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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Kobe Bryant Bio: The Athlete and the Star

Kobe Bean Bryant is more than an idol in Los Angeles Lakers; he is the greatest star in the NBA and the world knows that for sure. His father was the former Philadelphia 76ers player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant. Although personal issues and criticism have lowered his esteem in the thoughts of many, Bryant's uncanny mix of talent, skill, athleticism, and work ethic still inspire most to see him as one of the premier athletes in the game nowadays. As such, many fans and critics consider him to be one of the greatest players of his time.

Kobe Bryant was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The reason he got the name Kobe is uncommon, and he loves it. Bryant's grandmom told him when she first heard his name, she thought, "What in the world were Pam and Joe thinking naming him Kobe; perhaps they'll have time to change it before the birth certificate is registered. Maybe they'll give him a more conventional name". But he kept it.

When he was 6, he, his two sisters, and his parents moved to Italy. In that land, his father began playing professional basketball. While living there, he step by step became habituated to the lifestyle and subsequently learned to speak the Italian language fluently. In 1994, the Bryants moved back to the USA. He says that after a outstanding high school career in the Philadelphia suburb of Lower Merion, at Lower Merion High School, Bryant achieved national recognition as a prodigal basketball talent. He then scrapped his original plans of continuing on to college by making the leap from high school directly to the NBA, a bold but controversial decision made by the then seventeen-year old. It is known that he was in the first place selected 13th by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft, but they traded him on July 11, 1996 to the Los Angeles Lakers for center Vlade Divac. At that time he was young and somewhat introverted, but his talent made an impression on his teammates on the practice court. Despite his natural talent, Bryant frequently had trouble relating to teammates away from the basketball court, and he struggled to make friends early in his career.

It's good to remember that during this time the 20-year old Bryant first met 16-year old Vanessa Laine on the set of a music video where Laine was working as a background dancer. The two began dating and were engaged six months later. They got married on April 18, 2001 in Dana Point, California, while Laine was still a senior at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California. Their baby Natalia Diamante was born on January 19, 2003. Bryant's parents initially disapproved of the marriage because of the couple's young age, but have since reconciled with Kobe. In November 2004, after Vanessa suffered a miscarriage (due to an ectopic condition) in the spring of 2005, the Bryants announced that they are expecting another child in May 2006.

Bryant's career as an NBA player out of high school has been nothing short of exceptional. By the age of 24, Bryant had already won many individual awards, from his annual inclusion in the All-NBA teams and a seven time selection into the NBA All-Star team. Bryant, along with former teammate Shaquille O'Neal, helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers as perennial championship contenders, resulting in three consecutive NBA championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Indeed, The Lakers also ventured to the 2004 Finals against the Detroit Pistons, but lost the series four games to one. After the loss to the Pistons, Bryant opted out of his contract to test the free agent market. After flirting with the idea of joining several teams, including the Lakers' cross-town rivals the Los Angeles Clippers, he signed a new seven-year deal with the Lakers worth over $136 million on July 15, 2004.

Fans can see that Bryant's image and achievements on and off the basketball court made him one of basketball's most popular and marketable players. Even big corporations like McDonald's and Coca-Cola had him part of their image. For several years, he had an exclusive apparel and shoe deal with Adidas but is currently under a four-year, $45 million advertising contract with Nike

Many people agree that Kobe Bryant's meteoric career rise in the NBA is attributed to his consummate work ethic. In each of his years in the league, Kobe showed improvement in all areas of his game, from offense to strength to defense. On-court he is a quite composed and competitive player with impressive concentration, able to deliver the toughest and clutch shots at the times most required. These attributes, for the most part, have made him a premier player in the NBA.

One peace of his talent: on December 20, 2005, in one of the most spectacular individual scoring feats in NBA history, Bryant marked a career-high 62 points in only 33 minutes of play in a 112-90 rout of the Dallas Mavericks. His 30 points in the third quarter alone surpassed the Lakers' previous franchise record of 24 points in a single quarter. Bryant had outscored the entire Dallas Mavericks team 62-61 by the time he departed at the end of the third quarter. His career night was only 9 points shy of Elgin Baylor's franchise record of 71, and may well have broken it had he stepped foot on the court during the fourth quarter.


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