Kobe Bean Bryant was born on August 23, 1978 in in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is an American professional basketball player who plays shooting guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Los Angeles Lakers. He was born as the youngest of three children and the only son of former Philadelphia 76ers player and former Los Angeles Sparks head coach Joe “Jellybean” Bryant and Pamela Cox Bryant.
Bryant enjoyed a successful high school basketball career at Lower Merion High School, where he was recognized as the top high school basketball player in the country. He decided to declare his eligibility for the NBA Draft upon graduation, and was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. As a rookie, Bryant earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest.
Bryant and then-teammate Shaquille O’Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. After O’Neal’s departure following the 2003–04 season, Bryant became the cornerstone of the Lakers franchise. He led the NBA in scoring during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons, setting numerous scoring records in the process. In 2006, Bryant scored a career high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second most points scored in a single game in NBA history, second only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point performance. In the 2007–08 season, he was awarded the regular season’s Most Valuable Player Award (MVP).
In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexual assault at a hotel in Edwards, Colorado, by a hotel employee. Bryant admitted an adulterous sexual encounter with the accuser, but denied the sexual assault allegation. In September 2004, prosecutors dropped the case after his accuser informed them that she was unwilling to testify.
In November 1999, 21-year-old Bryant met 17-year-old Vanessa Laine while she was working as a background dancer on the Tha Eastsidaz music video “G’d Up”. Bryant was in the building working on his debut musical album, which was never released. The two began dating and became engaged just six months later in May 2000.
They married on April 18, 2001, in Dana Point, California. Neither Bryant’s parents, his two sisters, longtime advisor and agent Arn Tellem, nor Bryant’s Laker teammates attended. Bryant’s parents were opposed to the marriage for a number of reasons. Reportedly Bryant’s parents had problems with him marrying so young, especially to a woman who was not African-American. This disagreement resulted in an estrangement period of over two years, which ended when Bryant had his first daughter.
The Bryants’ first child, a daughter named Natalia Diamante Bryant, was born on January 19, 2003. The birth of Natalia influenced Bryant to reconcile his differences with his parents. Vanessa Bryant suffered a miscarriage due to an ectopic pregnancy in the spring of 2005. Their second daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, was born on May 1, 2006. Gianna was born six minutes ahead of former teammate Shaquille O’Neal’s daughter Me’arah Sanaa, who was born in Florida. In an early 2007 interview, it was revealed that Bryant still speaks Italian fluently.
Bryant assigned himself the nickname of “Black Mamba”, citing a desire for his basketball skills to mimic the snake of that name’s ability to “strike with 99% accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession.”