Basketball superstar and multiple world record holder Kobe Bryant last week announced his retirement as an NBA player, with the 37-year-old set to draw the curtain on his glittering career at the end of the 2015-2016 season.
To mark the end of a sporting era, here below we take a record-breaking look back over Bryant’s career.
Born in 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and named after a Japanese steakhouse, Kobe grew up around basketball, with his dad Joe a former forward for the Philadelphia 76ers and the San Diego Clippers.
After ending his NBA career, Kobe’s father took the family to Italy, where he finished his playing career in the Italian League.
When the family eventually returned to Philadelphia in 1991, Bryant joined the Lower Merion High School basketball team, leading it to the state championships four years in a row. With an eye on the NBA, he also started training with the 76ers.
After finishing high school and with a growing reputation as a standout young player, he was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick of the 1996 NBA draft, and was subsequently traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he would go on to become the star player of the franchise.
His first match against the Dallas Mavericks in January 27 1997 set the record for Youngest NBA player to start a game at just 18 years and 158 days old.
As Bryant’s careers flourished, primarily playing as Guard for the Lakers, he achieved many accolades including five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, and 17 NBA All-Star game appearances. His NBA All-Star game appearances helped him achieve the record for Most wins of the NBA All-Star Game MVP with four awards.
An example of his extraordinary scoring abilities came in 2006 when Bryant scored 81 points in a single game against the Toronto Raptors. The game became Kobe’s highest scoring game in his career and the second most points scored in a single NBA game.
Kobe’s remarkable skills and technique allowed him to achieve multiple scoring records including Youngest player to score 30,000 in a NBA career during a win over the New Orleans Hornets on December 5 2012, at 34 years and 104 days old and Most three-point field goals by an individual in an NBA game (regular season) during a game against the Seattle Supersonics on January 7 2003 where he scored 12 three-point shots.
While playing the game he loved and was so passionate about, he also became the Youngest basketball player to appear in 1,000 games at 31 years and 177 days old, playing against the Memphis Grizzlies on February 23, 2010.
Unfortunately, the latter part of his career was blighted by injuries, with Kobe suffering a torn Achilles tendon in April 2013, followed by a devastating knee fracturing just six games into the 2013-14 season.
Despite these setbacks, Kobe still managed to surpass Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA all-time scoring list in December 2014.
Kobe was also a key member of the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams, winning consecutive gold medals with teammates Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
After Kobe announced his retirement, many peers and colleagues expressed their gratitude to Bryant for his legacy to the sport. Among the first to offer his praise was his former Lakers teammate, Magic Johnson. “There will never be another Kobe Bryant” Johnson said, “He’s going to go down as one of the greatest that has ever played. I put him up there right below Michael Jordan as the two greatest scorers I’ve ever seen probably in the history of this game.”
In a statement following Kobe’s retirement announcement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, was equally unequivocal in his praise, saying: "With 17 NBA All-Star selections, an NBA MVP, five NBA championships with the Lakers, two Olympic gold medals and a relentless work ethic, Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players in the history of our game,"
"Whether competing in the Finals or hoisting jump shots after midnight in an empty gym, Kobe has an unconditional love for the game."
Through his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe has demonstrated the skill, leadership and sportsmanship of a champion. He leaves a legacy not only in the NBA, but also for sport in general.