The Legend of Black Mamba
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kobe Bean Bryant (August 23, 1978- January 26, 2020) was a legendary American basketball player and humanitarian. Tragically, Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California with his beloved daughter Gianna and seven others.
The Black Mamba's professional career was a cross-over series of twists and turns compared to your avergage basketball stars. Only one thing was ever certain, this superstar would keep his head held high no matter who was charging.
Bryant played for the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 20 seasons. The shooting guard won five championships with his team, the Los Angeles Lakers (2000–02 and 2009–10). As of 2020, he holds the fourth position on the NBA league top scoring player’s list, surpassing his idol Micheal Jordan.
KB created an alter-ego (now a brand in itself), the ‘Black Mamba’, which is inspired by the deathly snake featured in ‘Kill Bill’ . He compared his dangerous moves and risky jump shots on the court to the reptile’s killer instincts.
From an early age, Bryant’s life revolved around basketball, which was not surprising since his father was also an NBA player. Joe Bryant (aka Jelly Bean) played eight seasons in the NBA league before getting drafted by an Italian team.
Kobe learned the sport under his tutelage and began playing when he was only three. He came into the limelight while playing in Lower Merion High School’s basketball team. His breakthrough performance led to multiple National Player of the Year awards. He also managed to break the national Southeastern Pennsylvanian record by scoring 2,883 points.
As a child, he fondly told people that he would play for the NBA when he grew up, often choosing the Lakers as his team of choice. His getting drafted to the Lakers in 1996 made this dream come true.
It was an unexpected tradeoff with the Charlotte Hornets, who chose him as their 13th pick of the season. Kobe Bryant skipped college to jump-start his professional career, making him the second-youngest NBA player in history that year.
Yet, his age did not set him back, and he silenced his naysayers by rising in ranks and securing a spot for the NBA All-Star Game in his second season. Subsequently, this made him the youngest All-Star player in the league.
The Black Mamba’s most infamous rivalry may be was with his teammate Shaquille O’Neal (dubbed as Shaq-O’Neal feud by fans). The differences between the Laker starts were settled under the guidance of Coach Phil Jackson, who joined the Lakers in 1999. Their combined efforts led the Lakers to three consecutive victories at the NBA championship. Kobe’s other rivalries include one with journeyman Raja Bell, Dwayne Wade and Vince Carter.
The fact that Bryant was only 23 at this point proved his merit. However, Bryant faced a few setbacks after his win in 2002. The first of many was his defeat in 2003 during playoffs against San Antonio Spurs . The opponents (led by Tim Duncan and David Robinson) gained an upper hand when Laker’s Robert Horry missed his mark during Game 5. This upset was soon followed by a sexual assault charge in Colorado . The lawsuit was settled in 2005, but the year-long media coverage did not board well for his public image.
In 2004, the Lakers made a comeback to the NBA championships finals, only to be overthrown by their opponents (Detroit Pistons). After this O’Neal got traded to Miami Heat for the next season, which made Bryant the leading player for the Lakers for the 2005-2007 seasons.
In 2008, Bryant received his first MVP award. The following year brought him his fourth NBA title and another MVP award. He won it for his remarkable 32.4 points/game average during the 2009 season. His back-to-back wins resulted in another win at the Western Conference Championships (2009-2010). His brilliant performance won him another NBA finals MVP award.
Unfortunately, his successful streak came to an end after a series of mishaps. Kobe Bryant’s injury history began in April 2013 when he bruised his Achilles tendon. He fractured his kneecap right after rejoining the team seven months later. He tore his rotator cuff in 2015, pushing him back for the third consecutive year. He reached his lowest shooting average after returning to the court a year later.
Apart from the NBA, Kobe Bryant represented the US at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and the 2012 London Olympic Games. His stellar performance helped his team become winning gold-medalists in both years. Post-retirement, Bryant became the global ambassador for FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019.
Kobe Bryant Biography—Life Outside the Court
Kobe Bryant Family
Born in Pennsylvania, Kobe Bryant was the youngest child and only son of Joey Bryant and Pamela Bryant. He and his older sisters Sharia and Shaya were inseparable until his death in Jan 2020.
Kobe Bryant married Vanessa Laine in 2001. They welcomed their eldest daughter, Natalia, in 2003 and second daughter, Gianna in 2003. Their youngest daughters Bianka and Capri were born in 2016 and 2019, respectively.
Amongst his children, 13-year-old Gianna Bryant (Gigi) followed her father’s footsteps by becoming a prodigy. Bryant coached her middle school basketball team to ensure that his child received the best training possible. The father-daughter duo was heading to a basketball game when their helicopter crashed. They passed away along with seven other passengers.
Bryant was actively involved in charities that encouraged the youth to focus on physical fitness and social development. He was the official ambassador of After-School All-Stars (ASAS), an after-school program for underprivileged youth. He collaborated with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation by starting the Kobe Bryant China Fund for academic and health programs in China.
Other significant contributions include Make-A-Wish Foundation, Stand Up to Cancer, Aid Still Required, Vijay Amritraj Foundation, amongst many others.
Later on, he and his wife set up the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation (KVBFF). The non-profit organization provided financial aid to under-resourced families and youth, nationally and globally. It also promoted communal values and strength via educational and cultural enrichment opportunities. Notably, KVBFF is a founding donor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (est.2016). The couple also headed the Mamba Sports Foundation, which Vanessa renamed as the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation as a tribute to her late daughter Gianna Bryant and husband.
Business & Entertainment
Bryant founded Kobe Inc. that invested in brands associated with the sports industry. The company’s popular affiliations include the Coca-Cola Company and Bodyarmor Super Drink. He also started a production company, Granity Studios (est. 2013), to create sports-centric content ranging from books, television shows to feature films. He expanded this venture by co-founding Byrant-Stibel with Jeff Stibel. Their firm invested in diverse businesses comprising of tech, gaming, multi-media productions, data, etc.
His most noteworthy project is the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks and Redondo Beach, California. The athletic training center and lab is built to equip teens and athletes with the training and tools required for holistic "socio-emotional and physical development".
As far as brand endorsements are concerned, he snagged several ad ventures during his career. The most prominent ones include Adidas, Nike, The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald’s, Turkish Airlines, Nutella, etc.
Additionally, his work with Nike led to signature shoe lines like the Zoom Kobe IV and Zoom Kobe V. Bryant. He has appeared in commercials to promote the Nintendo basketball series featuring him with other basketball stars.
He occasionally featured in the covers of magazines such as ESPN the Magazine and Slam. He has also appeared in music videos and done cameos on television shows during his career.
In 2015, Bryant penned the poem “Dear Basketball” to commemorate his legacy. His verses got turned into a short animated film, which won the Academy award in 2018. Bryant published his best-seller, “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play?” in the same year. The autobiography gives us a glimpse of his tactics and strategies. This guide allowed aspiring athletes to develop a lethal mindset that could pave the way for their personal growth and victories.