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When entering a debate about who is the greatest of all time in basketball, many tend to debate between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. However, one name has either been forgotten or not focused on after a roller-coaster career that led to multiple championships. Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant proved that despite all the criticism, he truly is one of the greats in basketball history.
Selected 13th overall in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, the Lakers front office traded Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for the rights to Kobe Bryant. That transaction also allowed for Los Angeles to clear up some cap space, as they later signed another legend in Shaquille O’Neal during free agency.
In his first 3 seasons with the Lakers, Bryant played an average of 15 minutes, averaging 9 points per game. In his third season however, Bryant averaged 37 minutes per game, totaling an average of 19.9 points.
Despite making it to the playoffs in his first three years, Bryant never won a title until the team’s 2000-02 stretch, where alongside O’Neal, the Lakers secured a 3-peat against the likes of the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and New Jersey Nets.
Due to an ongoing feud between Bryant and O’Neal in which egos took the spotlight, the Los Angeles Lakers traded O’Neal to the Miami Heat in exchange for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, and a first-round pick.
This transaction allowed for Kobe Bryant to take center stage, although the Lakers did not win another NBA title until the 2009 and 2010 seasons, when they defeated the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics to capture back-to-back championships.
The early stages of Bryant’s career were viewed as a learning experience. Through his desire to score at will, the nickname “Black Mamba” was granted to Bryant through his ability to close out select games.
The accolades of Bryant speak for themselves, as it includes 18x All-Star selections, 4x All-Star MVP, 5x NBA Finals MVP, 30,000+ points, 6,000+ rebounds, and 6,000+ assists.
Kobe Bryant is the second player in NBA history to score 81 points in a single game, as Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in March of 1962. In addition, Bryant represented the USA in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. In 1997, Bryant won the Slam Dunk contest. All together, he is regarded as one of the best Lakers of all-time.
Despite the injuries, Bryant did enough to have both his #8 and #24 jerseys retired in 2016. After 20 consecutive seasons of dedication to one franchise, Bryant saw the favor returned that night in the Staples Center.
Bryant scored a total of 33,643 points in his career, only trailing Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in that category. This amount is more than legends such as LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and so on.
While we bash Bryant’s ability to uplift his teammates, or to defer when it’s needed, he is still regarded as one of the best players in NBA history. We have to respect what Bryant has done for the sport, as he molded the way it’s played today.
Featured Image: Ball Tribe