NBA career.

June 26, 1999: Kobe Bryant Is Drafted by the Lakers

Kobe Bryant’s first appearance in the NBA came during the 1996 draft. The Lakers had zeroed in on Kobe Bryant, the first guard to declare himself for the draft right out of high school. The Lakers held the 24th pick of the draft. To draft Bryant, they entered a deal with the Charlotte Hornets, who drafted Bryant with the 13th pick and traded him to the Lakers.

Kobe at the 1996 Draft

To draft Bryant, they entered a deal with the Charlotte Hornets, who drafted Bryant with the 13th pick and traded him to the Lakers. Lakers centre Vlade Divac was sent to the Hornets as compensation for the pick.

November 6, 1996, the First Career Field Goals

In his first season as a professional, Kobe Bryant played as a backup guard. He played limited minutes early in the 1996-1997 season. His first point came on the 5th of November when he converted one free throw against the New York Knicks.

His first field goals came against the Charlotte Hornets on November 6 1996. It came during a 78-88 loss. Bryant finished the game with just five points in seven minutes of action. It was the first couple of baskets, with more than 11,700 more to follow.

Kobe making his first field goals in a game against Charlotte

The First Trip Into the NBA Post Season

In Brant’s rookie season, the Lakers reached the Western Conference semi-finals. During game 5 of the series, the Lakers were losing the series 3-1 and were short-handed. Bryant was playing in the clutch minutes of the contest and tried to step up to the occasion.

Kobe tried to step up in game 5 against Utah in 1997 Western Conference Semifinals. He would become a strong clutch performer from then on

Attempting to the Lakers over the line, he attempted more field goals but was not efficient at converting. He shot 4 airballs, including two shots which could have won the game in regulation for the Lakers.

His teammates were impressed by the courage shown. Teammate, Shaquille O’Neal commented, that Bryant was the only one who had the guts to take shots like that.

It would be the start of many such performances in his NBA career.

Kobe Bryant Winning the Three-Peat

Hiring Phil Jackson as the Lakers coach transformed the franchise and Kobe Bryant. During that time, Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal formed a strong duo, aided by a good supporting cast. Between 1999-2002 the Lakers won three consecutive titles.

Kobe after winning his 3rd NBA Championship

During that span, Bryant averaged 25 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds a game, as the Lakers would win 181 out of  246 games. During the postseason, the Lakers had an impressive 45-13 record.

Bryant played a significant role in the 2000 Finals against Indiana Pacers, despite suffering an ankle injury in game 2 of the NBA finals. Missing Game 3, he scored 22 points in the second half and overtime. He hit the game-winning shot. The Lakers would win the 2000 NBA finals with a 4-2 margin.

The Lakers beat the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001 and the New Jersey Nets in 2002. In the finals, the Lakers went 12-3.

At 23, Bryant became the youngest player to win three championships.

December 20, 2005: Outscoring the Dallas Mavericks

In a memorable performance, Bryant scored 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks. The entire Mavericks team scored 61 points in the same period. It was the first time in the shot-clock era that a player outscored an entire team after three quarters.

Kobe dominated against the Mavericks, outscoring the entire team in the first 3 quarters.

Bryant went 18-31 from the field, including 4-10 from the three-point line. He made 22 of his 25 free throw attempts in the game.

January 22 2006, the Shooting Performance of a Lifetime Against the Toronto Raptors

The greatest regular-season game in Kobe Bryant’s career. He set the record for the second-highest point tally in an NBA game with 81 points. It trails Wilt Chamerbalin’s 100 point game, as Bryant torched the Toronto Raptors.

During the game, Bryant went 28-46 from the field, including 7-13 from three-point. He converted 18 out of 20 free throw attempts, dragging the Lakers to a victory.

Kobe at his famous 81 point game against the Toronto Raptors

During the second half, Bryant scored 55 of his 81 points. The Lakers eventually sealed a comfortable 122-104 victory.

It was part of an amazing run in January 2006, as Bryant averaged 43.5 points a game in 13 games that month.

League MVP in 2008

During the 2007-08 season, Kobe Bryant finally won the league MVP. He averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.8 steals a game as the Lakers finished 57-25 in a competitive Western Conference.

He had injured a finger on the shooting hand In February. Showing his extreme competitiveness, he opted to monitor the injury on a day-to-day basis instead of surgery. He played all 82 games that season.

Kobe winning the MVP trophy

On receiving the award, Bryant commented, “It’s been a long ride. I’m very proud to represent this organization, to represent this city”

Championship Glory and the Finals MVP

The Lakers once again went to three NBA finals between 2008-10.  After losing the 2008 finals to the Boston Celtics, Bryant would lead the Lakers to consecutive titles.

The Lakers would first win the 2009 NBA finals against the Orlando Magic. Bryant averaged 32.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks as the Lakers won the series 4-1. He won the Finals MVP award.

Kobe with the NBA trophy and Finals MVP trophy. He won both awards in 2009 and 2010.

In the 2010 finals, Lakers squared off against the Celtics. Bryant and the Lakers avenged their 2008 NBA finals defeat, winning a tightly contested series 4-3. He won his second finals MVP averaging 28 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists a game.

April 12 2013, the Onset of Long Term Injuries

During the 2012-13 season, Kobe Bryant suffered a torn Achilles in a win against Golden State Warriors.  Bryant had scored a team-high 34 points that night. His injury against the Warriors was the first major injury of his career that sidelined him.

Kobe’s Achilles injury. It was the first major injury of his career.

He had been exerting himself, averaging 40 minutes a game over the last 7 games. He refused to take any breaks, focusing on helping the Lakers make the playoffs. His performances that season were hailed as his finest, as he was dragging a sluggish Lakers team into playoff contention single-handedly.

Injuries limited him to just 41 games over the next couple of seasons. He suffered a tibia fracture, six games after returning from his Achilles injury during 2013-14. During 2014-15 he suffered a torn rotator cuff, which required surgery.

December 14 2014, Moving Past Michael Jordan on Scoring

During the 2014-15 season, after recovering from his Tibia fracture, Kobe was once again leading the Lakers, averaging 26.4 points a game. On December 14 2014, he passed Michael Jordan to move 3rd on the NBA scoring list. Jordan had scored 32,392 points in his career.

Kobe scored 26 points that game but at a dismal 35% field goal accuracy.

November 29, 2015, Kobe Bryant Announced His Retirement

In an announcement with The Players Tribute on 29th November 2015, he announced his retirement at the end of the season. He wrote a poem, Dear Basketball, expressing his feelings. He knew he had the same desire to win, but his body had told him, it’s time to call it a day.

At a press conference, Bryant announced his retirement at the end of the 2015-16 season.

In the next home game for the Lakers, he distributed a letter to all the Lakers fans thanking them for the support he received over the last two decades.

He requested opposing teams and fans, not to give him any on-court gifts or tributes, but just treat him the same. That request fell on deaf ears as fans of every team showed respect to the retiring legend.

February 14 2016, Final All-Star Game

After announcing his retirement, he was receiving affection from many areas, including arena’s where was traditionally booed. For the  2016 All-Star, Bryant was the leading vote-getter. His 1.9 million votes were 300,000 votes more than the reigning MVP, Steph Curry.

A fitting all-star finale.

This would be the first all-star game he would start in the frontcourt as he moved from his traditional shooting guard position to play as a small forward. Bryant

rejected a notion from the Western Conference All-Stars. They had offered to feed him the ball so that he could score as much and possibly win the All-Star game MVP.

During the game, he went 4-11 from the field. He added 6 rebounds and 7 assists in a high scoring affair. Bryant’s Western Conference all-stars won the game 196-173. He left the court with 1 minute left.

With 290 points, he has the second-highest point tally in the All-Star game, behind LeBron James.

April 13 2016, a Legendary Farewell for Kobe Bryant

The final game of the 2015-16 season was a home game to the Utah Jazz on 13th April 2016. It would be the last time Kobe Bryant laced up for the Lakers.

The final game of his legendary career

Throughout the game, the Lakers played tribute to Bryant with highlights of his career.

His teammates fed him the ball, and he took the opportunity. The Jazz that night were a competitive team, who needed a win that night to possibly go into the 2016 NBA playoffs.

Bryant scored 60 points, a season-high. He outscored the entire Jazz team, 23-21 in the 4th quarter. Bryant provided and provided a pass to Jordan Clarkson whose dunk put the Lakers up by 5 points. His 60 point night was the most by any NBA player on their final game.

It was a fitting end to his extraordinary NBA career.

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