Kobe Bean Bryant was born on August 23, 1978, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Named after a Japanese steakhouse, Kobe Bryant is the son of former NBA player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant.
In 1984, after ending his NBA career, the elder Bryant took the family to Italy, where he played in the Italian League. Growing up in Italy alongside two athletic older sisters, Shaya and Sharia, Kobe was an avid player of both basketball and soccer. When the family returned to Philadelphia in 1991, Bryant joined the Lower Merion High School basketball team, leading it to the state championships four years in a row. With an eye on the NBA, he also started working out with the 76ers.
In his second season with the Lakers, Bryant was voted a starter for the 1998 All-Star Game, becoming at 19 the youngest All-Star in NBA history. The shooting guard then teamed up with superstar center Shaquille O’Neal to win three consecutive NBA championships, and was voted first-team all-NBA from 2002-04. He also inked multi-year endorsement deals with Adidas, Sprite and other top sponsors.
Although the Lakers struggled after O’Neal left in 2004, Bryant performed brilliantly. He scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors in January 2006, the second-highest single-game mark in NBA history, and led the league in scoring that year and the next.
In 2008, Bryant was named Most Valuable Player and carried his team to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Boston Celtics. In the 2009 NBA Finals, the Lakers beat the Orlando Magic to win the championship. Shortly afterward, Bryant was part of the memorial service to honor friend and music superstar Michael Jackson. The following year, the Lakers won their second straight title by defeating the Celtics.