Named after a steak house in King of Prussia, Pa., Kobe is the third child born to Pamela and Joe "Jellybean"
Bryant, a journeyman forward for the Philadelphia 76ers. The elder Bryant would average 8.7 points per game in 606 career NBA
games with the 76ers, Clippers and Rockets.
The Bryants move to Rieti, Italy, where Joe begins his European playing
career. Kobe, 6, is enrolled in first grade and begins learning Italian, which
to this day he speaks fluently. He likes basketball, but finds little interest
among friends. "After school I would be the only guy on the basketball court,
working on my moves, and then kids would start showing up with their soccer
ball. It was either go home or be the goalkeeper."
After school, Kobe joins his dad at practices. He works on free-throw
shooting off to the side while the team works out. "Sure, we were in Italy," Joe
Bryant says, "but he was around basketball all the time, playing against older
When Kobe's idol, Magic Johnson, retires from the NBA after
announcing he is HIV positive, young Kobe bursts into tears. Kobe, who heard the
news while living in France, for years studied tapes of Lakers games. "For a
week he was missing meals. It was really, really hard for him," sister Sharia
The Bryant family moves back to the U.S. so the three children
can begin preparing for college. Kobe, 13, joins the Sonny Hill summer league in
Philadelphia, where a counselor scolds him for listing the NBA as his future
career. "The guy said NBA players are one in a million," Kobe says. "I said,
'Man, look, I'm going to be that one in a million.' "
After years of trying, Kobe finally beats his dad in a game of one-on-one.
"When I was 14 or 15 he started cheating. He'd elbow me in the mouth, rip my lip
open," Kobe says.
Kobe, now 6'6", is named Most Valuable Player of the Adidas ABCD Summer
Camp, one of the top high school camps in the U.S.
Leading Lower Merion High to the Class AAAA Pennsylvania state
championship in his senior year, Kobe averages 30.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 6.5
assists, 4.0 steals and 3.8 blocked shots. Kobe becomes Southern Pennsylvania's
alltime leading scorer with 2,883 points, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain (2,359),
and is named Naismith Player of the Year.
June 26, 1996
Passing up a personal dream of playing for either Duke, Michigan
or North Carolina, Kobe enters the NBA draft and is selected by the Charlotte
Hornets in the first round (13th pick overall).
July 11, 1996
The Hornets deal Kobe to the Lakers for Vlade Divac. He signs his
first pro contract 16 days later.
November 3, 1996
At 18 years, two months and 11 days, Kobe becomes the second-
youngest player to appear in an NBA game.
During All-Star Weekend, Kobe wins the Gatorade Slam Dunk
Championship and scores 31 points in the Schick Rookie Game, erasing Eddie
Jones' record of 25.
December 17, 1997
In a game against the Chicago Bulls, Kobe drops 33 points on
Michael Jordan, who guards him. The media picks up on this and begins hyping the
upcoming All-Star game, comparing the Lakers guard to Jordan.
February 8, 1998
The youngest player to appear in an NBA All-Star game, Bryant
is voted by the fans as a starter on the Western Conference squad. He doesn't
disappoint with 18 points, but tries going head-to-head with Jordan again. This
time Jordan takes him to task, scoring 23 and wrapping up the MVP. "The hype was
me vs. him. I knew I wasn't 100 percent and he was, and he was biting at the
bit," says Jordan. In his battle with Jordan, Bryant waves off a Karl Malone
pick. Malone later says: "Like I told coach (George) Karl, when younger guys
tell me to get of the way, that's a game I don't need to be in. I was ticked."
Replies Bryant: "I was just being aggressive. When somebody told me what he
said, I thought it was funny."
March 21, 1999
Kobe scores 33 of his career-high 38 points in the second half of a
113-104 victory over the Orlando Magic.
June 16, 1999
Phil Jackson is named coach of the Lakers, fulfilling a dream Kobe had. After the Hornets traded Kobe to Los
Angeles before his rookie season, he tells his dad that one day he would play for Jackson -- even though Jackson was coaching the Chicago Bulls at the time. On changing Kobe's offensive mind-set, Jackson says, "Kobe didn't have a selfish agenda; he just felt that the way he had been playing was the best way he could contribute."
After Toronto Raptors star Vince Carter scores 51 points in a game, an annoyed Kobe responds to an NBC pregame question asking whether he'll try to do something equally spectacular by saying, "Man, why do you guys want to ask those questions?" Perhaps overshadowed by teammate Shaquille O'Neal and Carter, Kobe then says: "It's actually perfect. I can learn every facet of the game without everyone analyzing every move I make."
Kobe continues to progress, averaging career highs in points (22.6), assists (4.9) and rebounds (6.2) per game. "I just want to see what I'm capable of. That's what drives me more than anything: curiosity," Kobe says.
June 19, 2000
Kobe, 21, solidifies his claim as one of the NBA's best when he steps up his play in the finals versus the Indiana Pacers. Forced to miss Game 3 with a badly sprained ankle, a hobbled Kobe delivers an impressive performance in a Game 4 overtime victory. After Shaquille O'Neal fouls out, Kobe finishes with 28 and has the game-winning basket. "This was the game I dream about every day," said Bryant.
In Game 6, Kobe answers the bell again, complementing O'Neal's 41 points with 26 as the Lakers win the title. Says Kobe afterward: "I'm numb. I'm just numb right now. I didn't know champagne burned this much when it gets in your eyes."
A historic night in Golden State as Bryant tallies a career-high 51 points in a
loss to the Warriors. Golden State forward Antawn Jamison matches Bryant's
scoring output, and the two become the first opponents to top 50 points in the
same game since the San Francisco Warriors' Wilt Chamberlain (63) and the
Lakers' Elgin Baylor (51) did it on Dec. 14,
Bryant is named the NBA Player of the Month after averaging 32.3 points, 4.8
rebounds and 4.9 assists per game in December.
As the top vote-getter (1,433,747) for the 50th annual NBA All-Star Game, Bryant
lives up to the hype, leading the Western Conference with 19 points and seven
assists. Kobe knocked down three jumpers in the final 90 seconds, but it was not
enough, as the East erased a 21-point deficit in the final nine minutes to win
Kobe finishes the regular season with career highs in scoring (28.5 ppg) and
assists (5.0 ppg), securing his status as one of the game's best players.
It's quite a homecoming for Bryant as the 22-year-old superstar wins his second
consecutive NBA championship, but this time he does it in his hometown. Kobe,
who was born in Philadelphia, scores 26 points against the Sixers in the
deciding Game 5 victory. For the series, Bryant averages 24.6 points, 7.8
rebounds and 5.8
April 18, 2001
The 22-year-old Bryant marries 19-year-old Vanessa Laine in a private ceremony in Dana Point, Calif. The couple met two years earlier when Bryant visited a video shoot where Laine was working as a background model, and became engaged during the 2000 NBA playoffs.
January 14, 2002
With Shaquille O'Neal serving a suspension, Kobe dominates in the Lakers' 120-81 pummeling of the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite playing just 34 minutes, Bryant pours in a career-high 56 points, making 21 of 34 shots, including three of six 3-pointers, and 11 of 12 free throws.
February 10, 2002
At the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Bryant scores 31 points in the All-Star Game and takes home MVP honors. However, that isn't the big story. The hometown product is booed during the introductions, and virtually every time he touches the ball. When commissioner David Stern presents the MVP trophy to Kobe, the boos grow longer and louder. "I was pretty upset," Bryant says after the game. "The boos were hurtful, but it's not going to ruin this day for me."
March 1, 2002
In an uncharacteristic moment, Bryant throws a punch at Pacers' guard Reggie Miller after the buzzer sounds in the Lakers' 96-84 victory. The two end up rolling around on the scorer's table before being separated. Neither player discusses the altercation after the game, but Bryant releases a statement though a team spokesman saying "If somebody comes at me, I'm going to defend myself." The end result is each being hit with a two-game suspension. Bryant is fined $12,500, and Miller $10,000.
June 12, 2002
In an NBA Finals sweep of the New Jersey Nets, Kobe does a little bit of everything. He averages 26.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists as the Lakers win their third straight NBA title and rack up a 30-5 mark over the past two postseasons. At the Meadowlands in Game 3, Bryant thwarts any thoughts New Jersey has of making it a series, scoring a game-high 36 points -- including 12 in the fourth quarter -- leading L.A. to a 106-103 victory to basically secure another Lakers championship.
July 4, 2003
Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy issues an arrest warrant for Bryant after a 19-year-old Colorado woman says she was sexually assaulted by the NBA player July 1 at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Edwards, where she worked at the front desk. Bryant was staying at the lodge before undergoing knee surgery in nearby Vail. He is booked, his mug shot is taken, and he is freed on a $25,000 bond.
July 18, 2003
A single count of felony sexual assault against Bryant is filed, two weeks after his arrest.
Bryant holds a news conference in Los Angeles with his wife, Vanessa, by his side. He acknowledges having sex with his accuser but insists it was consensual. "I'm innocent. I didn't force her to do anything against her will," Bryant says.
Aug. 6, 2003
Amid a media frenzy, Bryant returns to Eagle, Colo., to appear in court for a 10-minute hearing on his assault charge. Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett schedules a preliminary hearing for Oct. 9, at which time the charge will be formally read before Bryant.
Photographs by Al Tielemans (2), John W. McDonough, Walter Iooss Jr., Manny Millan.