Kobe Bryant Knew He Was Going to the NBA in 8th Grade Despite Only Averaging 13 Points: ‘People Used to Say He’s Not That Good Now’

Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant was one of the most confident human beings on the planet. He knew he could achieve his goals through hard work whenever he put his mind to something and never let the doubters affect his determination.

Bryant went to the NBA straight out of high school in 1996. He always knew he had what it took to make it to the pros, even in 8th grade when he averaged only 13.0 points and heard critics say he wasn’t good.

Kobe Bryant knew he was going to the NBA in 8th grade

On the most recent episode of I Am Kobe — a documentary podcast series through Diversion Podcasts that chronicles the early years of Bryant through never-before-heard audio tapes of the Hall of Famer during his rise to basketball stardom — Bryant is heard talking about how he knew he was destined to make it to the NBA despite putting up only 13.0 points per game in 8th grade.

“I came back in the middle of my 8th-grade year and would tell everybody that I’m going to be a pro one day, and people used to say he’s not that good now, he’s only averaging 13 points,” Bryant said. “But that’s because the coach wouldn’t let me shoot, but that’s another story.”

After middle school, Bryant played his four years of high school basketball at Lower Merion in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. He scored 50 points on January 25, 1996, during his senior year and was named the Gatorade Circle of Champions Player of the Year. The shooting guard declared for the 1996 NBA Draft, and all the naysayers who said Bryant wasn’t good in 8th grade looked extremely foolish on June 26, 1996.

Kobe Bryant was the 13th overall pick

Bryant’s dream came true on June 26, 1996. The Charlotte Hornets drafted him with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 draft and then traded him to the Lakers. The Black Mamba grew up a Magic Johnson fan, so he was excited to play for the purple and gold.

Bryant averaged 7.6 points and 1.3 assists as a rookie. He appeared in 71 games and played 15.5 minutes a night. The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native didn’t turn heads until his second season in 1997-98. He not only became the youngest All-Star in NBA history, but he also didn’t back down from Michael Jordan in the 1998 All-Star Game.

The East defeated the West 135-114 behind 23 points from Jordan. MJ won his third and final All-Star Game MVP at Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena. Meanwhile, Bryant put up 18 points and six rebounds to lead the West in scoring. He also had two spectacular dunks in transition to wow the Garden crowd.

Bryant averaged 15.4 points and 2.5 assists in 1997-98. He became a superstar during the 1999-00 season by helping the Lakers win the championship over the Indiana Pacers, and the rest is history from there.

The Black Mamba won five rings and two Finals MVPs

Bryant is widely viewed as the second-greatest shooting guard in NBA history behind Jordan. He won five championships, two Finals MVPs, one regular-season MVP, four All-Star Game MVPs, and two scoring titles. The NBA icon is the fourth-leading scorer of all time, and his 81 points are the second-most scored in a single game.

Bryant averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists with the Lakers. He spent his career in Los Angeles and is the franchise leader in points, games, minutes, and field goals. The Lakers retired Nos. 8 and 24 on December 18, 2017. Bryant wore No. 8 from 1996-97 to 2005-06 and No. 24 from 2006-07 to 2015-16.

Kobe tragically died on January 26, 2020, at the age of 41 in a helicopter crash. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2020 and named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team in 2021.

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