The late great Kobe Bryant is one of the best players in NBA history. He won five championships and two Finals MVPs with the LA Lakers and is universally recognized as the second-best shooting guard ever behind Michael Jordan.
Bryant began playing basketball at age two. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but grew up in Italy since his father played professional basketball for several teams in Italy and one in France.
Once he returned to Philadelphia as a 13-year-old in 1991, Bryant was determined to make it to the NBA. He was a superstar in high school at Lower Merion in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, and the Lakers eventually drafted him with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 draft.
Before Bryant left Italy, though, he dominated other kids in basketball after mastering a skill he learned from his father.
Kobe Bryant’s dad played 606 games in the NBA
Joe Bryant played 606 games in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers, and Houston Rockets. He averaged 8.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.7 assists while shooting 45.0% from the field, 20.0% from beyond the arc, and 74.3% from the free-throw line.
Kobe Bryant learned a great deal from his dad. Thanks to Joe, Kobe was the best high school player in Philadelphia and went straight to the NBA without attending college.
After struggling during his rookie season with the Lakers in 1996-97, Kobe was phenomenal in the NBA and carved out a Hall of Fame career. But before he was a star in high school and the NBA, the Black Mamba was a legend in Italy.
Kobe Bryant scored 63 points at age eight
When he was eight years old, Kobe Bryant scored 63 points in a game. The Lakers icon told Graham Bensinger in 2012 that he listened to his dad and learned how to use both his left and right hands, which was something his opponents couldn’t do.
“I figured out that most kids that are right-handed can’t go left. I just sit on their right hand, and I got like steal after steal after steal,” Bryant said. “That’s really how it happened. I just pressured the backcourt, and as soon as a kid started dribbling the ball, I jump right in his right hand, and then I take it from him and lay it up. It was nothing they could do about it. My teammates were all just going crazy about it after the game. It was fun. … My father always told me, he said, ‘Son, you gotta be able to use both hands at an early age,’ and I could.”
After scoring 63, Kobe Bryant scored 40 points in the championship game by doing the same thing. It’s too bad we don’t have video of these performances because it would be incredible to watch an eight-year-old Kobe torch other kids.
The Black Mamba will never be forgotten
Kobe Bryant finished his NBA career with averages of 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists. Along with his five titles and two Finals MVPs, he was an 18-time All-Star and the 2007-08 MVP.
It still doesn’t seem real that Bryant is no longer with us. No basketball fan will ever forget where they were on January 26, 2020, when news broke that he and his daughter Gigi died in a helicopter crash.
Stories such as this 63-point game, though, will keep Bryant’s legacy alive.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.