Kobe Bryant is one of the most polarizing NBA players of all time. Those who love him point to his five championship rings and the way he dominated teams to defend his legacy.
Bryant’s detractors point out Shaquille O’Neal and Pau Gasol’s impact on his success and the big shots he missed. Bryant remains in the spotlight to this day, but what exactly is he up to?
Kobe Bryant’s rise
Bryant entered the league fresh out of high school. After spending two years coming off the bench for the Lakers, he became the starter and star who everyone knows today. With O’Neal leading the way, Bryant helped the Lakers achieve a three-peat due to his killer mentality and willingness to take over at a moment’s notice.
Bryant and Shaq clashed heads, however. The duo, both known for their big egos, were never best friends. But they typically let things slide as they won. In 2003 and 2004, however, things came to a boiling point.
It was a turbulent time for Kobe Bryant. A rape allegation in Eagle, Colorado dominated the news for months on end. Not helping matters was the fact that Bryant brought up O’Neal’s name in the investigation, citing the center’s alleged habit of paying off women he had affairs with.
The post-Shaq era
After losing the 2004 Finals, O’Neal was sent to the Miami Heat, Phil Jackson retired, and the Lakers gave Bryant the keys to the franchise. LA missed the playoffs the first year, and Jackson came back. During this time, Bryant went on scoring tears, including his famous 2005-06 season when he put up 35 points per game and celebrated an 81-point outburst versus the Toronto Raptors.
However, Lakers failed to win a playoff series during this time. After acquiring Pau Gasol in 2007, Bryant had another star to work with. The Lakers made it to three straight Finals and won two of them. Then, the team acquired Dwight Howard in 2012. But the partnership did not work and Bryant suffered a torn Achilles during the last week of the season.
The Lakers legend never recovered, and injuries plagued the rest of his career before his retirement in 2016. Bryant finished his career averaging 25 points per game, five rebounds, and five assists.
Bryant’s post-NBA life
Bryant stayed around basketball and other sports after retiring from the league. As the father of three daughters, he began to appear at women’s sporting events across the world. Some viewed this as a positive for women’s sports, while others couldn’t help but question his motives given his past allegations.
Bryant also hosts a basketball show on ESPN+ called Detail, where he breaks down NBA players’ games. His work with basketball pros has been lauded and derided. To this day, Bryant holds private camps with NBA players where he allows them to pick his brain. He even coaches a girls’ youth basketball team in his free time.
Aside from basketball, Bryant invests his money in a variety of projects. His work producing the short film even garnered him an Oscar. Bryant has spoken candidly about how important it is to be financially smart and use money wisely.
Bryant will continue to be polarizing until the end of time. On one hand, he was one of the greatest players to ever compete. On the other hand, his complicated legacy still draws ire from people.