1996 - Kobe Bryant Makes his NBA debut
An MVP. Five NBA championships. The Los Angeles Lakers' all-time scoring mark. Before Kobe Bryant could accomplish these feats and many more, he had a humble start to his NBA career.
Coming out from high school and picked 13th overall in the 1996 Draft, Bryant landed in Los Angeles via a Draft Night trade with the Charlotte Hornets (who originally drafted him). Picked by Jerry West, he would join a remade Lakers squad that added Shaquille O'Neal in free agency that summer to a core featuring Nick Van Exel, Eddie Jones, Cedric Ceballos, Rick Fox and Elden Campbell.
Bryant played six minutes off the bench on Nov. 3, 1996 in his first NBA action, going scoreless with a rebound, a block and a steal in the Lakers' 91-85 win over the Kevin Garnett/Stephon Marbury-led Minnesota Timberwolves.
Bryant mostly came off the bench behind guards Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. Initially, he played limited minutes, but as the season continued, he began to see some more playing time.
He earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan-favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. Little did we know what was to come...
The Legendary 2008-09 NBA Season
Kobe came into the ’08-09 season fresh off the misery of a Finals loss to the hated Celtics. It was a pain they could only erase with a title, and they played with obvious motivation.
The Lakers dominated their 2009 Finals matchup against the Orlando Magic as they won the title in just five games. Los Angeles was clearly the best team in the series and they claimed the franchise’s 15th title in Orlando.
Kobe added a fourth championship to his collection and was the first time he won Finals MVP. Bryant finally got over the hump in terms of winning a championship without Shaquille O’Neal.