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Kobe Bryant

Went Pro After High School

At Lower Merion High School, Bryant became a basketball star, breaking records and collecting trophies and honors. As a senior he was voted National High School Player of the Year by USA Today and Parade magazine. He had helped his team win a Class AAAA state title, and had ended his high school career with a total of 2,883 points—more than any other player in the history of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which had produced such NBA greats as Wilt Chamberlain and Carlin Warley. Bryant also boasted a record-breaking average of 30.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 4.0 steals, and 3.8 blocked shots per game.

In an unusual move, Bryant skipped college and went directly into a career as a professional basketball player. Picked 13th overall in the 1996 NBA draft, Bryant was originally selected by the Charlotte Hornets. Yet before the season began he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for the center Vlade Divac. At eighteen years, two months, and eleven days old, he became the youngest player ever to make an NBA debut. Donning a number 8 on his uniform, he appeared in his first game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on November 3, 1996.

Bryant made his first career start on January 28, 1997, scoring twelve points in a game against the Dallas Mavericks. In 1997's Schick Rookie Game, Bryant set a new record with a top score of thirty-one points and eight rebounds. Participating in that year's NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland, he won the Nestle Crunch Slam Dunk Competition. Averaging 7.6 points per game and 15.5 minutes per game in seventy-one games during his debut season, Bryant was named to the 1996-97 NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Already sports critics were focusing in on the young player.

Bryant doubled his points-per-game in his sophomore season, ending with an average of 15.4 in seventy-nine games. He started only one game with the Lakers that season, scoring seventeen points and four rebounds against the Portland Trail Blazers in February. Voted a starter in the 1998 All-Star Game, Bryant made history as the youngest NBA All-Star player. In that year's All-Star Game in New York, he led his team with eighteen points and six rebounds.


1978 Born on August 23 in Philadelphia, PA
1984 Moves with family to Rieti, Italy
1991 Moves back to United States; attends high school in Lower Merion, PA
1996 Leads Lower Merion High School to Class AAAA state championships
1996 Selected by Charlotte Hornets in NBA draft; traded to Los Angeles Lakers
1996 Becomes youngest player to debut in an NBA game
1998 Becomes youngest player to appear in an NBA All-Star game
1999 Signs six-year contract extension with Lakers, valued at about $71 million
2000 Helps Lakers to NBA Championship title
2000 Releases rap single K.O.B.E. (Sony Records)
2001 Helps Lakers to second consecutive NBA Championship title
2001 Marries Vanessa Laine
2002 Helps Lakers to third consecutive NBA Championship title

Awards and Accomplishments

1996 National High School Player of the Year (USA Today and Parade magazine)
1996 Naismith Player of the Year
1996 Gatorade Circle of Champions High School Player of the Year
1996 McDonald's All-America Team member
1996 Youngest player (age 18) to debut in NBA league
1997 Nestle Crunch Slam Dunk competition winner at NBA All-Star Weekend
1997 Set new record with 31 points and 8 rebounds in Schick Rookie Game
1998 Youngest player to appear in an NBA All-Star game
1998-99 Only Lakers' player to start all 50 games
1998-99 All-NBA Third Team
1999-2000 All-NBA Second Team; NBA All-Defensive First Team; NBA All-Interview Second Team
2001-02 All-NBA First Team; All-Defensive Second Team
2002 MVP of 2002 All-Star Game

Related Biography: Basketball Player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant

Born c. 1955, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant excelled in basketball as a high school student in his native Philadelphia. He went on to play college basketball at La Salle University, making First Team honors in the 1974-75 season. In his junior year, Bryant left La Salle to join the NBA, where he played for eight seasons. As a journeyman forward, he averaged 8.7 points per game in 606 career NBA games with the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Houston Rockets. In 1984, retiring from the NBA, Bryant moved to Rieti, Italy, where he would play professional basketball in the Italian league. He later played in Switzerland and France as well, taking his family with him. Bryant returned to the United States after eight years in Europe, and later took a job as an assistant coach at La Salle. He remains very close to his son, Kobe. "He's always been there for me," Kobe told Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News in 1996. "We can talk about anything. I love him to death."

By the 1998-99 season, Bryant was regarded as one of the sport's most promising rising stars. He was the only Lakers player to start all fifty games, and was the team's second-highest scorer with 19.9 points per game. Leading the Lakers in steals (1.44 per game), Bryant was chosen for the 1998-99 All-NBA Third Team. In January of 1999, he signed a six-year contract extension with the Lakers, believed to be worth about $71 million.

The next season, in a game against the Sacramento Kings on March 3, 2000, Bryant netted a career-high of forty points, with ten rebounds and four assists. That year would be a turning point for the Los Angeles team, which, with the help of Bryant and his powerhouse teammate Shaquille O'Neal, would take the NBA Championship title.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsBasketballKobe Bryant - Went Pro After High School, Chronology, Awards And Accomplishments, Related Biography: Basketball Player Joe "jellybean" Bryant