He was a high school phenomenon. An NBA MVP. He was a two-time scoring champion, once scoring 81 points in a game, and is third in career scoring. He was an 18-time All-Star, four times named MVP of the game. He won two Olympic gold medals. He was twice NBA Finals MVP. He played in the Finals seven times, and won five championship rings.
He is for now and all time a Laker.
Pick up the Sunday Los Angeles Times to get your own copy of the Kobe commemorative issue.
The moment Kobe Bryant announced his retirement, he chose those two sentences to define his 20 years in Los Angeles, bannering them on the home page of his website, explaining them in a box of text.
"No hero is perfect, and no villain is completely void of heroic intentions. We all live as both. What sets the great ones apart is how they use their inner villain to create something epic. It's living as a HeroVillain. The HeroVillain channels fear, rejection, anger and doubt and turns them into strength, courage, power and determination.'"
"Why do you keep writing how many shots I miss?" Kobe said.
I told him that readers wanted to know how much of a load he was forced to carry without Shaquille O'Neal — and of equal importance, how successfully he was doing it.
"So make more shots," I added.
He was testing me, the new Lakers beat reporter for The Times, just like he would try to expose a rookie on the court.
Take a tour of key shots over his 20-year career, or explore the makes and misses over his long career on your own.
Kobe exits the game with a 5-2 record in the Finals and it compares favorably with some of his superstar contemporaries. Michael Jordan had a perfect 6-0 Finals record, Shaquille O'Neal was 4-2, Tim Duncan is 5-1 and LeBron James stands at 2-4.
Here is a quick look at Bryant's seven Lakers teams – all coached by Phil Jackson -- that reached the NBA Finals:
As Kobe Bryant played out his 20th and final season with the Lakers, The Times has reached out to players, coaches and broadcasters for recollections about his career.
These charts break down the court into hexagonal areas, then calculate the difference between the league average and the player's shooting percentage. The hexagon sizes are proportional to the number of shots the player took in that area (so the area under the basket is usually the largest).
As Kobe Bryant prepared to take the court for the Lakers for the final time, we asked readers to share what he meant to them and to share some of their favorite memories.
For more than two hours, Kobe Bryant, the high school sensation who has yet to play a game with the Lakers but already has an Adidas contract and a Screen Actors Guild card, concentrated on soaring skyward for layup after layup while a photographer snapped images for a poster.
Lakers owner Jerry Buss said it was "like watching a miracle," and he might have been right. Only Wilt Chamberlain ever scored more points, 100 to be exact, at a sparsely attended game in 1962 in Hershey, Pa.
The real-life drama starred Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, two of the NBA's top alpha dogs.
They were dominant on the court with the Lakers, until they and their outsized egos no longer could coexist. There was 24/7 angst around the two, the public fascinated by the constant bickering between Bryant and O'Neal and the intrigue of how they still found a way to win championships despite a deep dislike toward each other.
Here is where the Kobe Bryant- Michael Cooper workout saga became urban lore. Just how long did Jerry West stay to watch that workout?
"It wasn't two minutes," West said recently.
That was enough time for West to determine the talents of a player, even a kid out of high school, and to prove that Bryant was the player he and the Lakers had to have.
10) April 12, 2013 — Two free throws with an Achilles' tendon tear
Kobe Bryant logged more than 1,500 games with the Lakers in his 20 seasons and he played for eight head coaches —some for only a few months, one for more than a decade. The Times asked each of them to offer their thoughts on Bryant and his impact on the NBA.
When you talk about him and Bird and some of those guys, it's the work ethic that gets these special guys there. It doesn't happen by magic. They work their asses off to get where they are.
He never stopped working. He never stopped competing. He never gave up the fight. And he never gave up on Los Angeles, because Los Angeles — ultimately overlooking his flaws to fall in love with his glamour and grit — never gave up on him.
After all these years, it is probably inevitable that — much like her famous mate — Vanessa Bryant strikes a contradictory figure in the public eye, by turns glamorous and cartoonish, admired and disdained.