The life and legacy of Kobe Bryant | HT Editorial
When Kobe Bryant arrived in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as a draft pick in 1996, he already seemed like a mammoth figure: The 17-year-old son of former player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant; inducted into world’s biggest basketball league straight from high school; brought to the iconic Los Angeles Lakers through the personal intervention of its legendary general manager Jerry West. The young Kobe talked a big game — he wanted to be bigger than Michael Jordan, score more points that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, win more titles than Bill Russell. Over the next two decades, he may not have achieved all that he promised as a teenager, but he did enough to join that pantheon of legends. In his 20-year career, Bryant won five championship rings, got 18 All-Star selections, led the league in scoring twice, was the regular season’s most valuable player (MVP) in 2008, the Finals MVP twice, and notched up 33,643 regular season points to finish third in the all-time list (behind Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone).
With Shaquille O’Neal, he built, arguably, the most lethal two-man attack force team sport has ever seen as they won three back-to-back titles from 2000 to 2002. More than cumulative numbers, it was his ability to completely take over games that made him so formidable. Bryant scored more than 60 points five times in his career — including, incredibly, in his farewell NBA game in April 2016. And, in a show of loyalty so rare in pro sport, he never left the Lakers, sticking with them through thick and thin. Both jersey numbers he wore over his career, 8 and 24, have been retired by the team as a mark of respect; no Laker will ever wear those shirts again.
On Sunday, Byrant died in a helicopter crash just north of Los Angeles. His daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, also died in the accident. Bryant was 41. Almost as suddenly as he had burst on the global stage, he was gone. But his legacy will live on, as long as there is basketball and sporting superstardom.