Kobe Bryant is arguably one of the five greatest players to ever play the game of basketball. It’s hard to argue that when you look at his numbers.
In his 20-year career (the first to play with one team for 20 years), Kobe averaged 25 points (12th all time), five rebounds and five assists per game, was named an All Star 18 times, was named to an All-NBA team 15 times, first-team All-NBA team 11 times, All-Defensive team 12 times, first-team All Defensive team nine times, one MVP (criminal if you ask me), two Finals MVPs and four All-Star game MVPs. He currently is third all time in total points scored for a career.
Plainly put, Kobe is a Los Angeles Lakers legend and will go down as such when both of his jerseys, No. 8 and No. 24, are hung in the rafters at Staples Center on Dec 18. From the Lakers’ website:
“As a kid growing up in Italy, I always dreamed of my jersey hanging in the Lakers rafters, but I certainly never imagined two of them,” said Bryant. “The Lakers have bestowed a huge honor on me and I’m grateful for the fans’ enthusiasm around this game.”
Bryant will become the 10th player in Los Angeles Lakers history to earn this distinction, joining Wilt Chamberlain (13), Elgin Baylor (22), Gail Goodrich (25), Earvin “Magic” Johnson (32), Kareem Abdul- Jabbar (33), Shaquille O’Neal (34), James Worthy (42), Jerry West (44) and Jamaal Wilkes (52).
“Kobe’s jerseys are taking their rightful home next to the greatest Lakers of all time,” said Lakers CEO and Controlling Owner Jeanie Buss. “There was never any doubt this day would come, the only question was when. Once again, Lakers fans will celebrate our hero, and once again, our foes will envy the legendary Kobe Bryant.”
“This honor is very well deserved,” said Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin “Magic” Johnson. “Kobe was one of the greatest Lakers and NBA players of all-time and he’s definitely on my Mount Rushmore. I look forward to seeing BOTH of his jerseys be retired and celebrating this special day with Kobe and his family.”
“Kobe’s impact on this franchise is immeasurable,” said General Manager Rob Pelinka. “Kobe carried the torch for the Lakers for 20 seasons, keeping the franchise at the forefront of the NBA following the ‘Showtime’ Era. Beyond the championship banners and individual accolades, Kobe’s ‘Mamba Mentality’ is something the Lakers will always try to emulate. It alone daily inspires all of us to strive for greatness. Kobe’s loyalty and dedication to his craft make him one of the most iconic superstars in sports history. The full impact he has on this game and on future generations will not be fully recognized for a long, long time.”
Bryant sits as the Lakers all-time leader in regular season games played (1,346), points (33,643), three-pointers made (1,827), steals (1,944) and free throws made (8,378), while owning franchise playoff records for games played (220), points (5,640), three-pointers made (292) and free throws made (1,320).
Kobe was Michael Jordan after MJ retired. He was a lethal assassin with no regard for human life on a basketball court. He would take pleasure in draining clutch shot after clutch shot and feed off the misery it created for opponents. Kobe earned the nickname “Black Mamba” for a very good reason. There are few players that have ever graced a basketball court with this mentality and it was a joy to watch him take the torch from MJ, who was arguably the first player to have this mentality at the level he did.
Bryant was the perfect example of someone blessed with amazing talent but combined that with a relentless work ethic. Stories of this are all over NBA circles, but one of the best was revealed this year when Jay Williams talked about a game he had against Kobe back in the day.
Here is a transcript of the gist of what Williams said about Kobe:
The game was at seven… this is the championship Lakers. I’m going to get there at 3:00, and I want to make sure I make 400 made shots before I go back into the room and then I sit in the sauna and get ready for the game. Who do I see? I see Kobe Bryant, already working out.
“Once I set my foot across the line I started working out. I worked out for a good hour, hour-and-a-half. When I came off, after I was done I sat down and of course I still heard the ball bouncing. I looked down I’m like ‘This guy’s still working out?’ It looks like he was in a dead sweat when I got there,” Williams said.
“That game he drops 40 on us. After the game is over I’m like ‘I have to ask this guy, I have to understand why he works like that.’ After the game I’m like ‘Hey Kobe, why where you in the gym for so long?’
“He was like ‘Cause I saw you come in and I wanted you to know that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, that I’m willing to work harder than you,’” Williams said.
His training routines were borderline insane. According to ESPN’s Rick Reilly, Kobe would do suicide pushups to prepare on game day.
“Among a dozen other drills, Bryant does suicide push-ups. At the top of the pushup, he launches himself off the mat so hard that both his feet come off the ground and his hands slap his pecs. He does three sets of seven of these. This makes me turn away and whimper softly.”
He would also sometimes watch film of a game during halftime of those games.
“He often corrals teammates, fires up the laptop, and shows them precisely how they can carve out easier shots for themselves.” according to Jackie McMullen.
It’s hard to imagine being more competitive than Kobe Bryant. The guy worked his tail off and it’s stories like these that help the common man understand what it takes to be a truly great athlete. Hard work, determination, drive, it is all necessary. Kobe refused to skate by on talent alone and it showed in his game. Both of his jerseys hanging at Staples is a testament to that.