Long live the Black Mamba.
Kobe Bean Bryant turns 39 years old today. While he hasn’t stepped foot on the court since he dropped 60 points on the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016, you’re still yelling “Kobe!” when tossing something in the garbage can. The life-long Laker’s influence hasn’t worn off around the NBA and his efforts outside of the league are thriving as well.
Here are Kobe’s biggest MVP moments on and off the court during his incredible and storied career.
He Scored 81 Points Against The Raptors
Wow. Just wow. On Jan. 22, 2006, Kobe dropped 81 points on the Vince Carter-less (and Drake-less) Toronto Raptors. The only person to ever have a better game was Wilt Chamberlain in his legendary 100-point performance. Even more impressive is that he was just three days removed from a then career-high of 62 points against the Dallas Mavericks. The nearly 20,000 fans in the Staples Center chanted “MVP! MVP!” as Kobe was finally taken out of the game with 4.2 seconds left. When asked why he did it, he responded, “It’s all about the win.”
His Successful Sneaker Line
There’s no doubt that the best signature sneaker line ever is Michael Jordan‘s. As Jordan Brand sets to release its 30th annual sneaker, it’s safe to say that Kobe’s Nike line has had quite the journey. He started his career as an adidas athlete and ended as a Nike athlete. The Kobe 11 will be the last sneaker that Kobe will ever play in, and fans are sure to support him after he leaves the league. His sneakers, like Jordan’s, were stylish and could be worn on and off the court. It’s not always about the design of the sneakers— it’s more about the person who inspired them. Many have followed suit since, like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry. But no one is sure if they’ll be able to disrupt the footwear industry the way Jordan and Kobe did.
He Took Brandy To Prom
After joining the NBA as a fresh-faced 17 year old, Kobe missed a bunch of things any normal kid would experience. But prom wasn’t one of them. What better way to celebrate the most nerve-wracking night of your teenage life than to take actor and singer Brandy to prom? After the night’s events, Brandy admitted that the two kissed and even said, “His lips were so soft.” So, it looks like Kobe always had game. If he had the guts to ask Brandy out— at the height of her career in 1996— to her prom, it’s no surprise that Kobe has the amount of confidence he does now.
His Music Career
BARS. Let’s go back to a time before Iman Shumpert rapped and Shaq asked Kobe how his a-s tasted. With the new millennium fresh on his mind, Kobe already had the NBA on lock, so he turned his efforts to rapping. And who better to feature than Tyra Banks? Kobe’s debut single, creatively titled “Kobe,” was pushed in January 2000 and he even performed it at All-Star Weekend. The song was actually pretty catchy but Kobe’s album, Visions, failed to meet expectations. The song was still a hit, especially when you realize it featured two people who had made millions off careers outside of music. Kobe’s opening line was, “What I live for? Basketball, beats and broads.” As classic as it gets.
He Won The Dunk Contest As A Rookie
Aside from the Superbowl, the Dunk Contest is the sporting event that everyone watches, regardless of their knowledge of sports. Kobe owned the night in his rookie season. The sidelines were equally excited as a young Ray Allen (when he still had hair) and Scottie Pippen, dressed in a cream turtleneck and tweed jacket, looked on. In the first round, Kobe didn’t even take off his warm-up jacket, which should have been a fair warning when he decided to bare arms later on in the competition. Things got pretty impressive as he did a between-the-legs monster jam in the final round, easily beating the competition.
He Was The Youngest All-Star In NBA History
In 2006, the NBA stopped allowing high school ballers to skip college and go straight to the league, a rule that could have changed the trajectory of NBA superstars Kobe and LeBron James. But sometimes it takes players several years to develop enough to even be considered one of the league’s elite. Kobe Bryant? Not so much. He made his All-Star game debut at 19 year old. His record has yet to be broken. Unless another player has a super weird birthday and a breakout rookie year, it’ll never be broken.
He Won Without Shaq
A one-two punch if there ever was one. Kobe and Shaq won several rings together, and neither could escape the stigma of doubters saying, “They can’t win a title without each other.” Shaq won one with the Miami Heat in 2006 and after many people had written Kobe off, he won back to back championships in 2009 and 2010. With the help of Derek Fisher, Ron Artest and Pau Gasol, Kobe’s second reign had finally come. It’s rare that a player leads two very different squads to the finals and wins with both several times. A true testament to Kobe’s amazing leadership and tremendous talent.
Athletes creating businesses are nothing new, and half the time they’re unsuccessful. Didn’t you watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 episode, Broke? Instead of buying a whole bunch of car washes, Kobe started his own company, Kobe Inc., the home of BodyArmor sports drink. It’s available in food stores around the country, so it’s safe to say Kobe made a sound investment. The idea of beginning his own company came about after his last Achilles injury, as he tested just how many episodes of Modern Family he could watch and realized he had to do something else.
As sports players realize that they’re blessed enough to do what they want for a living and make an extraordinary amount of money, they often decide to give back. So, it’s only right that Kobe is the official ambassador of After-School All-Stars, a non-profit that provides after-school programs to children across America. He also started the Kobe Bryant China Fund which raises money for education and health programs. He even helped a Make A Wish participant fulfill his dream of playing him in HORSE.
Thank you, Kobe.