DAR Sports: The Legacy of Kobe Bryant
The 2015-2016 NBA season is just a couple months away, and the big question for me is if this is the final year we see Kobe Bryant as an active NBA player. It seems likely that this may be the last year that Kobe plays, and with that, we wanted to look back at the best moments of his storied 19-year career. From 5 NBA Titles to two NBA Finals MVP awards to being a 17 time All-Star, Kobe has had one hell of a career.
*1996 NBA Draft and Fallout
Kobe graduated from Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia and went into the draft as arguably the best high school player in the country. He was selected 13th by the Charlotte Hornets, who traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers and the rest is history. His rookie season, Kobe would come off the bench behind Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones, but he also worked his way into the starting lineup a few times. He performed well enough to make it onto the NBA All Rookie Second Team, and won the 1997 Slam Dunk contest. The Lakers fans seemed to take an instant liking to Kobe from the start. Little did we know what would soon follow.
*The Lakers Three-Peat
Kobe had worked his way up to be a starter, and as the 1999-2000 began, he and Shaq had the right guidance to gain a title: Phil Jackson. Phil, who led the Bulls to two three-peats with the triangle offense, utilized this as well with the Lakers and the results were successful instantly. The Lakers went on a rampage, going 67-15 in the regular season, easily claiming the no. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Kobe would provide clutch moments through the playoffs, despite suffering a minor injury during game 2 of the NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Bryant missed game 3, returned in game 4 and took control of the game with Shaq fouled out. The Lakers would cap off their amazing season with a 6 game series win to take the NBA Championship.
The 2000-2001 season featured the Lakers suffering from minor issues between Shaq and Kobe, but Kobe excelled, averaging 28.5 points and 5 assists a game that season. The Lakers would not be stopped by tbe minor Kobe and Shaq issues, as they regrouped and dominated in the playoffs, going 15-1 to their second straight NBA Title. The Lakers swept the Portland Trailblazers, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs, before losing game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals to the Philadelphia 76ers. They would then close out the series with another 4 consecutive victories to claim the championship.
The 2001-2002 season had all eyes on the Lakers. Coming off back to back titles, everyone was gunning for the Lakers, and as the regular season came to a close, it looked as if it would come down to two teams in the West battling to get to the NBA Finals: The Lakers and the Sacramento Kings. After being swept the previous year, the Kings came back and claimed the no. 1 seed in the West, leading many to wonder if they could avenge that semi-finals loss. Unfortunately for the Kings, it was not to be, as they lost in an amazing 7 game series, allowing the Lakers to coast to their 3rd straight championship with a sound sweep of the New Jersey Nets.
*String of 40 Point Games in February 2003
-The following season, Kobe went on a tear, having an amazing month in February 2003. He averaged 40.6 points a game that month and had 9 consecutive games with 40 points or more. Kobe had started to get out of his perceived role as a sidekick to Shaq and made himself more of a star with his scoring performances that year alone. Kobe had come into his own, and you could suspect that the best was yet to come
*The 81 Point Game/The 2005-2006 Season
-January 22, 2006. Kobe was already on a hot streak, having scored 62 points in just three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks, but on that day in January, he made NBA history. He scored 81 points against the Raptors, giving him the highest single scoring performance in Lakers history, and the 2nd highest in NBA history, behind the infamous 100 point Wilt Chamberlain game. In that same month, Kobe would have 4 consecutive games scoring 45 points or more, setting the Lakers record for most 40 point games in a season(27 games) and most points scored in a season(2,832). A lot of people felt Kobe should have won the MVP award for the 2005-2006 season, but the award went to Steve Nash, who led his Phoenix Suns to a 7 game first round victory over Kobe and the Lakers.
*The Consecutive 50 Point Games
-The very next season, Kobe completed another amazing feat, scoring 50 points or more in 4 consecutive games, including a 65 point performance against the Trailblazers, and a 60 point performance against the Memphis Grizzlies. Kobe had missed out on another championship and the MVP award yet again, but you knew that soon enough, he would get both of those.
*The MVP Season
-His MVP Award would come the following season, as Kobe led his team to the no. 1 seed in the West and a trip to the NBA Finals. Kobe had the perfect season lined up, and while the Lakers made the finals, they unfortunately could not seal the deal, losing to the Boston Celtics in 6 games. Kobe had his MVP Award finally(I believe he should have more than just one), but he was still missing that elusive 4th championship. As the 2008-2009 season inched closer, fans wondered how the Lakers would respond to such a devastating loss at the hands of their greatest rival.
*Two More Championships
-The Lakers and Kobe would respond in the 2008-2009 season the only way they knew how: domination. Led by Kobe, the Lakers would end up taking the no. 1 seed in the West and Kobe would finish 2nd in the MVP voting, just below Lebron James. The stage seemed set for a huge NBA Finals with Lebron and the Cavs versus Kobe and The Lakers, but the Cavs got stopped by the Orlando Magic, who would eventually get beaten soundly in 5 games by the Lakers in the finals, giving Kobe his 4th NBA Title and his first NBA Finals MVP award.
The 2009-2010 season had Kobe at his absolute best, as he was extremely clutch, hitting 6 game winning shots that year. This was also the year that Kobe became all time leading scorer for the Lakers, surpassing Jerry West. The stage was set yet again for a Lebron vs Kobe NBA Finals, but the Cavs got eliminated again, leaving us with a 2008 Finals rematch with the Lakers vs Celtics, and a shot at redemption for Kobe and The Lakers. Kobe and the Lakers would get their redemption with a 7 game series win, giving the Lakers back to back championships and Kobe his 5th NBA Title. Kobe also gained his 2nd Finals MVP award, without a doubt solidify his legacy as one of the greatest.
*Surpassing Jordan On Scoring List
-While admiring an idol and emulating someone can be special, nothing could mean more in essence than surpassing the man you once looked up to. Kobe earned over 32,000 points in his career and surpassed Jordan to become the 3rd highest scorer in NBA history. Kobe, despite being plagued with injuries, solidfied himself on the all time scorer list and is likely going to be the Lakers all time scorer for decades to come. What a legacy
With the possibility of the 2015-2016 season being his last, one can only hope that Kobe is rejuvenated and that the Lakers can accommodate him. Will Kobe make a push for his 6th ring? Or is it too late? We shall see. Long live the Mamba.