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*Kobe Bryant was born on this date in 1978. He was an African American professional basketball player, investor and businessman.
Kobe Bean Bryant was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as the youngest of three children and the only son of former NBA player and former WNBA head coach Joe "Jellybean" Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant. He is also the maternal nephew of John "Chubby" Cox. His parents named him after the famous beef of Kobe, Japan. He started playing basketball when he was 3 years old, and his grandfather would mail him videos of NBA games, which Bryant would study.
When Bryant was six, his father moved his family to Italy to play professional basketball. Bryant became accustomed to his new lifestyle and learned to speak Italian and Spanish fluently. During summers, Bryant would come back to the United States to play summer league basketball and he also learned to play soccer. In 1991, the Bryant family moved back to the United States. Bryant earned national recognition during a spectacular high school career at Lower Merion High School near Philadelphia.
As a freshman, he played for the varsity (junior and senior) basketball team. His father coached him his sophomore year of high school with Bryant playing all five positions. At Adidas ABCD camp, Bryant earned the 1995 senior MVP award, while playing alongside future NBA teammate Lamar Odom. He ended his career as Southeastern Pennsylvania's all-time leading scorer at 2,883 points, surpassing both Wilt Chamberlain and Lionel Simmons, Lower Merion alumni. Bryant received several awards for his performance his senior year including being named Naismith High School Player of the Year, Gatorade Men's National Basketball Player of the Year, a McDonald's All-American, and a All-USA First Team player. In 1996, Bryant took singer and friend Brandy Norwood to his senior prom.
His SAT score of 1080 would have ensured his college basketball scholarship. Bryant made the decision to go directly into the NBA, only the sixth player in NBA history to do so. Bryant's news was met with a lot of publicity at a time when prep-to-pro NBA players were not very common. Bryant said that had he decided to go to college after high school, he would have attended Duke University.
The first guard to ever be taken out of high school, Bryant was chosen as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996. However, the Hornets' head scout at the time agreed to trade their draft selection to the Lakers the day before the draft. The Lakers didn't tell the Hornets whom to select until five minutes before the pick was made. On July 1, 1996, West traded his starting center, Vlade Divac, to the Hornets in exchange for Bryant's draft rights. Since he was still 17 at the time of the draft, his parents had to cosign his contract with the Lakers until he was able to sign his own when he turned 18 before the season began.
Bryant was a shooting guard who could play small forward too. He is considered one of the most complete players in the NBA, was selected to every All-NBA Team since 1999. He was a creative scorer, averaging 25.3 points per game for his career, along with 5.3 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.5 steals (as of the end of the 2009–2010 regular season). He shares the single-game NBA record for three pointers made with twelve and he a standout defender, having made the All-Defensive first or second team ten of his last eleven seasons.
In 1999, Bryant met 17-year-old Vanessa Laine while she was working as a background dancer on the Tha Eastsidaz music video "G'd Up". Bryant was in the building working on his debut musical album, which was never released. The two began dating and became engaged just six months later in May 2000, while Laine was still a senior at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California. They married on April 18, 2001, Bryant's parents, his two sisters, longtime advisor and agent Arn Tellem, nor Bryant's Laker teammates attended. Bryant's parents were opposed to the marriage for a number of reasons.
Reportedly Bryant's parents had problems with him marrying so young, especially to a woman who was not African American. This disagreement resulted in an estrangement period, which ended when Bryant had his first daughter. Their first child was Natalia Diamante Bryant. Vanessa Bryant suffered a miscarriage in the spring of 2005. Their second daughter is Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant. In 2016, Vanessa gave birth to their third daughter and in January 2019 the Bryants announced they were expecting a fourth daughter. The daughter was born in June 2019.
In the summer of 2003, Bryant was arrested in connection with a sexual assault complaint filed by 19-year old hotel employee Katelyn Faber. Bryant had checked into The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera hotel in advance of undergoing knee surgery nearby. Faber accused Bryant of raping her in his hotel room the night before Bryant was to have the procedure. Bryant admitted an adulterous sexual encounter with his accuser, but denied her sexual assault allegation. In September 2004, prosecutors dropped the assault case after Faber refused to testify in the trial. Afterward, Bryant agreed to apologize to Faber for the incident, including his public mea culpa: "Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did." Faber filed a separate civil lawsuit against Bryant, which the two sides ultimately settled with the specific terms of the settlement being undisclosed to the public.
Bryant is the official ambassador for After-School All-Stars (ASAS), an American non-profit organization that provides comprehensive after-school programs to children in 13 US cities. Bryant also started the Kobe Bryant China Fund, which will partner with the Soong Ching Ling Foundation, a charity backed by the Chinese government. The Kobe Bryant China Fund will raise money within China earmarked for education and health programs. Bryant has won five NBA World Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. Bryant has been injured off and on since 2012 and is in his mid 30's. He played until the end of the 2015/16 season with the Lakers. On April 13, 2016, Bryant played his final NBA game against the Utah Jazz, scoring a season-high 60 points.
In 2017, he published Dear Basketball, an American animated short film written and narrated by himself and directed and animated by Glen Keane, with music by John Williams. It was based on letter Bryant wrote to The Players' Tribune on November 29, 2015 announcing his retirement from basketball. It won an Academy Award the following year. Bryant was a lifelong fan of his hometown NFL team, the Philadelphia Eagles. He was also a fan of soccer teams Barcelona, AC Milan and Manchester City.
On January 26, 2020, Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Maria Onore were killed in helicopter crash in Calabasas, California.
The Associated Press
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