The First Glimpse At Mamba Mentality
I thought we shift focus a little bit from hockey and look at one of the most influential athletes of the last 20 years. If you are of a certain age you of course would shout this man’s name right before draining your empty milk container in the school’s trash can…KOBE!!
Kobe Bryant is one of those athletes that comes around once in a generation as he was so vastly talented on the court and a work ethic second to none (a theme amongst your all-time greats no matter the sport). Kobe accomplished so much in his career it would be impossible to talk about it all in this blog so we are going to focus on his first two Championships in particular, as these were the first real glimpse that basketball fans got at what the future held for him.
Heading into the 2000 NBA Playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers were the top team in the league posting a regular season record of 67-15 giving them 12 more wins than the next closest team (the Utah Jazz). The 1999-2000 saw Bryant average 22.5 points per game (his highest average to that point in his young career) over the course of 66 games played that season. During the playoffs, L.A. led by Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal faced the Sacramento Kings (series finished 3-2), the Phoenix Suns (series finished 4-1), and the Portland Trail Blazers (series finished 4-3) en route to capturing the Western Conference and the opportunity for the team to play for it’s league title since 1991. In the 2000 Finals, they faced off against the Indiana Pacers, making this matchup one between the number 1 teams in the Western and Eastern Conferences. The match-up turned out to be quite the even one with L.A. getting the edge taking the series in 6 games (4-2), capturing their first title since 1988 and marking the arrival of their latest superstar with Kobe averaging 21.1 points per game throughout the playoffs.
The 2000-2001 season marked yet another test for young Bryant and the Lakers as they now had to embark on their quest to defend the title and become a back-to-back Champion. That season saw the Lakers take a minor step back as they finished the regular season campaign with a 56-26 record, tying them with the Philadelphia 76ers for the leagues 2nd best record behind the San Antonio Spurs (58-24). While the team’s record may have taken a step backwards, Kobe took another major step forward in becoming an undisputed superstar posting a 28.5 point per game average over the 68 games that he played that year. For the second straight season, L.A. would be carried by their superstars O’Neal and Bryant, but this time around they were a much stronger force come playoff time, sweeping all three of their Western opponents (Portland Trail Blazers 3-0, Sacramento Kings 4-0, and the top ranked Spurs 4-0). In the finals Bryant would get to face his hometown Philadelphia 76ers who had a blossoming young star of their own in Allen Iverson. Philadelphia would prove to be no match though and would lose the series 4-1, making the Lakers back-to-back Champions for the first time since their 1987 and 1988 teams. During this playoff run, Kobe was a man on a mission averaging 29.4 points per game on the path to his second straight title where he seemingly announced to the World “I’m here”.
Kobe had a truly spectacular career on the court amassing 33,643 career points, over 7,000 rebounds and over 6,000 assists as well as being named an All-Star 18 times, winning the MVP award in 2008, and capturing 5 NBA Championships (2000, 2001, 2002, 2009, and 2010), NBA finals MVP in 2009 and 2010 as well as being a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist for the United States. He inspired a whole generation of fans and players, but he was more than just a basketball player, as he engaged in many business ventures and philanthropic work post-career to ensure that his legacy extended beyond just the court.
I would now like to take the time to thank you for taking the time to read our brief recount of Kobe and the starting of his dominance with his first two championships. Kobe is one of those players who become so legendary that he almost became a myth amongst fans for his amazing feats on the court, this is something that very few other players in any sport have managed to accomplish.
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