Kobe Bryant: Profile of an NBA legend who inspired a generation

Kobe Bryant, who died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash in California on Sunday morning, is widely considered one of the greatest sportsmen of all time.

The five-time NBA champion was a fierce competitor and renowned for his desire to win, which lasted his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

It all began at the age of just 18, when he became the youngest player to ever play in the NBA at the time and was soon considered by some as a potential successor to the great Michael Jordan.

While he made his name at the Lakers, the only team he ever played for, Philadelphia-born Bryant was initially drafted to the Charlotte Hornets as the 13th pick.

He joined the NBA straight from High School, which is unusual as players tend to spend time at university before entering the draft.

Kobe Bryant kisses daughter Gianna after winning his fourth title in 2009. Credit: AP

He was quickly traded to the Lakers and Bryant soon forged a reputation as a lethal scorer.

But from 1996 to 1999 he had no joy during the post-season, which is when the top NBA teams compete head-to-head in an elimination format for the championship.

His wait for the famous Larry O’Brien trophy would not last long.

In 2000, under the coaching of Phil Jackson, Bryant was a key player in a Lakers team that clinched the first of three championships in a row – completing the elusive ‘three-peat’ in 2002.

Bryant’s Lakers were the first team to win three in a row since Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and it is a feat that has not been matched since.

Kobe Bryant celebrates after defeating the Boston Celtics. Credit: AP

His scoring prowess would continue to win plaudits in the league, peaking in 2006 when he finished with an incredible 81 points against the Toronto Raptors - the second most in any NBA game by an individual player behind Wilt Chamberlain.

But Bryant, who won his first Olympic gold medal with Team USA in 2008, waited seven years for his next NBA title.

After losing in the finals to old adversary the Boston Celtics in 2008, Bryant’s Lakers came back stronger in 2009 and he won his fourth championship at the expense of the Orlando Magic.

One year later, he averaged nearly 30 points per game as the Lakers exacted revenge on the Celtics in a winner-takes-all final match.

It would be his fifth and final NBA championship.

Kobe Bryant on the night he scored 81 points. Credit: AP

Bryant retired in 2016 at the age of 38 after struggles with an achilles injury late in his career.

In typical Kobe fashion, he scored a whopping 60 points in his last game ever.

Bryant stood third in the all-time NBA points list until Saturday night, when current Laker LeBron James pushed him down to fourth place. He scored 33,643 points in his NBA career.

The Lakers retired both of Bryant's shirt numbers - eight and 24 - in a ceremony in December 2017.

It was at that ceremony when then franchise president Magic Johnson, himself considered one of the greatest to ever play the game, said: "We're here to celebrate the greatest who has ever worn the purple and gold."

Kobe Bryant’s career in numbers:

Kobe Bryant, here guarding Michael Jordan, was considered by some as the next face of the NBA after the Bulls legend. Credit: AP
  • 5 - The number of NBA titles he won.

  • 33,643 - The number of regular-season points he scored. The fourth-highest in history.

  • 5640 - The number of post-season points he scored.

  • 8378 - The number of three-pointers he scored.

  • 1346 - The number of NBA games he played.

  • 20 - Seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, the most with one team in NBA history.

  • 13 - Where Bryant was selected in the NBA draft.

  • 24 - His jersey number from 2006 onwards, before which he wore the number eight.

  • 15 - The number of All-Star game appearances he made.

  • 81 - the career-high points total he scored against Toronto in 2006.

  • 2 - Olympic Gold medals (2008, 2012).

  • 4 - All-Star MVP Awards (2002, 2007, 2009, 2011), tied with Bob Pettit for the most in NBA history.

  • 17 - The number of NBA player-of-the-month awards he won.

  • 32 - The number of NBA player-of-the-week awards he won.