Overview
Kobe Bryant is a shooting guard who has played for the Los Angeles Lakers since 1996, a span in which the team has won four NBA championships. Over the course of his career, Bryant has won two NBA scoring titles and has been a first-team All-NBA selection seven times. He is an 11-time All Star and three-time All-Star MVP. Although known for his offensive ability, Kobe Bryant has also made a name for himself on the defensive side of the ball, having been named to the NBA's All Defensive First Team seven times. Kobe Bryant scored the second-most points in a game in NBA history when he posted 81 points in a game during the '06-07 season.
Early Years
Kobe Bean Bryant was born on August 23,1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Joe and Pamela Bryant. His parents named him after a type of steak -- kobe beef -- seen on a restaurant menu prior to his birth. Kobe also has two older sisters, Sharia and Shaya. Kobe Bryant's father Joe, nicknamed "Jellybean", played eight seasons for the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers, and Houston Rockets. When Kobe was around a year old, the family moved to Southern California after Joe was traded to the San Diego Clippers.

Kobe first started learning basketball from his father at the age of three. He idolized Magic Johnson growing up because of Magic's ball handling skills for a bigger player, and claimed the Los Angeles lakers as his favorite team.

Joe Bryant was traded to the Houston Rockets when Kobe was still very young, and after only one season in Houston, the Bryant family packed up and moved to Italy so Joe could continue his professional basketball career. Joe Bryant signed with a team in the town of Rieti. The three Bryant children practiced Italian together after school, and all became fairly fluent within the first year. To this day, Kobe Bryant still speaks Italian.
Prep Career
After Joe Bryant retired, he moved his family back to the United States permanently. Kobe entered high school at Lower Merion High in Pennsylvania. It wasn't until his junior year that Kobe actually began to shine. He averaged 31.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 5.2 assists per game and was named Pennsylvania player of the year. As a senior at Lower Merion, Bryant was selected by USA Today and Parade Magazine as the National High School Player of the Year. He was also named Naismith Player of the Year, Gatorade Circle of Champions High School Player of the Year and to the McDonald's All-America Team. Bryant averaged 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4 steals and 3.8 blocks per game in his senior season. He led Lower Merion to Class AAAA state title with a 31-3 record. In his last three seasons, Bryant led his high school team to a 77-13 record. Bryant was the all-time leading scorer in Southeastern Pennsylvania history with 2,883 points, breaking the marks of NBA legend and Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain (2,359 points) and former St. Joseph's player Carlin Warley (2,441 points). Even in high school, Bryant had a touch of celebrity; he famously attended his senior prom with R&B; singer Brandy Norwood as his date.

Kobe Bryant was heavily recruited by Duke University, but rather than attend college, he decided to declare for the NBA Draft straight out of high school.
Professional Career

Early Career (1996-99)

Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. At the age of 17, he was the first guard to be drafted directly out of high school. He was later traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for center Vlade Divac because Lakers general manager Jerry West liked Bryant's athleticism. Additionally, dumping Divacs' salary allowed for the Lakers to sign free agent center Shaquille O'Neal later that summer.

For the first two seasons of his career, Bryant was primarily a reserve as he adjusted to the NBA game. During his first three seasons, the Lakers had little playoff success, getting swept to end both the 1998 and 1999 playoffs. Kobe Bryant was named to the 1998 All-Star team in his second season in the league. Just 19, he was the youngest player in the history of the league to make an NBA All-Star team.

Dynasty Years (1999-04)

The arrival of Phil Jackson before the '99-00 season marked the next period in Bryant's career, during which he made the leap from star to superstar. His offensive game took off under his new coach as he averaged 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. He was named to the All-Star team for the second time in his career in 2000, beginning a run of 10 straight All-Star appearances. During the 2000 postseason, he averaged 21.1 points per game and combined with Shaquille O'Neal to lead the Lakers to the NBA title.

In 2000-01, Kobe Bryant improved in every statistical category, averaging 28.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.0 assists per game. His offensive improvement helped propel the Lakers to their second consecutive NBA title. Although his scoring average dipped to 25.2 points per game the next season, Kobe Bryant was named first-team All-NBA for the first time in 2001-02. That same year he also won his first All-Star Game MVP, and the Lakers won their third straight NBA title.

In the summer of 2003, Bryant was accused of sexual assault by an employee of an Eagle, CO hotel. Bryant was staying at the hotel to rehabilitate his knee after having surgery. After the allegations became public, Bryant admitted to having an adulterous consensual affair with the women, but denied assaulting her. The allegations hurt Bryant's public image and he lost multiple sponsors. His primary sponsor, Nike, did keep him on their endorsement roster, but did not market him throughout the 2003-04 seasons. Bryant flew back and forth between his Lakers and court obligations multiple times that season. In September of 2004, the assault case was dropped, after the accuser declined to testify in court.

The Post-Shaq Years (04-Present)

The Lakers would again make it to the NBA Finals two years later in 2004, but were unexpectedly beaten in five games by the Detroit Pistons, led by Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. After the 2004 NBA Finals loss, both Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal left the Lakers. Jackson wanted to take some time off from coaching and, after requesting a trade, O'Neal was sent to the Miami Heat. Kobe Bryant, a free agent at the time, negotiated with other teams, but ended up re-signing with the Lakers.

After the departure of Shaquille O'Neal, Bryant had to adjust to being the leader of the Lakers and averaged 27.6 points per game. Bryant led the Lakers offense as he scored over 40 points on ten different occasions during the 2004-2005 season. His numbers skyrocketed the next year as he averaged a career-best 35.4 points per game, along with 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists. Though his individual statistics improved -- leading to a pair of scoring titles -- his team struggled. His most memorable game during this period came on January 22, 2006, when he scored 81 points in a win against the Toronto Raptors. Bryant made 28 of his 46 field goal attempts, and scored 55 of his 81 points in the second half. That total stands second to Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game as the most points ever scored in an NBA game.

Before the 2006-07 season, Kobe Bryant changed his jersey number from 8 to 24, the number he wore as a freshman in high school. Bryant has given multiple reasons for the number change over the past two seasons, though most are still just speculation. After the number change, Bryant again led the league in scoring with an average of 31.6 points and was named an NBA All-Star.

In the summer of 2007, Bryant demanded a trade from the Lakers, controversially denigrating his GM and some of his teammates through the media. Bryant backed off on his trade request and eventually made it to training camp on time for the season opener. He was booed during the Lakers season opener at home against the Rockets, but eventually reconciled with everyone involved, remained a Laker, and led them to the 2008 NBA Finals where they lost to the Boston Celtics.

Kobe Bryant averaged 26.8 points per game during the 2008-09 regular season, leading the Lakers to their second straight Finals appearance. Bryant ended up leading the Lakers to a 4-1 series win over the Orlando Magic, earning MVP honors in the process. He joined Michael Jordan as the only players to average 30 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists for a title-winning team, and became the seventh different Lakers player to win Finals MVP.

In 2009-10, Bryant has again led the Lakers to the top of the Western Conference, earning another All-Star start. On Dec. 11, 2009, Bryant suffered a fractured right index finger, but chose to keep playing, rather than miss time due to surgery. On Feb. 1, 2010, Bryant passed Jerry West to become the Lakers all-time leading scorer, less than two weeks after he'd become the youngest player to reach the 25,000-point mark. Bryant averaged 29.4 PPG in the first three rounds of the 2010 playoffs to lead the Lakers to their third consecutive Finals appearance, once again facing the Boston Celtics.
Olympics
Kobe Bryant was named to the original Olympic roster for the 2004 Athens Games, but withdrew. With its youngest roster since professionals were allowed to play in 1992, the USA Men's Olympic Basketball Team took home a disappointing bronze medal in 2004 in Athens, Greece.

That result set the stage for the formation of the so-called "Redeem Team" for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. Bryant was joined by fellow stars such as LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony. The USA Men didn't have much trouble in the Olympic tournament until they reached the Gold Medal game against Spain. Kobe's Laker teammate Pau Gasol and the Spanish team gave the Americans a difficult time until the fourth quarter. Kobe's defense was the catalyst in the US Men holding off the Spanish stack. He ended the game with 20 points, and led the USA Men's Basketball Team to Olympic gold. Kobe Bryant finished the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games having averaged 15 points per game on 46 percent field goal shooting. He totaled 22 rebounds, 17 assists, and nine steals in eight games of Olympic competition.
Personal
Kobe Bryant is married to the former Vanessa Laine, who he met in 1999 when she was a 17-year-old senior in high school. The two were engaged in 2000, and married on April 18, 2001. Kobe and Vanessa Bryant have two children, Natalia Diamante Bryant (b. 1/19/03) and Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant (b. 5/1/06). His marriage to Vanessa strained his relationship with his parents, and they did not reconcile until after the birth of Natalia.
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