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Kobe Bean Bryant (/ˈkoʊbiː/ KOH-bee; August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020) was an American professional basketball player. A shooting guard, he spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Bryant won five NBA championships, was an 18-time All-Star, a 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, a 12-time member of the All-Defensive Team, the 2008 NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP), and a two-time NBA Finals MVP. Bryant also led the NBA in scoring twice, and ranks fourth in league all-time regular season and postseason scoring. He was posthumously voted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020.
Born in Philadelphia and partly raised in Italy, Bryant was recognized as the top American high-school basketball player while at Lower Merion. The son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, he declared for the 1996 NBA draft and was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick; he was then traded to the Lakers. As a rookie, Bryant earned a reputation as a high-flyer by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest, and was named an All-Star by his second season. Despite a feud with teammate Shaquille O’Neal, the pair led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. In 2003, Bryant was charged with sexual assault; criminal charges were dropped after the accuser refused to testify, and a lawsuit was settled out of court, with Bryant issuing a public apology and admitting to a sexual encounter he maintained was consensual.
After the Lakers lost the 2004 NBA Finals, O’Neal was traded and Bryant became the cornerstone of the Lakers. He led the NBA in scoring in the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons. On January 22, 2006, he scored a career-high 81 points; the second most points scored in a single game in league history, behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in 1962. Bryant led the team to consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010, both times being named NBA Finals MVP. He continued to be among the top players in the league through the 2012–13 season, when he suffered a torn achilles tendon at age 34. Season-ending knee and shoulder injuries followed in the next two seasons. Citing physical decline, Bryant retired after the 2015–16 season.
The all-time leading scorer in Lakers history, Bryant was the first guard in NBA history to play 20 seasons. His 18 All-Star designations are the second most all time, while it is the record for most consecutive appearances as a starter. Bryant’s four NBA All-Star Game MVP Awards are tied with Bob Pettit for the most in NBA history. He gave himself the nickname “Black Mamba” in the mid-2000s, and the epithet became widely adopted by the general public. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won two gold medals as a member of the U.S. national team. In 2018, he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for the film Dear Basketball (2017).
Bryant died, along with his daughter Gianna and seven others, in a helicopter crash at Calabasas, California in January 2020. A number of tributes and memorials were subsequently issued, including renaming the All-Star MVP Award in his honor.