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Kobe Bryant: Heart Of A Champion

by realdealbneal



“Kobe’s a well-balanced young man. He has always stayed focus on what is important.”

These are the words of Pam Bryant, Kobe’s mother. This quote not only defines that of a star basketball player, but also greatness in the making, both on and off the court. Since he was drafted in 1996, Kobe Bryant has excelled in all aspects of his professional career, showing off his talents on the court and bringing forth a polished image of a young, successful kid from Philly…yet, among the smiles and millions of fans, a different side is uncovered, by media and a mass number of people, past supporters as well. This side pulled the “good guy” reputation from Kobe’s hands, replacing it with manipulation, hatred, and in some cases, failure. However, before the disaster, there was success; before the problems, there were answers. In a year’s work, eight years seem to be lost in history, but even though the near-decade of success has discovered three championships, there’s still a lifetime left for Kobe Bryant, a man faced with disaster, problems, and failure, but swinging back with the success he has found throughout his life.

The Early Years

The world was introduced to Kobe Bryant on August 23rd, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Bryant’s parents, Joe and Pam, were proud of their third and final child…having two girls already (Shaya and Sharia). Kobe soon found that being a Bryant would bring its positives and negatives, as he was the son of a traveling father, who’s professional basketball career led “Jellybean” Joe Bryant across the United States, and soon…to Rieti, Italy, where Kobe began to show interest in the sport of basketball. His favorite player, Magic Johnson, was dominating the basketball scene at that time, in 1983, just as the Lakers were picking apart the league as well.

Being in a new country, Kobe and his sisters took each day as a learning experience, soon adopting the Italian language and culture. The new location also brought rewards to the family as a whole, with Joe bringing in more money than they were accustomed to as his career took a leap from the bottom of the pack in the NBA to a star overseas. Nonetheless, Kobe was being pushed by other Italians to develop a likeness for the sport of soccer. This was eventually a “lost cause” due to the numerous practices that he would attend with his father, and the many tapes he received from his grandparents back in the states, who would tape games for their grandson to watch on his free time.

As Kobe approached his 10th birthday, Joe decided to enter his young son in a basketball league back in Philadelphia, where they would fly to visit their friends and family each off-season. Kobe developed a passion for the game, as his dad and uncle coached him each game and encouraged him to work on his game every day of the week, sometimes playing against older kids on the street, and sometimes working on his shot in the gym. Soon, Joe Bryant relocated his family to France, where he found European basketball less important than his own kids, who were forced to travel hours each morning to their school in Switzerland. Seeing that a change had to be made, Joe packed his bags again and brought the Bryants back to America.

High School



In the summer of 1992, Kobe Bryant was one of the best players in summer league, making his way up to tryouts for the freshman basketball team. Instead, Kobe suited up for varsity, and played a pretty decent year of basketball. As the year progressed, Kobe found it hard to make friends in high school. His reserved personality often overshadowed his potential as a student, a player, and a friend…making life as a high school student already difficult. However, Kobe maintained his good grades and continued to push himself to become a better player.

That spring, Kobe would find a friend in Eddie Jones who, at the time, was the starting guard for Temple. Bryant would play pick up games with the older guys, getting banged up…but at the same time, learning the game more and more. Jones’ relationship with Bryant may have played a factor in Kobe’s decision to play as a guard, as opposed to a forward. His high school coach loved the idea, as a 6’5” Kobe Bryant would create many mismatches against smaller guards, where Kobe was very capable of playing the spot in the first place. This proved to be a great decision, and by his junior year, Kobe was the toughest high school basketball player to defend. His 31.1 PPG, 10.4 RPG and 5.2 APG were enough to earn him the Pennsylvania Player of the Year award, but even more important were the college recruiters packing in to watch this young kid play ball.

Duke, UNC and Michigan would top Kobe’s list of colleges, but it wasn’t until the 1995 NBA Draft that Kobe started planning on the pros. Kevin Garnett would find himself drafted straight from high school to the league, and it caught Kobe’s attention. Joe and Kobe spoke briefly about it…but in Joe’s mind, there wasn’t much to discuss. He sent Bryant to work out with the Sixers organization, where they found Kobe to be well above the average high school player. All that was left was his senior year…and what a year it was. Lower Merion blasted to a 32-3 record and won a state championship, their first in 42 years. With Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record in jeopardy, Kobe Bryant abused everyone put in front of him that season, averaging 30.8 PPG, breaking Wilt’s Pennsylvania scoring record with 2,883 career points. If that wasn’t enough…he went to greater links by taking recording artist Brandy to his Prom.

The Pros



“With the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, the Charlotte Hornets select Kobe Bryant, from Lower Merion High School, in Pennsylvania.”

Chick Hearn, the voice of the Lakers, picked up his phone, only to find Jerry West at the other end of the line. Shocked, Chick proceeds to listen as Jerry tells him that he’s interested in a guy named Kobe Bryant. Not knowing who he was, Chick asks about him, and is astounded to hear that he’s straight out of high school. Ultimately enough, Jerry West was ambitious enough to push for a trade in hopes to acquire Kobe, and he did just that, sending Vlade Divac to the Hornets. It was a decision that Charlotte would later call their worst ever. The Lakers would then sign free agent Shaquille O’Neal one week after giving Kobe his Laker jersey, and a dynasty was in the works.

For the first two years, Kobe found himself on the bench, playing 10 minutes here, 7 minutes there. His first chance at putting his name on the front page of the LA Times was in Game 5 against the Utah Jazz, in the 1997 Western Conference Semifinals. With the game tied and only a few seconds left, the young Bryant held the Lakers’ fate in his hands…taking a jumper that would hit nothing but air and sending the game into overtime. During the OT, Kobe would miss many times, two more airballs, and the Jazz would eventually move on to the Western Conference Finals. The next year, Kobe’s career began to take off, after an abdominal injury put Shaq on the backburner for 20 games. Kobe, Jones, and Nick Van Exel shared the spotlight and led the Lakers to a 13-7 record without the big man, and the Lakers were the first team in 15 years to put four players in the All-Star Game, and it also marked Kobe’s first ASG appearance, the youngest player to make the list in the history of the NBA.

For the first three years, Shaq and Kobe still could not get it done in Lakerland, thanks to the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs. However, things would take a turn for the better in 1999, when Phil Jackson arrived, dressed to impress, in Los Angeles. Before all was said and done, the Lakers were on top of the world, playing in a new building and with a coaching staff of Jackson, Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblen and Tex Winter. The triangle offense was applied, and Kobe’s game dazzled basketball analysts and fans around the world. When all was said and done, the Lakers posted a 67-15 record and won their first championship since 1988.

Two years later, two more rings…and Kobe Bryant’s name was being mentioned alongside Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. By the third championship, Kobe was considered the best guard in the league, and quite possibly the best player. However, the city of Los Angeles found themselves unprepared for what was about to happen, as the Lakers suffered through a Shaq and Madsen injury, a Fox suspension, and many doubts of a fourth championship. Kobe maintained his composure, rewriting the record books. During the 2002-2003 campaign, Kobe would set the record for most threes in a game (12), a new franchise record for points in a half (42), an NBA season-high 55 points in three quarters vs. Washington, 9 consecutive 40+ point games (fourth longest streak in NBA history), 13 consecutive 35+ point games (fourth longest streak as well), and became the third player in NBA history to average 40 or more points in a single month. Unfortunately, the Lakers’ season fell short after LA went 50-32 during the regular season, losing to the Spurs in 6 games in the Western Conference Semifinals.

The 2003-2004 season would be the saddest of all. Kobe and the Lakers would add veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, in hopes to win a fourth championship, and a first for the two potential Hall of Famers. Winning their first 20 of 25 games, the Lakers were the most dangerous team in basketball…until the injury bug hit Los Angeles. During the season, Malone, Kobe and Shaq would all fall due to injuries, and the Lakers’ season seemed to be lost. Kobe’s shoulder injury against the Cavs would keep him sidelined, but the Lakers would pick up the pace, and when Kobe returned to the lineup, LA finished their season winning 14 of their last 17 games, including an incredible performance by Kobe against Portland on April 14th, where he hit a three pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime, and then netting an amazing fadeaway three with nothing left on the clock to not only send the Blazers to the locker rooms upset, but to win the Pacific Division title over the Kings.

Kobe and the Lakers ran through the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, and escaped with a victory against the Spurs in the semifinals, thanks to Fisher’s heroic shot over Ginobili. Minnesota found themselves on the losing side of the ball in the Western Conference Finals, and the Lakers walked into the Finals ready to claim another championship…but the Detroit Pistons had plans for Kobe and Shaq: shut down the connection, and that’s exactly what they did. With little help from the other players, and with Malone injured, Kobe and O’Neal found life tough against the Pistons, with the passing lane being shut down and Kobe’s game tested against double teams for five nights…the Lakers fell to Detroit.

In what was the turning point for this organization, the Lakers lost O’Neal, Jackson, Malone and Payton after the Finals…re-signing Bryant and planning for the future of Los Angeles. If this was a storybook, Kobe Bryant would be the author…but instead of writing the perfect career, he would write the accurate career, and you’d find this Hollywood story unfinished. There’s something missing to Kobe’s career, and it’s not an MVP or a scoring title; it’s greatness. To be great, you must fail, and since his career in Los Angeles with a great coach and center, Kobe has had little room to fail.

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
- Michael Jordan


Kobe Bryant, against all odds, your time to shine is now.
 

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who wrote it? you?
 

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Queensbridge
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thug_immortal8 said:
who wrote it? you?
That's what the title says.

Beautiful article, bro. Kobe Bryant is a champion, and once again he'll take the Lakers to the promise land. With some hard work by the management, we'll re-build around him and he'll prove himself to be one of the greatest talents to come in the NBA. He doesn't have to be the next MJ, just the same Kobe that has won 3 rings. It isn't a fluke or a co-incidence, Shaq didn't do it alone.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Yes, I wrote it. :) I'll post more here...I own my own basketball forums though, so it's a little tough to post everywhere else.

Thanks for the comments. :)
 

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Queensbridge
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realdealbneal said:
Yes, I wrote it. :) I'll post more here...I own my own basketball forums though, so it's a little tough to post everywhere else.

Thanks for the comments. :)
Your more then welcome to post here. That piece of writing was sheer class, my friend. You'll find this forum to be friendly, but rather dissapointed in it's team and lacking confidence.

Who said re-building was easy?
 

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that was a great article im gonna give you rep points :banana:
 

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Pacman & Mamba
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A great historical piece on Kobe :greatjob:

You ended it well with that quote of MJ. I'd use it as my sig if i had anymore room :)

That was beautifull man! :cry:
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Haha, the MJ quote is one of my favorites, so I had to add it. It was a sweet ending to what would be the beginning of Kobe's "troubles" in his career as a basketball superstar...but like the quote expresses, you can't begin to succeed without failure.
 

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Refreshing! :)
 
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