Kobe Bryant, born August 23, 1978, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.—died January 26, 2020, Calabasas, California), American professional basketball player, who helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to five championships (2000–02 and 2009–10).
Bryant’s father, Joe (“Jelly Bean”) Bryant, was a professional basketball player who spent eight seasons in the NBA and eight more playing in Italy, where Bryant went to school. When his family returned to the United States, Bryant played basketball at Lower Merion High School in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, where he received several national Player of the Year awards and broke the southeastern Pennsylvania scoring record set by Wilt Chamberlain with 2,883 points. Bryant opted to forgo college and declared himself eligible for the NBA draft when he graduated from high school. The Charlotte Hornets chose him with the 13th pick of the 1996 draft. He was traded to the Lakers shortly thereafter and became the second youngest NBA player in history when the 1996–97 season opened. He quickly proved his merit with the Lakers and was selected for the NBA All-Star Game in just his second season, becoming the youngest All-Star.
Bryant was forced to share the role of the Lakers’ star player with his popular and talented teammate Shaquille O’Neal. The two had an uneasy relationship, but they found success under the leadership of Phil Jackson, who became coach of the Lakers in 1999. Bryant, a shooting guard, and O’Neal, a centre, meshed into a remarkably effective combination, and, by the time Bryant was 23, the Lakers had won three consecutive NBA championships.
NBA legend Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Calabasas, California. Bryant was among nine people killed, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, when the helicopter collided with a mountainside.
Bryant was once the highest-paid and most electric player in the NBA.
He was known for his impressive work ethic and lifelong love of basketball, but he also found time to enjoy life and pursue ventures off of the court in his retirement. In addition to collecting beautiful houses and fancy cars, the so-called “Black Mamba” mentored up-and-coming NBA stars, invested in projects in tech, athletics, and entertainment, and even won an Oscar.
Here’s a look back at the incredible life of Kobe Bryant.
Tony Manfred, Meredith Cash, and Cork Gaines contributed to this report.
He went to high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia, but he grew up in Italy. His father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, played in the NBA for several years before moving the family to Italy so he could play in the Italian basketball league.
His time in Italy may have influenced Bryant’s love for Italian cars. He once walked into a Ferrari dealership and wrote a $329,000 check for a 458 Italia.
Bryant also owned three houses that were estimated to be worth $18.8 million in 2012. All of them are in Orange County, California, a lengthy drive from his former place of work at the Staples Center.
Bryant had a helicopter that he typically took to home games. He once remarked that it saved him from sitting in traffic and kept him in shape to play.
He was notoriously generous with his helicopter, too. He once let teammate Steve Blake use it to go to a doctor’s appointment.
Bryant had a fashion phase before it was cool to be fashionable in the NBA. He appeared in a photoshoot for LA Weekly, and teammate Metta World Peace (known as Ron Artest at the time) said, “He’s a star. He’s Kobe Bryant. He can do what he wants.”
In his younger days, Bryant partied with some of the best and brightest in the league and was friends with numerous celebs.
But at games, he kept it classy.
Bryant was known for being highly competitive. While playing on Team USA during the 2012 Olympics, he challenged Kyrie Irving to a $50,000 game of one-on-one.
The game was scheduled for later on that year, but it was never played — Bryant’s injuries during his final season of regular NBA play kept the game from ever happening.
Beyond casual bets, Bryant had the income to take far more serious risks. During his NBA career, Bryant made a whopping $680 million in endorsements with companies like Nike, Lenovo, Hublot, and the publishing company Panini Group.
One good thing came out of that song: It was during the video shoot that he met his wife, Vanessa.
The couple married in 2001 and had four daughters together.
In 2011, Bryant’s wife Vanessa filed for divorce — but he and Vanessa eventually reconciled and called off the divorce in 2013.
By the time Bryant was set to retire in 2016, his scandals were treated like a distant memory and the Los Angeles Lakers legend enjoyed a glorious victory lap.
He put all of his energy into shaping his legacy: “To think of me as a person that’s overachieved, that would mean a lot to me,” he once said. “That means I put a lot of work in and squeezed every ounce of juice out of this orange that I could.”