While a majority of the NBA players are resting and enjoying the off season, Kobe Bryant is with Team USA for the Summer Games in London. Lets take a minute to see how he got where he is today.
Born in Philadelphia, he was the youngest of three and the only son of Pamela and Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, a professional basketball player that played for the Philadelphia 76er and coached the Los Angeles Sparks. At the age of 6 his father left the NBA to play professional basketball in Italy and moved the family with him. Kobe enjoyed his new lifestyle and learned to speak Italian and Spanish fluently.
Kobe started playing basketball at the age of three. Even once, his family moved to Italy he would always return to the US to hone his skills and play in basketball summer leagues. His other favorite sport is soccer and he has stated that if he wasn't a basketball player he would of been a soccer player.
When he was 13, his father retired and moved their family back to the US. Kobe excelled at basketball so much that as a freshman at Lower Merion High School he made the varsity team. He was very versatile as well, playing all five positions. But his breakout year was his junior year in high school which he was named Pennsylvania Player of the Year and resulted in numerous college scouts trying to recruit him. He had a couple different colleges on his list he was thinking of going to, but when Kevin Garnett got drafted into the pros in the first round right out of high school he started to consider going directly into the NBA.
His senior year in high school he led his team to their first state championship in over 50 years. His averaged stats for that season were 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals, and 3.8 blocked shots per game. Kobe was honored with the following accolades; Naismith Player of the Year, McDonalds All-American, Gatorade Men's Player of the Year, and USA Today's All-USA First Team.
At age 17, Kobe decided that he was going to go straight into the NBA, making him only the sixth player in NBA history to do this, as prep-to-pro players were not that common during this time. He was 13th pick in the first round of the 1996 NBA draft by the Charlotte Hornets who already had agreed to trade their pick to the Lakers. At the time he signed his contract he was only 17 and his parents had to co-sign until he turned 18 at the beginning of the season.
His first two seasons as a Laker, he mostly came off of the bench, but this third season 1998-99 marked his emergence as a premiere shooting guard in the league. He started every game of the shortened lockout 50 game season and resulted in him signing a 6-year extension on his contract valued at $70 million. But the Lakers were swept in the Western Conference Finals.
The next season 1999-2000 proved to be the year that Kobe became one of the premier shooting guards in the NBA. The Lakers, hired Phil Jackson to coach and signed free agent Shaquille O'Neal, who with Kobe formed one of the greatest center-guard combos in NBA History. Together they went on to win the NBA Championship in 2000, 2001, and 2002, catapulting him into elite status.
The Lakers did not renew Phil Jackson's contract after the 2003-2004 season and traded Shaquille O'Neal to the Miami Heat, and the Lakers went into decline with rumors that Kobe had something to do with both men leaving. The next few years he continued to play well, but had ups and downs in his personal & professional life.
The 2005-2006 season saw Phil Jackson back as head coach of the Lakers despite the past differences he and Kobe had. In the 2007-2008 season, he was unhappy with the way the Lakers were being managed and requested to be traded if things did not change. After working out his issues with management, the Lakers were able to acquire Pau Gasol at the trade deadline. The Lakers made it to the Finals again for the first time without Shaquille O'Neal but lost to the Boston Celtics. This year was also his first time going to the Olympics, where as past of Team USA he help secure the GOLD.
This proved to be the start of another great Laker run. Kobe led the team to two consecutive NBA Championships for seasons 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.
As he gets older, he continues to prove how great of a player he is in a league of elite players 10 years his junior. During the 2011-2012 season he could of been the leading scorer in the NBA but choose to sit the last game of the season out so that he could be ready for the playoffs giving the title to Kevin Durant.
He is a 5x NBA Champion, 2x Finals MVP, 2008 NBA MVP, 14x All-Star, 2x NBA Scoring Champion, and Olympic Gold medalist.
We at Datavo have our eye on him as he helps lead Team USA to another GOLD medal!