Here’s how you can get a copy of The Times’ look back at Kobe Bryant’s Hall of Fame career.
During his 20 years on a Los Angeles basketball court, Bryant wore the same colors, but with wildly varying looks. He was Kobe. He was Bryant. He was Kobe Bean Bryant. He was so many different people at so many different times, changing his looks, changing his number, changing his perception.
He was the splashy teen. He was the selfish kid. He was the budding superstar. He was the raging bore. He was sweet innocence. He was Colorado awful. He ran Shaquille O’Neal out of town. He created his own championships without Shaq. He tore his Achilles. He soared into forever.
His ultimate victory can be found not only in games, but in growth. His induction is a tribute not only to greatness, but to evolution.
Kobe Bryant wasn’t born in the Hall of Fame, he artistically and nastily and beautifully and rudely beat the damn door down.
What follows is a snapshot of this winding journey, from the Los Angeles Times archives of a columnist who was along for the ride.
It begins with infatuation, his first spring, airballs and all.
May 12, 1997
Say this much for kid Bryant, who brings out the best in teammates despite 13 turnovers and only nine assists in the playoffs.
“I’m having a blast,” he said. “This whole thing is like a dream.”
There. That is what the Lakers need. Somebody who thinks like that.
The infatuation grows old quickly, Bryant trying to do too much, too soon, his second spring showing his age.
April 24, 1998
He wants the ball. He walks to the balcony of his Pacific Palisades home in the middle of the night, stares down at all the lights, dreams of getting the ball.
But he’s not old enough to know what to do with it.
You have to love Kobe early, in the air, spinning and soaring and sparking the Lakers on a second-quarter run.
But it is still difficult to love him late, with his potential to spin and soar and spark the ball off the top of the backboard or into the seats.
By his third spring, the disillusionment is growing.
April 23, 1999
So that’s settled. Kobe Bryant’s most acrobatic moves are the ones he causes in our stomachs.
So now we’re totally confused. Is Kobe Bryant a future superstar, or sideshow? Is he about championships, or confusion?
If you watched the Lakers play Tuesday against Golden State, you would think one thing. (Hint: Michael Jordan.)
If you watched them 24 hours later against Portland, you would think another thing. (Hint: Michael Jordan with a baseball bat.)
Then, in his fourth season, he bounces off a sprained ankle to lead the Lakers to the first championship of the Shaq-Kobe era, and all is forgiven.
INDIANAPOLIS — The kid has us in his clutches now, an entire city locked in his long arms, tucked below that sheepish grin, soaring toward that shiny basket at the far reaches of the imagination.
Kobe Bryant is flying, and Los Angeles is flying with him, our best ride in more than a decade, one final thrust before an NBA title and Los Angeles’ first professional championship since 1988.
Kobe floats, but we’re the ones who are breathless. Kobe spins, but we’re the ones who can’t look.
A year later he is a beloved and dominant superstar.
May 20, 2001
SAN ANTONIO — He joyfully chews his gum. He chillingly shakes his head.
You don’t have a chance, the gesture says. You think you do, but you don’t.
He is the same self-assured, baggy-pants jock who five years ago walked directly from high school to Hollywood’s biggest sports stage.
Only now, Kobe Bryant is actually as good as he thinks he is.
The kid has become The Man.
Then, a year after the Lakers’ third championship, Bryant changes again, grows out of the cute stage, hogs the ball, shows his temper, blasts his arrogance.
March 4, 2002
A sweet kid has grown into a sassy young adult. The smooth guy has become a tough guy. Over his designer silk game, he has draped a crusty leather jacket.
Wonder Boy has sometimes become Wonder-What-On -Earth-Is-He-Thinking Boy.
Then, the next year, he is charged with rape, charges that were eventually dropped but never forgotten.
His reputation is in pieces. His future is in doubt. His believers can no longer be in denial.
Those of us who naively thought we knew Los Angeles’ leading sports hero were reminded that those living on distant pedestals can never be known.
Those angry with Bryant for fooling us should realize that we were only fooling ourselves.
Said Bryant: “I’m innocent. I didn’t force her to do anything against her will. I’m innocent.”
Innocent of the crime until proven otherwise.
Innocence lost, forever.
By Bryant’s eighth year, his relationship with O’Neal is also lost forever.
Ask one Laker about another Laker, and the conversation is brief and goes something like this:
Bryant on O’Neal: “We’re not worried about getting him more touches, we’re worried about winning the game.”
O’Neal on Bryant: “We are just relying on the jumper a little too much.”
Shut up, both of you….
Even if they win the championship, does anybody really think O’Neal and Bryant can still play together? With O’Neal aging and Bryant reaching his prime, it no longer works.
Shortly after the end of the 2004 season, after the Lakers’ stunning loss to Detroit in the Finals, O’Neal is traded, coach Phil Jackson retires and Bryant takes the heat for getting rid of both.
July 16, 2004
So, yeah, Bryant may not have personally shoved Jackson or O’Neal out the door.
But he never lifted a finger to stop their departures. And the minute they were both officially gone, he became a Laker again.
Sounds like an endorsement to me.
Just when Bryant’s reputation appears to be in irreparable tatters, he pulls off another resurrection. Two seasons after he takes control of the team, Bryant proves again he is good enough to leap even the most massive of potholes.
Jan. 8, 2006
He’s cost his team games by being suspended, cost them games by being wild, cost them credibility simply by being Kobe.
But, goodness, he’s fun. And gracious, he’s good….
Maybe everyone needs to just shut up and clap.
But then, at the height of his personal comeback, he demands to be traded, and it’s Bad Kobe again.
June 20, 2007
When are you finally going to get it?
When are you Lakers fans finally going to realize that Kobe Bryant doesn’t like you nearly as much as you like him?
When are you going to get it into your painfully loyal souls that Bryant has taken everything you believe about him, casually wadded it up and tossed it on the floor as he heads out of town?
You’re not his soul mate, you’re his sweat towel.
He has trivialized your loyalty, toyed with your faith and trampled on your tradition.
And still you beg the Lakers not to trade him?
When are you finally going to get it?
Of course, Bryant ultimately triumphs over his critics again, using the trade demand as leverage to force the team to acquire Pau Gasol and become contenders again. He celebrates this personal victory by playing like an embracing and empowering leader in being named the 2007-2008 MVP.
May 7, 2008
Kobe Bryant had just accepted the most meaningful, coveted most-valuable-player award of any sport, gripping it tight amid a hotel ballroom teeming with legends and love.
But I had to ask him.
Now that he is basketball’s official king of unselfishness, does he regret those times last spring when he was so selfish?
Now that he is basketball’s official portrait of teamwork, does he regret those summer days when he was the Lakers’ worst teammate?
“No,” he said, staring coldly. “I was right the whole time.”
He paused. The room fell silent.
“I’m joking!” he said suddenly with a laugh, and, filled with great and obvious relief, everyone laughed with him.
Maybe he was joking. Maybe he wasn’t. The only thing certain is that those five seconds symbolized a dozen years.
A year later, he leads the Lakers to a championship over the Orlando Magic in a victory that is deeply personal.
June 15, 2009
Bryant, the Finals MVP, becomes possibly the most unburdened player in NBA history as he finally wins a title without former teammate and nemesis Shaquille O’Neal, who had earlier won one without Bryant.
“I just don’t have to hear that criticism, that idiotic criticism, anymore,” said Bryant, who ended a week of growling intensity by literally gnawing at his fingernails in anticipation of Sunday’s final horn.
Sitting with a Moet-soaked T-shirt in the interview room underneath Amway Arena, Bryant shook his head, grinning and chuckling, the taut and tough leader finally admitting that the Shaq rap ripped him.
“It was like Chinese water torture . . . it was just annoying . . . I would cringe every time,” he said. “I was just like, it’s a challenge I’m just going to have to accept because there’s no way I’m going to argue it.” ::
A year later he experiences his greatest basketball triumph, leading the Lakers to a championship over the hated Boston Celtics. Perhaps his most revealing moment in that series comes as his battered body limps to the team bus with Lakers trailing three games to two.
June 13, 2010
As Kobe Bryant emerged from another terse interview in another uncomfortable interview room Saturday, I followed him down a TD Garden hallway.
“What’s wrong with you?” I said. “You’ve been acting strange the entire Finals. You look hurt. You look like you’re not having any fun. And you look like you can’t close games.”
“You know me better than to ask me those questions,” he said.
“Is your knee bothering you again?”
“I swear, my knee is fine.”
“So what’s happening to you in the fourth quarter?”
“Haven’t you seen them guarding me with four people?”…
“Are you sure you’re not wiped out?”
Bryant stopped, turned to me, eyes suddenly bright, smile suddenly peeking out from underneath a 2-week-old mask.
“They think I can’t do this for two more wins?”
Then he laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
His championship legacy intact, Bryant spends the next three seasons cementing his leadership legacy.
April 27, 2012
After 16 years, I thought it was impossible to be startled by anything Kobe Bryant did with a basketball.
Until Thursday, when he gave it up.
He could have soared, yet decided to sit. He could have made individual history, yet decided to focus on a team championship. He could have played the star, yet decided to be the leader.
Needing to score 38 points in a meaningless season finale against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night to win his third scoring title, Bryant instead decided to rest for the upcoming postseason…
On a night when much of Los Angeles thought he might take 100 shots, he decided to take zero.
Then, just when it seemed like he had finally outgrown his professional frailties and become the complete player and one of the best in basketball history, the Achilles’ tendon snapped.
April 13, 2013
He carried the Lakers for as long as his weary body could carry them, a relentless giant among underachieving mortals.
But, finally, in the last lap of his most difficult season, bearing the burden of a franchise in chaos, Kobe Bryant has finally crumbled.
In the final minutes of the Lakers 118-116 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday, after earlier falling to the floor twice with apparent knee injuries, Bryant suffered a probable torn left Achilles’ tendon that should end his season and perhaps his Lakers career.
After spending the next three seasons in recovery purgatory, Kobe Bryant appropriately ended his career with the thrill ride of a lifetime in a 60-point finale against the Utah Jazz.
The growth was done. The evolution was complete. The Hall of Fame was waiting.
April 14, 2016
He didn’t walk away, he flew away, on the wings of legend, through the clouds of Hollywood, with a final act unmatched in Los Angeles sports history.
In a retirement party for the ages Wednesday night, Kobe Bryant just wouldn’t quit.
He shot. He shot some more. He kept shooting. Shots from the courtside seats, from underneath the basket, on wild drives, off crazy dribbles, back to the basket, feet in the air, hands in his face, shooting forever….
“I gave my soul to this game,” an exhausted Bryant said afterward. “There’s nothing else I can give.”
Lakers star Kobe Bryant dunks against the Utah Jazz on Jan. 25, 2013, at Staples Center. Arguably the greatest player of his generation, Bryant has played a leading role in helping the Lakers carry their winning tradition into the 21st century. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant is all smiles at the July 1996 news conference where he was introduced after the Lakers acquired him from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for Vlade Divac. The Hornets had selected the 17-year-old right out of high school with the 13th overall choice in the 1996 NBA draft. (Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant holds up his jersey during his introductory news conference on July 12, 1996. (Andrew Scholer / Los Angeles Times)
Laker rookie Kobe Bryant was a seasoned veteran at getting shot by cameras for advertisements before he took his first shot at training camp. (Ken Hively / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant puts up a shot during a summer league game against the Detroit Pistons in Long Beach on July 13, 1996. (Michael Caulfield / Associated Press)
Lakers rookie Kobe Bryant, 18, warms up before a game at the Forum on Jan. 30, 1997. (Vince Compagnone / Los Angeles Times)
Laker rookie Kobe Bryant, 18, listens to coach Del Harris during a break in a 129-99 victory over the Washington Bullets at the Forum. Bryant scored 13 points. (Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant saves the ball from going out of bounds during a game at the Forum on Dec. 29, 1997. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant claps while walking off the court during a timeout against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 24, 1997, at the Forum. (Vince Compagnone / Los Angeles Times)
Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan, left, guards Lakers star Kobe Bryant during the 1998 NBA All-Star game. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant is dejected after losing the ball late in the second half of Game 3 of the 1999 Western Conference semifinals against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs at the Forum. The Lakers lost, 103-91, giving the Spurs a 3-0 advantage in the series. The Spurs went on to win the series 4-0. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant speaks with reporters at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo on May 2, 2000. (Jack Smith / Associated Press)
Lakers stars Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O’Neal hold the championship trophies after winning Game 6 of the 2000 NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers. (Paul Morse / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant jumps over a row of fans after saving the ball from going out of bounds during a win over the Houston Rockets on Dec. 20, 2001. (Pat Sullivan / Associated Press)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, center, is all smiles while standing next to teammates (from left) Derek Fisher, Rick Fox and Shaquille O’Neal during Game 1 of the 2001 Western Conference finals. Bryant scored 45 points in the Lakers’ 104-90 win. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers stars Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O’Neal congratulate each other during the Lakers’ win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the 2002 Western Conference quarterfinals at Staples Center. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant puts up a shot during a win over the Chicago Bulls at Staples Center on Nov. 22, 2002. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, right, steals the ball away from Portland Trail Blazers guard Jeff McInnis during a game at Staples Center on Nov. 3, 2002. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant puts up a shot during Game 1 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference finals against the Sacramento Kings. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, right center, congratulates teammate Robert Horry on his winning shot against the Sacramento Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at Staples Center on May 26, 2002. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers teammates (from left) Kobe Bryant, Lindsey Hunter and Shaquille O’Neal celebrate the team’s 2002 NBA Finals win over the New Jersey Nets. (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant celebrates in the locker room after the team’s 2002 NBA Championship win over the New Jersey Nets. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant looks at the Larry O’Brien trophy after the Lakers’ NBA championship victory over the New Jersey Nets on June 12, 2002. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers teammates Mark Madsen, left, and Kobe Bryant celebrate the team’s 2002 NBA title during a celebration in downtown Los Angeles on June 14, 2002. (Anacleto Rapping / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers stars Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O’Neal show off their 2002 NBA championship rings before a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center on Oct. 29, 2002. (Andrew D. Bernstein / Getty Images)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, drives on Houston Rockets small forward Juaquin Hawkins during a game at Staples Center on Nov. 17, 2002. (Kevin P. Casey / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant, right, speaks with Michael Jordan, then with the Washington Wizards, during the 2003 NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta. (Andrew D. Bernstein / NBA/Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant watches as one of his three-pointers falls against the Wizards at Staples in 2001. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, center, is double-teamed by Cleveland Cavaliers teammates Eric Snow, left, and Flip Murray during a game on March 19, 2006. (Mark Duncan / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant walks past the courtroom where his pretrial motion hearing for sexual assault charges took place in Eagle, Colo., on March 25, 2004. In July 2003, Bryant was arrested after a woman claimed he raped her at a Colorado hotel. Prosecutors later dropped the charges. (Chris Schneider / EPA)
Kobe Bryant and his wife, Vanessa, take part in a news conference at Staples Center in July 2003 while addressing the sexual assault charges brought against Kobe. The charges were later dropped. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, right, speaks with coach Phil Jackson in 2010. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant dunks against the Sacramento Kings at Staples Center on April 10, 2003. (Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant tries to hide his emotions after the team’s season-ending loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 6 of the 2003 NBA Western Conference semifinals. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers players (from left) Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Shaquille O’Neal make their first game appearance together during a preseason game against the Clippers in Anaheim on Oct. 23, 2003. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, is congratulated by teammate Derek Fisher after the Lakers’ victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 4 of the 2004 Western Conference semifinals at Staples Center. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers teammates (from left) Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and Gary Payton walk off the court after a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 4 of the 2004 Western Conference finals at Staples Center. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O’Neal sit on the bench during Game 6 of the 2004 Western Conference finals against the Minnesota Timberwolves. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant wipes sweat from his face during the team’s season-ending loss to the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the 2004 NBA Finals. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant writhes in pain after injuring his right ankle during a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Staples Center on Jan. 13, 2005. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, and William “Smush” Parker talk during a preseason game against the Utah Jazz in Anaheim on Oct. 25, 2005. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant reacts after hitting the winning shot against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the 2006 Western Conference quarterfinals at Staples Center. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant reacts after being fouled by the Houston Rockets’ Ryan Bowen (not pictured) in the first quarter of a game at Staples Center on Dec. 18, 2005. (Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant, left, whispers to coach Phil Jackson in between being photographed during Lakers’ media day on Oct. 2, 2006. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant saves the ball from going out of bounds against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center on Nov. 12, 2006. (Richard Hartog / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Lamar Odom, left, and guard Kobe Bryant talk on the bench during a timeout against the New Jersey Nets on Nov. 26, 2006. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant listens to the national anthem before a game against the New Jersey Nets on Nov. 26, 2006. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant shoots over Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade to score the winning basket with less than a second remaining in a 108-107 victory at Staples Center on Dec. 4, 2009. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant holds his daughter, Natalia, while greeting team owner Jerry Buss before a news conference at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles announcing Bryant as the 2008 NBA MVP. (Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant walks off the court after losing to the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of the 2007 NBA Western Conference quarterfinals. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant walks off the court after a championship loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the 2009 NBA Finals. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant celebrates after hitting a late three-pointer in a win over the Utah Jazz in Game 2 of the 2009 Western Conference quarterfinals. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Phoenix Suns coach Alvin Gentry, right, calls a timeout immediately after Kobe Bryant hits a three-pointer during Game 2 of the 2010 Western Conference finals. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant reacts immediately after a slam dunk against the New York Knicks on Feb. 2, 2009, at Madison Square Garden. Bryant scored 61 points in the win. (Kathy Willens / Associated Press)
Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, right, celebrate in the closing seconds of the team’s NBA championship win over the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant celebrates after winning his fourth NBA title with a win over the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant holds the Larry O’Brien Trophy while celebrating his fourth championship with the team following a win over the Orlando Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers teammates Derek Fisher, left, and Kobe Bryant, center, give President Barack Obama a personalized team jersey while visiting the White House on Jan. 25, 2010. (Charles Dharapak / Associated Press)
Lakers forward Ron Artest, center, is congratulated by Kobe Bryant, left, and the rest of his teammates after hitting the winning shot against the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the 2010 Western Conference finals. (Wally Skalij / Associated Press)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, and Boston Celtics guard Tony Allen battle for a loose ball during Game 6 of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 15, 2010. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant celebrates after winning his fifth NBA title following a victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant celebrates after the Lakers’ victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant gestures while celebrating his fifth championship with the Lakers during a team parade in Los Angeles on June 21, 2010. (Christina House / For the Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant celebrates his fifth NBA title during the team’s championship parade on June 21, 2010. (Christina House / For the Times)
Kobe Bryant kisses his championship ring during a ceremony honoring the Lakers’ 2010 NBA title before the team’s season opener on Oct. 26, 2010. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)
Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant share a laugh before a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center on Nov. 9, 2010.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant, left, exchanges words with LeBron James during a Christmas Day game in 2010. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant walks behind Dallas Mavericks standout Dirk Nowitzki during Game 3 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant walks off the court after the team’s season-ending loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals on May 8, 2011. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant reflects on the 2010-11 season as he answers questions from reporters at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo on May 11, 2011. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant participates in a training session for South Korean fans during a promotional tour in Seoul on July 14, 2011. (Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant drives to the basket during an exhibition game in the Philippines on July 24, 2011. (Noel Celis / AFP/Getty Images)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant gets a massage from team physical therapist Julie Seto during a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 29, 2012. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, right, greets Oklahoma City Thunder standout Kevin Durant before walking off the court after a season-ending loss in Game 5 of the 2012 Western Conference semifinals. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers teammates (from left) Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard celebrate in the closing moments of their 119-108 victory over the Houston Rockets on Nov. 18, 2012. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, puts up a shot over Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum during a game at Staples Center on Feb. 22, 2013. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Rudy Gay during the Lakers’ 118-116 overtime win at Staples Center on March 8, 2013. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant looks on during a game against the New Orleans Hornets at Staples Center on Jan. 29, 2013. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, right, protects the ball from Sacramento Kings forward John Salmons during the Lakers’ 103-98 win on March 30, 2013. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Kobe Bryant rolls on the floor in pain after injuring suffering a torn Achilles tendon during a game against the Sacramento Kings on April 12, 2013. Bryant did not return from the injury until December 2013. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant limps off the court in front of teammate Metta World Peace after suffering an Achilles tendon injury on April 12, 2013, against the Golden State Warriors. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant sits on the bench before being introduced against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on Dec. 10, 2013. It was Bryant’s first game back since tearing his Achilles tendon on April 12, 2013. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant grabs a rebound against the Toronto Raptors at Staples Center on Dec. 8, 2013. (Harry How / Getty Images)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant puts up a shot against the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center on Dec. 10, 2013. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant holds his left knee after a play against Memphis Grizzlies at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., on Dec. 17, 2013. Bryant suffered a fracture on his tibia and missed the remainder of the 2012-13 season. (Time Warner Cable Sportsnet)
Kobe Bryant, sidelined with a torn Achilles tendon injury, sits next to teammate Jodie Meeks during a Lakers’ loss to the Clippers at Staples Center on Jan. 10, 2014. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant walks down the court during the Lakers’ 110-91 loss to the Pacers on Dec. 14, 2014, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant drives on Memphis Grizzlies guard Quincy Pondexter on Nov. 26, 2014. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant drives to the basket during a 110-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 15, 2014. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, speaks with Coach Byron Scott during a game against the San Antonio Spurs last December.
(Eric Gay / Associated Press)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant dribbles the ball during the first half against the Indiana Pacers on Dec. 15, 2014. (Andy Lyons / Getty Images)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant smiles during the fourth quarter of a 111-103 win over the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 30, 2014. (David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant dunks during a game against Indiana Pacers at Staples Center on Jan. 4. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant looks on during the closing moments of a 111-95 loss to the Washington Wizards on Dec. 3, 2014.
(Rob Carr / Getty Images)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant drives to the basket past Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers during a game at Staples Center on Jan. 13, 2015.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, left, poses for photos with FC Barcelona captain Andrés Iniesta Luján before a training session at the StubHub Stadium in Carson on July 20, 2015.
(Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images)
Kobe Bryant poses for a photo at the Beverly Hills Hilton on July 18, 2014. Bryant was limited to 35 games during the 2014-15 season because of injury.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant fields questions from reporters surrounding him during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant fields questions from television reporters during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is surrounded by reporters while doing a radio interview during the Lakers’ media day in El Segundo.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
Kobe Bryant tries to steal the ball from Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried during a game at Staples Center on Nov. 3.
Bill Plaschke has been an L.A. Times columnist since 1996. He has been named national sports columnist of the year eight times by the Associated Press, and twice by the Society of Professional Journalists and National Headliner Awards. He is the author of five books, including a collection of his columns entitled, “Plaschke: Good Sports, Spoil Sports, Foul Ball and Oddballs.” Plaschke is also a panelist on the popular ESPN daily talk show, “Around the Horn.” For his community service, he has been named Man of the Year by the Los Angeles Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and has received a Pursuit of Justice Award from the California Women’s Law Center. Plaschke has appeared in a movie (“Ali”), a dramatic HBO series (“Luck”) and, in a crowning cultural moment he still does not quite understand, his name can be found in a rap song “Females Welcome” by Asher Roth. In case you were wondering – and he was – “Plaschke” is rhymed with “Great Gatsby.”