History of Kobe Bryant Remembrance Day
Kobe Bean Bryant was born August 23, 1978 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to former NBA player Joe Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. Bryant began playing basketball at the age of three. When he was six, his father retired from the NBA and moved his family to Italy to continue playing professional basketball at a lower level. Bryant fit right in with his new lifestyle and learned to speak fluent Italian. The Lakers were Bryant’s favorite team growing up and his grandfather would mail him videos of NBA games to study. During his summers, Bryant would fly back to the United States to play in a basketball summer league.
When his family returned to America, Bryant went on to play basketball at Lower Merion High School in Philadelphia, playing on the varsity team as a freshman. During his years playing high school basketball, he attracted attention from various college recruiters, the top of his list being Duke, Michigan, North Carolina, and Villanova. However, after high schooler Kevin Garnett was drafted by the NBA in 1995, Bryant also considered skipping college and going directly into the pros. In 1996, 17-year-old Kobe Bryant settled upon going directly into the NBA, becoming only the sixth player in history to do so. This decision was met with a lot of publicity not only because it wasn’t very common, but also because his basketball skills and high SAT scores made it possible for him to go to any college of his choosing. Instead, he pursued his childhood dream and signed with the Los Angeles Lakers after being picked up and traded by the Charlotte Hornets.
Bryant debuted in the Summer Pro League in Long Beach, California, scoring 25 points in front of a standing-room-only crowd. He scored 36 points in the finale and finished with an average of 24.5 points and 5.3 rebounds in four games. He became the youngest player to ever play in an NBA game and the youngest NBA starter. The ’98-’99 season marked Bryant’s emergence as a premier guard in the league. As the rookie, he was normally benched behind starting guards Nick Van Exel and Eddie Jones, but once they were traded, Bryant started every game for the lockout-shortened 50 game season. Even this early in his career, sportswriters were comparing his skills to those of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
During his duration with the Lakers, Kobe played a total of 20 seasons. His career averages were 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists in 1,346 regular season games. He won one MVP Award and played 18 All-Star Games. In the summers of 2008 and 2012, Bryant played basketball for the US Olympics team in Beijing and London respectively, winning gold each time. On November 29, 2015, Kobe Bryant announced that after the ’15-’16 season, he would be retiring from the NBA, acknowledging that after years of playing and injuries, his skills were declining.
Bryant was an avid philanthropist. Throughout his career, Kobe granted terminally ill children over 250 wishes through the Make A Wish Foundation, raised more than $81 million for research through Stand Up to Cancer, was named an honorary ambassador of After-School All-Stars, started the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation with his wife to provide comprehensive services to homeless children in Los Angeles, and donated at least $1 million to the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
On January 26, 2020, at 9:06 am PST, 41-year-old Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna went on a helicopter ride with six family friends and a pilot. The group was traveling to a basketball game at Bryant’s Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks. Due to light rain and fog, LAPD helicopters and most other air traffic was grounded. At 9:45 am, the helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain in Calabasas and caught on fire.
Kobe Bryant once described his daughter Gianna Bryant as his basketball legacy. An avid player, she had hoped to play in the WNBA. Kobe served as his daughter’s coach and basketball mentor, and when asked about why he and his wife never had a son to carry on his legacy, he would often turn to the very capable Gianna to answer. It’s important to remember more than just the loss of Kobe Bryant, but of his daughter as well, and the promise she once held that will go sadly unfulfilled.