April 13, 2016, Kobe Bryant played his final game in the NBA against the Utah Jazz doing what no player in decades had done: take 50 shots in a game. He ended the night and his career with a season-high 60-point game, the sixth of his career.
Bryant announced his plans to retire on Nov. 29, 2015 in a lengthy poem on the Players’ Tribune website, entitled “Dear Basketball.” “This season is all I have left to give,” he wrote. “My heart can take the pounding / My mind can handle the grind / But my body knows it’s time to say goodbye.”
His tragic death five years later, at age 41, in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, stunned fans worldwide and cut short a promising new chapter in Bryant’s life.
Here are 24 fascinating facts you might not have known about the Lakers’ legendary #24…
More than Jordan
Most people, for example, probably know that Kobe Bryant is one of the highest scoring players of all time. But did you know he’s actually scored more points than Michael Jordan?
Named after a steak
Kobe’s father named him after the expensive and renowned Japanese cut of meat, Kobe beef, after seeing it on a menu.
Sued a whole Japanese city
As it turns out, Kobe didn’t love sharing his name with a cut of tender, fatty beef. So, in 2010, he sued the Japanese city of Kobe for the rights to rename their signature product.
When asked about the case, his attorney, Jeff Rundvlees, told LA Weekly, “While we are aware the city of Kobe has been around longer than my client, Mr. Bryant has clearly become more famous and influential. I mean, just type ‘Kobe’ into Google and tell me what comes up first… If Gatorade had a flavor named Kobe and wasn’t paying him for it, we’d be suing them too.”
A Laker through and through
Kobe Bryant played all 20 years of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning five championships. He was the first NBA player to ever play 20 seasons with the same team.
Almost a Hornet
Kobe was originally drafted to the Charlotte Hornets. Then, in July 1996, just two weeks after they chose him as the 13th pick in the first round of the NBA draft, Charlotte traded Kobe to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.
Almost a hip-hop star
In January 2000, Kobe Bryant released a single with Sony Entertainment, called “K.O.B.E.” It featured him rapping about his love for “basketball, beats and broads,” and supermodel Tyra Banks singing the hook.
There were initially plans for an entire album, called “Visions,” which would have been released later that spring. But when the debut single landed like a ton of bricks, Sony dropped the NBA star.
Fluent in Italian
After living in Italy for a number of years during his childhood, Kobe became fluent in Italian.
The next great soccer player?
Growing up in Italy, Kobe grew to love the sport of soccer and its culture. He played in frequent pick-up games at the park, first as a goalie and then as a midfielder.
So, when the Chicago Tribune asked him what would have happened if his family had never moved back to the states, Kobe responded, “I would have kept playing, that’s for sure. I loved basketball so much, but I also wanted to play for AC Milan.” Then he added, “If myself, Tracy McGrady and LeBron James had a soccer ball at our feet instead of a basketball at 2 years old, with our size, it could have been something.”
Five golden rings
Kobe Bryant has won five NBA titles. The only other LA Lakers with that many rings are Derek Fisher, Michael Cooper, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson.
How’s that for a five man team?
The boy is mine
At the age of 17, Kobe went to his high school prom with Brandy.
On January 22, 2006, Kobe scored 81 points in a single game against the Toronto Raptors.
The only player to have ever scored more points than that in a single game was Wilt Chamberlain, who put up 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in 1962.
No love in Philly
Kobe was born and went to high school in the Philadelphia area, but fans there took to booing him. A lot of that hometown hatred stems from a comment Kobe made back in 2001, when he told reporters that the Lakers were coming to Philly to cut the 76ers’ hearts out.
Big man on campus
Kobe was the first guard to ever be drafted into the NBA straight from high school.
In 1997, Kobe Bryant became the youngest player to ever win the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.
Longest playing guard ever
Kobe wasn’t only the first player to play with the same franchise for 20 seasons. He’s the first guard to play 20 seasons, period.
Runs in the family
Kobe’s dad, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, was also a professional basketball player. He played in the NBA for eight years with the 76ers, the Clippers and the Rockets, before heading to Europe and playing seven seasons in the Italian leagues.
Kobe Bean Bryant
Kobe’s middle name is Bean, a play on his father’s athletic nickname.
A true all-star
Kobe made the NBA All-Star Game a staggering 18 times. The only player in history with more selections than that is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played in 19.
Kobe Bryant retired as the all-time highest scoring Laker, and was the fourth-highest scoring player in NBA history, with 33,643 career points.
You have to take a lot of shots to put that many in, though. So, Kobe Bryant will also go down in history as the NBA’s all-time leader in missed shots.
Kobe is the proud owner of two gold medals for his work on the U.S. national team at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.
A defensive force
Kobe was named to the NBA all-defensive team 12 times, second only to Tim Duncan’s 15.
First-team & All-NBA selections
Kobe Bryant is tied with Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett and Gary Payton for the most first-team selections of all time. They each have nine.
He’s also tied with Karl Malone for the most ever All-NBA selections, at 11.
A life of achievement
When Kobe retired at the end of the 2015 season, he had been in the NBA for more than half his life.
By Christina Capatides