The shock didn’t hit the NBA world until the afternoon when news of the superstar’s death reached Twitter. Fans and players waited for more official confirmation, which they received from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who confirmed the tragedy.
The son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, Kobe excelled at basketball in his youth. He even traveled to Italy to play against grown men while he was still an adolescent. He returned to the United States to play for Lower Merion High School.
The Black Mamba entered the NBA directly out of high school. The Charlotte Hornets selected the 18-year-old shooting guard with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft but traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac.
Bryant’s legacy kicked off from there. In the 20 seasons he played with the Lakers, Bryant made 18 All-Star appearances. When he retired, his 33,643 points were the third-most all-time. LeBron James surpassed that total against the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night.
During his career, Bryant won two scoring titles, five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs, and the 2007-08 league MVP. He and Shaquille O’Neal formed one of the greatest duos in NBA history during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Bryant won three of his titles with the big fella before winning two more with Pau Gasol.
Always a driven competitor, Bryant modeled his game and mentality after Michael Jordan. There styles and dominance linked the two. Both players worked beyond normal limits, and their desire for success became hallmarks of their careers. For Bryant, that desire translated into the Mama Mentality.
A tremendous defender, underrated passer, physical competitor, ultimate warrior, lethal clutch scorer, and generational inspiration, Bryant passed away at the age of 41.