Remembering Kobe Bryant: 14 of the NBA Icon’s Defining Moments

Kobe Bryant produced one of the most illustrious careers in the history of sports, and before his tragic death in a Calabasas, Calif., helicopter crash one year ago, the basketball icon was shaping up to have an equally as incredible second act.

His on-court accomplishments are nothing short of legendary, a list that includes winning five NBA championships, earning NBA MVP honors and scoring 81 points in a game. Off the court, the Black Mamba was an Academy Award winner and created an acclaimed analysis program alongside ESPN, among several other achievements.

Since it’s difficult to identify a specific moment that defined his legacy with more than 20 years in the spotlight, FN looks back at several of the great things the beloved athlete achieved.

1996: NBA Draft

The product of Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania bypassed college and went straight to the NBA, getting selected No. 13 overall by the Charlotte Hornets. He was then traded on draft day to the Los Angeles Lakers for veteran Vlade Divac.

1997: NBA Slam Dunk Contest Champion

With the Adidas EQT Elevation laced up, the baller faced off against Michael Finley, Ray Allen and others to earn the NBA Slam Dunk Contest win.

1997: The Debut of the Adidas KB8

The baller’s first-ever signature shoe was the Adidas KB8, which featured the brand’s Feet You Wear technology that was created to resemble the curves and shape of the human foot.

Adidas Crazy 8 '1998 All-Star Game'
The lateral side of the Adidas Crazy 8 “1998 All-Star Game.”

2000, 2001 and 2002: Three-Time NBA Champion

The three-peat of championships for Bryant — alongside basketball hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal — started in 2000. Although O’Neal would go on to play elsewhere, Bryant would win two more titles in the Lakers purple and gold.

2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011: NBA All-Star Game MVP

The Black Mamba was named to the NBA’s showcase for the season’s best ballers 18 times in his 20-year career. Four of those games he proved to be the best of the best.

2006: The Debut of the Nike Air Zoom Kobe 1

Bryant landed with Nike after starting his career with Adidas and a brief sneaker free agency period, and his first signature shoe with the Swoosh — the Air Zoom Kobe 1 — debuted in 2006.

2006: 81 Points

Fifteen years ago, the late NBA icon led his Los Angeles Lakers to a 122-104 home win over the Toronto Raptors at the Staples Center, scoring 81 points on 28-of-46 shooting. More than a decade later, a look at the box score from the Jan. 22, 2006, game is still shocking. The second highest scoring Laker during the game was Smush Parker, who dropped just 13 points. Bryant achieved this feat in the Nike Air Zoom Kobe 1.

Nike Kobe 1 Protro '81 Points'
Nike Kobe 1 Protro "81 Points."
CREDIT: Courtesy of Nike

Nike Kobe 1 Protro “81 Points.”

2008: NBA MVP

Although the Lakers would lose to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, Bryant was named the league’s best regular season player, earning the MVP nod.

2009 and 2010: Back-to-Back NBA Champion and Finals MVP

A year removed from falling to the Celtics, Bryant and the Lakers won two straight titles, beating the Orlando Magic and Celtics, respectively. And for both title runs, Bryant was named the Finals MVP.

2016: Final NBA Game

Bryant ended his career on the court in style. Against the Utah Jazz on the Staples Center court on April 13, 2016, the baller dropped 60 points, leading the Lakers to a 101-96 win. Also that day, Nike released the limited-edition, black and gold Kobe 11 Mamba Day iD sneaker.

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant speaks to fans after the last NBA basketball game of his career, against the Utah Jazz, Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant addresses fans after his final NBA game on April 13, 2016.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

2017: “Dear Basketball”

Shortly after his pro basketball retirement, Bryant started his second act by delivering the animated film — which he wrote and narrated — titled “Dear Basketball.” In 2018, it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.

2018: “Detail” with ESPN

In April, ESPN revealed its “Detail” program in collaboration with Bryant and Granity Studios. The show arrived via ESPN+ and was created to deliver basketball analysis and insights through 2018 NBA Playoff game breakdowns done from the standpoint of just one player.

2018: “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” Book Released

Bryant delivered insights into his life and career on the basketball with his “The Mamba Mentality: How I Play” book, which debuted in October.

2018: Reveals the Mamba Sports Academy

Before year’s end, Bryant teamed up with Sports Academy to reveal the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks, Calif. A statement in December said the academy was created to “provide effective, safe and transparent overall human performance training to develop athletes to the peak of their potential.”

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