See the Major Turning Points of Kobe Bryant's Career, in Pictures
Kobe Bryant poses for a portrait after being selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 26, 1996. He joined the NBA straight out of high school, and was immediately traded to the Lakers in a previously-agreed deal between the two teams.
Andy Hayt—NBAE/Getty Images
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Bryant rebounds against the Minnesota Timberwolves in his first regular season game at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., on Nov. 3, 1996. At the time, he became the youngest-ever player to play in an NBA game.
Andrew D. Bernstein—NBAE/Getty Images
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Bryant's first big test came against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City on May 12,1997. Faced with a must-win fifth game in Round 2 of the Western Conference Playoffs, the young rookie "airballed" four crucial shots — including a game-winner in the fourth quarter and three three-pointers in overtime — as the Lakers were knocked out.
Andy Hayt—NBAE/Getty Images
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Bryant's real emergence as a budding star came in his second season, when he became the youngest starter in an NBA All-Star Game in New York's Madison Square Garden on Feb 8., 1998. He had already begun to elicit comparisons to Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, seen here driving past him.
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Bryant (left) holds the Larry O'Brian trophy as teammate Shaquille O'Neal holds the MVP trophy after winning their first NBA Championship against the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center in Los Angeles on June 19, 2000. It would be the first of three consecutive titles for the star duo.
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Bryant, Lindsey Hunter and Shaquille O'Neal celebrate their win over the New Jersey Nets in Game four of the 2002 NBA Finals at Continental Airlines Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. on June 12, 2002. Bryant, aside from further cementing his superstar status, became the youngest player to win three NBA titles.
Jesse D. Garrabrant—NBAE/Getty Images
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Bryant stands next to his teammate Shaquille O'Neal during game 1 of the Western Conference Finals during the 2002 NBA Playoffs against the Sacramento Kings at the Arco Arena in Sacramento on May 18, 2002. The duo would be continue their dominance of the NBA, with the 2002 Championship being the last they'd win together. O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, while Bryant signed a new seven-year contract with the Lakers.
Rocky Widner—NBAE/Getty Images
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Bryant cries as he admits to
adultery in front of his wife Vanessa at a press conference in Los Angeles on July
18, 2003. The Laker guard's off-court troubles that season, which included an arrest for sexual assault, somewhat tarnished his growing reputation.
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Bryant drives past Toronto Raptors' Jalen Rose and Chris Bosh in the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles on Jan. 22, 2006, en route to scoring a career-high 81 points. The performance was not only the best-ever by a Laker, but also the second-highest score in a single game in the NBA.
Matt A. Brown—AP
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Three years later, Bryant set another individual one-game record when he scored 61 points against the New York Knicks at their Madison Square Garden arena on Feb. 2, 2009 — the most points ever scored in a game at the iconic Manhattan venue.
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Kobe Bryant raises the NBA championship trophy in front of a poster of himself on the Staples Center during a victory parade for the teams 16th NBA title in Los Angeles on June 21, 2010. His fifth and final title, following a hard-fought seven-game Finals against the Boston Celtics, was — in his words — the most satisfying of them all.
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Kobe Bryant during a game between the Portland Trailblazers and the Los Angeles Lakers at the Moda Center on Nov. 28, 2015 — his last game before announcing that he would retire at the end of the season.
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