NBA: The Best of Kobe Bryant – The Early Years

In the world of basketball, the name Kobe Bean Bryant is associated with greatness. He is an all time great basketball player, one of the most important players to have played for the Los Angeles Lakers, and a true icon of the game. Across all the basketball courts of the world, you can always find at least one player (if not more) playing in a Kobe Bryant jersey. After being drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the fabled 1996 NBA draft, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers where he played his entire twenty year career.
Through those twenty years, he won the NBA championships five times (with two Finals MVP), won two Olympic Gold medals, made the All NBA Teams 15 times, All Defensive Teams 12 times, All Star Team 18 times (with 4 All Star Game MVPs), won the scoring title twice, won the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest and won the regular season Most Valuable Player award for the 2007-2008 season.
He was an electrifying scorer, a point cemented by his third place on the All time scoring list, only behind Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Karl Malone. When people talk about his greatest performances, usually the 81 point game vs the Toronto Raptors or the 62 point in three quarters vs the Dallas Mavericks come up. However, Kobe Bryant was setting the NBA on fire during his early years as well. Today, we will look at some of his best performances from that era.

#1. Vs Indiana Pacers, 14th June, 2000

Kobe Bryant had already dazzled the NBA fans with his high flying dunks and tough shot making abilities for three seasons before the 2000 NBA Finals came along. After taking down the San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings and Portland Trailblazers en route to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1991, the Los Angeles Lakers squared off against the tough-as-nails Indiana Pacers, led by sharpshooter Reggie Miller.
Kobe Bryant battled an apparent ankle injury through the first three games and the Lakers held a 2-1 series lead going into Game 4 in Indiana. The young Kobe Bryant stepped up big time as league MVP and dominant big man Shaquille O’Neal fouled out in overtime. Bryant scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half and overtime, sealing the game with a reverse put back layup with 5.9 seconds left in overtime. The Lakers went on to win the Finals 4-2, the first of their three-peat.

#2. Vs Sacramento Kings, 13th May, 2001

The 2001 Los Angeles Lakers team was an absolute juggernaut. The team only lost one game in the playoffs on the way to its second consecutive NBA championship. The 15-1 record is only rivalled by the Golden State Warriors going 16-1 on their way to the 2017 NBA Championship.
Kobe Bryant’s best performance of that run came during Game 4 of the Western Conference Semi Finals against the Sacramento Kings. Bryant scored 48 points, going 15 of 29 from the field and 17 of 19 from free throw line. He also grabbed a playoff career high 16 rebounds.

#3. Vs Seattle Supersonics, 7th January, 2003

Prior to this game, Kobe Bryant was only shooting 28 percent from the 3 point line. So what happened in this game, was slightly unexpected. Bryant scored 45 points in the Lakers 119-98 win. But more importantly, he set an NBA record for the most three pointers made in a game with 12 (since broken by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson). At one point during the game, Bryant made nine three pointers in a row. He shot 16 for 28 from the field and 12 for 18 from the three point line.

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