This edition of Kobe Bryant’s Most Memorable Performances highlights the first four seasons of the young guard out of Lower Merion High School.
Afro Kobe. The ridiculously athletic with jump-out-the-gym hops Kobe. Number 8. Before the beef with Shaq. Before the dynasty. Before the trial. Before the number change. This is Kobe in his rawest form.
You know, the Kobe who arrived at his high school prom with Brandy on his arm (Swag!). The skinny kid with the afro who would dunk on any and every body who stood in the way of him and the basket.
Yea that Kobe. Well in case you forgot, allow me to refresh your memory.
3) 1998 NBA All Star Game, Madison Square Garden
Some might dub this game as the passing of the torch from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant. I prefer to think of it more as Kobe’s official coming out party.
Not even a starter on his own team, Kobe became the youngest starter in All Star history at only 19 years of age. Kobe was joined by three of his teammates (Shaquille O’Neal, Nick Van Exel, and Eddie Jones), making it the first time since 1983 that four players were chosen from the same team.
With 18 points, six boards, and 2 steals in 22 minutes of play, Kobe let the whole world know in the Mecca of basketball that he was going to be a force in the league in the years to come.
Kobe’s final stat line: 18 points, 1 assist, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 7-16 FG, 2-3 3pt FG, 2-2 FT
2) Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals, Staples Center
The 1999-00 NBA season was an even greater step forward for Kobe. As Batman to Shaquille O’Neal’s Superman, he led his team in assists per game (4.9) and steals per game (1.6). His regular season performances earned him a second trip to the All Star Game in addition to receiving 2nd team All-NBA honors and becoming the youngest player in NBA history to receive All-Defensive Team honors (1st team).
The playoffs were no different in terms of his performance. Down 15 in the fourth quarter to a dangerous Portland Trailblazers team featuring the likes of Rasheed Wallace and Damon Stoudemire (both in the primes of careers) and an aging Scottie Pippen, the Lakers put their fortunes into their own hands going on a 15-0 run to erase the 15-point deficit and went on to eliminate the Portland Trailblazers in a 89-84 victory.
But of course, the one play everyone remembers is that alley-oop from Kobe to Shaq that solidified the comeback and put LA ahead 85-79 with 40 seconds left to play.
Kobe’s final stat line: 25 points, 7 assists, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 9-19 FG, 1-4 3pt FG, 6-12 FT
1) Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals vs. Indiana Pacers, Conseco Fieldhouse
In Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals, Kobe Bryant proved to be not only a very capable star player in the NBA but one of the most clutch playoff performers in history.
As Shaquille O’Neal found himself on the bad end of a foul call late in the fourth quarter giving him his sixth of the game and forcing him to watch from the sideline, the Lakers were in desperate need for a closer in overtime.
Suffering from an ankle injury that kept him out of most of Game 2 and completely sidelined for Game 3, Kobe was able to summon every bit of ability he had left to carry the Lakers to a commanding 3-1 series lead that would eventually result in a deciding game six victory that would give the Los Angeles Lakers their first championship since 1988.
Kobe’s final stat line: 28 points, 5 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 14-27 FG
1997 All Star Weekend, Gund Arena
In the 4th ever NBA Rookie Challenge Kobe found himself playing alongside such prolific names as Allen Iverson, Ray Allen, and Steve Nash. He finished the game with a 31-point performance to go along with eight boards and three assists.
He didn’t walk away with the MVP trophy, but being that Iverson was the one to receive it instead I’m sure nobody’s really complaining.
The next night, Kobe Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to win the Slam Dunk Contest at age 18 so maybe that makes up for it…
March 21, 1999 vs. Orlando Magic, Orlando Arena
In the lockout-shortened season of 1998-99, Kobe found himself in a much more prominent role as a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged nearly 20 points per game (19.9), 1.4 steals and 46.5 percent shooting from the field. He capped off his season with an All-NBA third team selection (the first of 13 All-NBA selections).
However, in this game in particular, Kobe put on one of the best individual performances of his young career. Down 43-63 to the Orlando Magic at halftime, Kobe went off in the second half scoring 33 of his career-high 38 points on 62.5 percent shooting. The Lakers finished the game 115-104 over the Magic.
Kobe’s final stat line: 38 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, 15-24 FG, 2-2 3pt FG, 6-7 FT