Bryant, Kobe, born in 1978, American basketball player who became the youngest National Basketball Association (NBA) player in history in 1996. He entered the NBA straight from high school at the age of 18. The 6-ft 7-in (201-cm) shooting guard soon became a star and helped lead the Los Angeles Lakers to league titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
Kobe Bryant was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of former NBA player Joe "Jelly Bean" Bryant. His parents took the name Kobe from a local steakhouse. When Kobe was six years old his family moved to Italy. For the next eight years Kobe learned to speak fluent Italian and played basketball, often competing against his father and other players in the Italian pro leagues. During this period the younger Bryant watched videotapes of NBA games, especially of Los Angeles Lakers guard Magic Johnson, his favorite player.
The Bryant family moved back to the United States in 1991 and Kobe attended Lower Merion High School in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania.
He became a basketball star, averaging 30.8 points and 12 rebounds per game in his senior year and leading the school to the 1996 state title. Recruited by every top college program in the country, Bryant decided to enter the NBA draft instead, where he was selected 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets. The Lakers badly wanted Bryant, however, and quickly traded center Vlade Divac to the Hornets for the young guard.
When the 18-year-old Bryant debuted for Los Angeles in November 1996 he became the youngest player in NBA history. Though showing flashes of brilliance, he was primarily a reserve during his rookie season, averaging 7.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. In his second year, the 1998-1999 season, he averaged 15.4 points per game and became the youngest NBA All-Star...