Kobe Bryant was always destined for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. But no one could have foreseen that the five-time NBA champion and longtime international sensation would not be there to accept the distinction.
In January last year, a helicopter crash cut short the lives of the Los Angeles Laker superstar, 41, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others.
The unexpected tragedy shocked and shook his legions of fans who had watched the Philly phenom for his prowess and swagger on the court since he was a teenager.
On Saturday night, the legendary player and his memory was honored when he became a posthumous member of the Basketball Hall of Fame – a ceremony that was delayed due to COVID-19.
Fellow great Michael Jordan inducted the 18-time All Star, two-time Olympic gold medal winner, and currently the league’s number four scorer in its history.
Along with Bryant, Tim Duncan, who played his entire career with the San Antonio Spurs, and Kevin Garnett, who played for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Boston Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets, also were inducted at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut instead of the actual Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts due to the ongoing pandemic.
‘When we selected this group for induction, we immediately knew that this would be, maybe, one of the great classes of all-time,’ said Jerry Colangelo, a former team owner and the Hall of Fame’s chairman.
‘I mean, the people going in, the three headliners in Kobe and Garnett and Tim Duncan… that says it all.’
Kobe Bryant was born on August 23, 1978 into a basketball family. He was the youngest of three for Joe ‘Jellybean’ Bryant, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers, and his mother, Pamela Cox, was the sister of John ‘Chubby’ Cox, who played for the Washington Bullets. He had two older sisters, Sharia and Shaya.
After eight years in the NBA, Joe moved the family to Italy to continue his professional career when Bryant was six. Reports vary when Bryant started playing basketball but when he was 12, he joined a local team in the northern city of Reggio Emilia, according to NBC News.
‘When he moved to Reggio Emilia and started playing in my team, it was immediately clear he was from another planet, a cut above us all,’ Davide Giudici, a longtime friend and a former teammate, told the outlet. ‘When he often told us that one day he would become a professional NBA player, we would make fun of him.’
Bryant, who spoke fluent Italian, said an 2011 interview that he grew up in Italy and ‘it’s a country that will always be close to my heart. Always’.
The family moved back to Philadelphia in the early 1990s and Bryant went to Lower Merion High School, where he first gained national recognition for his playing.
His junior year, he was named Pennsylvania Player of the Year and colleges took notice, according to PennLive.com. His senior year, he led his high school team to the state’s championship. The school retired his jersey, No. 33, in 2002.
Instead of playing at the collegiate level to hone his skills, the conventional wisdom of the 1990s, Bryant went straight to the NBA. The Charlotte Hornets drafted him in 1996. However, the Lakers traded Vlade Divac for Bryant.
Bryant was brash and his teammate Shaquille O’Neal – whom the rookie famously feuded with – dubbed him ‘Showboat.’ Nonetheless, he won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. O’Neal and Bryant ended up winning three consecutive championship in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
The basketball star had already made pop culture waves when he took Brandy, a teen singer who had a string of hits in the ’90s, to his prom in 1996.
He met his future wife, Vanessa Laine, on the set of a music video. He was 20 and she was 17 and still attending high school.
The pair married April 2001 – a match that reportedly his family did not approve of and they did not attend the ceremony, according to the LA Times. The couple had their first daughter, Natalia, in January 2003.
After winning three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002, in 2003, Bryant was charged with the sexual assault of 19-year-old woman who worked at a Colorado hotel.
‘After months of scrutiny into her personal life, the woman agreed to the dismissal of the criminal case against Bryant in September 2004 on the condition that he provide a public apology. She continued with a civil suit, which was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2005,’ according to Vox.
Reportedly, he gave Vanessa a $4 million ring. It was after this, that Bryant started to call himself the Black Mamba after the deadly snake featured in the Kill Bill movie.
The Lakers made it to the finals in 2004 but lost to the Detroit Pistons. Bryant would go on to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010. During an April 2013 game against the Golden State Warriors, Bryant, then 34, tore his left Achilles tendon.
He was out for the rest of the season. By November 2015, Bryant announced his retirement at the end of what his 20th season.
After retiring from the NBA, Bryant branched out into the arts and won an Oscar in 2018 for his short animated film, Dear Basketball, which illustrated the poem he had written that announced his retirement.
He also cofounded the Mamba Sports Academy, ‘a joint athletic-training business venture’ in 2018, according to ESPN.
Bryant became a booster of women’s sports and his two eldest daughters, Natalie and Gianna, who was nicknamed Mambacita, played.
He coached Gianna and her team at the academy’s training center. On Sunday, January 26, he and Gianna, who was looking to pursue a career in the WNBA, were on their way to the training center when their helicopter crashed.
Tributes immediately poured in for the 41-year-old star from LeBron James to former President Barack Obama. Around the world from Los Angeles to the Philippines, murals were painted as tributes to Bryant and Gianna.
On May 1, Vanessa launched a clothing line called Mambacita in honor of her daughter on what would have been her 15th birthday. The previous month, in April, Bryant’s estate announced it was ending its partnership with Nike.
At the time of his death, Kobe Bryant had a net worth of $600million. Since his death Bryant has made at least $20million – entering the Forbes’ highest paid dead celebrities list in November last year at number six.
Per the report, sports brand Nike sold out its line of Bryant merchandise this year, while fans rushed to buy his autobiography, which sold an extra 300,000 copies.
News Source: Dailymail