In addition to being the home of Spike’s Trophies, Philadelphia has been the birthplace of a number of notable athletes. Maybe it’s the attitude of the city, maybe it’s the large number of gyms and recreation centers in the area, maybe it’s something in the water, whatever the reason, some of the world’s most impressive athletes hail from the same city that we’ve been making crystal awards in for over 85 years.
Kobe Bean Bryant was born in Philadelphia in August of 1978. Kobe’s father, Joe Bryant was an NBA player at the time of Kobe’s birth but by 1984, his career brought him to an Italian basketball team. Kobe spent several years in Italy, learning to speak the language fluently and even becoming a young phenom in the sport of soccer.
By 1991, Kobe was back in the states and began playing basketball at Lower Merion High School where he became the first freshman in more than two decades to play on the varsity team. Bryant immediately established himself as a prospect for the NBA, being named the Pennsylvania Player of The Year in his junior season.
Despite major attention from D1 colleges in his senior year, Kobe Bryant became the first player at the guard position to ever be drafted out of high school in 1996. Selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets, Kobe was immediately traded to the team he would spend all 20 years of his career with, The Los Angeles Lakers.
Benched in the first games of the 1996-1997 season, Kobe would become the youngest NBA starter on record and won the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest as a rookie. Bryant was a fan-favorite before his first season was even over. Suffering two bitter western conference losses in his first two years in the NBA, The Lakers doubled down on Kobe, extending his contract and shedding their other two star shooting guards (Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel).
Kobe Bryant and The Lakers won three consecutive NBA Championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002. In the seasons that followed, Bryant would set a number of records including the second most points ever scored in a game (first place is still held by Wilt Chamberlain) and most three-pointers scored in a game (a record broken this season by Stephen Curry). Kobe went on to win two more NBA championships, winning five championship trophies in total.
Kobe remained a fierce competitor up until his final game, never losing his status as a starting player when healthy. During the last three years of his career (2013-2016), Bryant was plagued by injuries, finally deciding to retire in his twentieth season.
Kobe carved out his place among the elite basketball players of all time, often being mentioned in the same breath as names like Olajuwon, Jordan, Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar. As one of Philadelphia and the NBA’s greats, his legacy will endure for quite some time.