Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers is one of the greatest NBA players of all time, and as a longtime fan of the league, it is saddening to hear that he is retiring after the 2015-2016 season.
Bryant has been the face of one of the best organizations in NBA history for the last two decades. He was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, 13th overall and was traded three weeks later for Vlade Divac — perhaps the worst trade the league has ever seen, at least for Charlotte. When Bryant arrived to Los Angeles he was just 17 years old and fresh out of Lower Merion High School, a public high school in Philadelphia.
He wasted no time making a name for himself when he was young. Bryant made a loud entrance when he won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star game weekend his rookie season. Kobe wore number 8 and had his famous afro hairstyle. Bryant quickly became universally recognized as the next man up to take the torch from an aging Michael Jordan. He spent his first nine years wearing number 8, from 1997-2006. Kobe then made the transition to number 24 for the latter half of his historic career.
His best accomplishments are his five NBA championships, with a dominant 5-1 overall record in the NBA Finals. He won the league MVP in the 2007-2008 season. Bryant has been selected to 17 All-Star games in his career ranking second most all time, only behind the NBA’s all time leading scored and fellow Los Angeles Laker, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Bryant was named All-Star game MVP four times, an all-time record he shares with Bob Pettit. He has been selected to 15 All-NBA teams, with 11 first-team honors, another record of his, he shares with Karl Malone. Bryant was possibly the best two-way player of all-time as he made 12 All-Defensive Team selections. And to top it all off he is the first ever guard to play 20 seasons in the NBA.
The years 1999-2002 may have been the best days of his career when he teamed up with Shaquille O’Neal and they formed one of best one-two punches the NBA has ever seen. They won three championships in a row together, taking home the 2000, 2001 and 2002 NBA titles.
After completing the three-peat, the Lakers went out and acquired two NBA All-Stars in Karl Malone and Gary Payton to enhance their dominance. Unfortunately, the Lakers ended up getting smoked in the NBA Finals 4-1 by the Detroit Pistons after a stellar season. The additions of these big names did not work as planned, as there were too many big egos and Kobe and Shaq started having issues once the other All-Stars arrived in LA, which ultimately lead to the divorce of the legendary duo.
Kobe had another great run with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum years later. They went to three straight finals from 2008-2010. They lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals and then went on to win back-to-back championships after that in 2009 and 2010 against Boston and the Orlando Magic.
The last four seasons for Kobe have pretty much gone to waste. He has lost more than he has in his entire career and his body has been slowly wearing down due to injuries. Kobe is on the worst team in the Western conference record-wise. It is safe to say Kobe is just enjoying the rest of the time he has in the league. He has come to peace with his sharp decline, and has accepted that the Lakers won’t be winning much this year, but can be a good mentor to all of the young talent that the Lakers have. Everyone will miss him and all we can hope for is that he is thanked at every arena he visits this season. He has meant so much to the game and will go down as one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA.