Happy Birthday Kobe

Darius Soriano —  August 23, 2013

It was 17 summers ago that Jerry West took a chance on a high schooler who had the NBA pedigree and the self confidence to realize those gifts. In the 17 summers that have passed since the Lakers acquired Kobe Bryant from the Charlotte Hornets for the rights to Vlade Divac, the team has celebrated 5 championships and been to the Finals an additional 2 times. As an individual, the accolades, awards, and milestones achieved are too many to rattle off without it seeming like overkill. Needless to say, the gamble has paid off.

Today, Kobe celebrates his 35th birthday. The kid that the Logo drafted has become a man. He’s had his ups and downs on and off the court in the time that he’s been a Laker, twice — once in free agency and once with a trade demand — even coming close to no longer being with the franchise. But here he is, going into his 18th season, still a Laker. And he will, at least if you listen to him and to ownership, retire one.

Only a few fanbases truly understand what it’s like to see a modern franchise icon stay with one team for their entire career. Today, only Kobe, Dirk, and Duncan can claim that honor. As a fan, it’s undeniably special to see and root for one of those guys. There’s a comfort in seeing him suit up every night, run onto that floor, and compete for the team you root for. I’m not sure outsiders can really truly grasp what these guys mean to these fans. They’re the on court pillars of the organization and have them continue to trot out onto the court is a reminder of all that has been accomplished and a flicker of hope that those past glories can be recaptured.

Back in 1996, the Logo was given the benefit of the doubt when drafting Kobe — he is Jerry West, after all — but to say there weren’t questions about how this would go would not be accurate. Several days ago, Kobe gave a lengthy interview with Jimmy Kimmel and he told a story about his pre-draft workout with the Clippers. Kobe says that the Clips told him he’d had the most impressive workout of all the potential draftees and Kobe responded with glee and asked if that meant they were going to draft him. They told him “no” and said that no one would take them seriously if they’d spent their draft pick on a 17 year old high school kid.

This story allowed everyone to get a laugh in at the Clippers’ expense, since, you know, Kobe turned into the player he has. But, at the time, the Clips were justified in thinking this way. We must remember that Kobe was the first of the prep to pros guards to be drafted into the league. This wasn’t like the ‘Wolves spending a lottery pick on the 6’11” Kevin Garnett; big men had long been coveted at any age and the success of young players at that size and skill had long been confirmed back to the days of Moses Malone or even Shawn Kemp. But Kobe was a guard and there were legitimate concerns about his ability to adapt to the physicality of the NBA, not to mention the inherit doubts about drafting high school players to begin with.

Of course, Kobe became what he did by using those doubts to fuel him and drawing on his competitive instincts to channel his energy into disproving those who believed he would not succeed.

All these years later, it seems Kobe has come full circle.

Today, Kobe faces similar doubts in attempting to come back from his ruptured achilles tendon. And while he’s earned the benefit of the doubt from many that he’ll put the work in and do everything in his power to return to the floor to be effective, this is the type of injury that few really come back from. So, even those who believe in his will and drive to return in top form have trouble believing that he can come back and approximate the player who has done so much for so long. But maybe that’s exactly what he needs.

In any event, here’s a Happy Birthday to Kobe Bean Bryant. We’ve watched him grow up right before our eyes, from boy to man, from the guy who believed he could do it to the guy who everyone believed would do it. Few can claim such a career arc. He truly has been one of a kind.

Darius Soriano

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62 responses to Happy Birthday Kobe

  1. Kobe..5 rings in 17 years….soon to be 18 years….He has wasted lots of years in his life(his words)……..I would take Magic anytime over Kobe….

  2. Great, great player! So much fun to watch! To my way of thinking , Kobe has the ability to make every single basketball play that exists, from the crossover dribble to the skyhook. As a lifelong Lakers fan, I’ve been privileged to watch his excellence on the court! Happy birthday, KB… Thanks for the memories.

  3. Ring #6 is coming.

  4. When Kobe was first operated on, there was some talk of comparing what he was trying to do with Adrian Peterson coming back from his knee injury – most NFL running backs don’t last past 30, so – at 28 – he is on the dark side of his career. Since that time his name has been conspicuously absent from the discussion. I realize the two injuries are not identical, but Peterson was back in 7 months and had a phenomenal year. The keys were good genetics and unbelievable work ethic. Kobe has those two in spades. Also, both had the best doctors available doing the operation.

    I guess I just don’t see all the negativity about Kobe’s future play. He will never be 27 again, but neither will most of us. He is much nearer the end than his glory, but most of us never saw glory. With his talent, smarts, and work ethic, I just don’t see why he won’t contribute at a very high level. Also, I think he will make it much easier on Farmar, Johnson, and Young.

    Happy Birthday Kobe – and we look forward to your future.

  5. Gene:

    Color me shocked that you managed to beat everyone to the punch and respond to a Kobe piece with the usual negativity.

    I have many times extolled the dualistic nature of all that is Kobe–the bad that comes with the good—the flaws that somehow make the greatness more poignant, and won’t bore you or everyone else with a recapitulation of that story now.

    Focusing specifically on your “ring count” theory, however, you do realize that only 13 players in league history have more than 5 rings to begin with, and 9 of them played on the Russell-led Celtics teams from the 50’s and 60’s right? Kareem, Scotty, and Michael are three of the others–Horry, the “Trivia Answer” is the fourth. Kareem “only” won six rings in 20 years. Do you think he “wasted” a bunch of time too?

    Focusing on the Magic comparison, you do realize that Magic is almost-invariably listed in the top-5 players of all time, right? So saying you would pick Magic over Kobe every time isn’t really saying much, if you think about it. It’s kind of like saying you would pick Kareem or Michael over Kobe. So what? Does that mean that Kobe isn’t a great player, and isn’t one of the greatest players in league and franchise history?

  6. Does that mean that Kobe isn’t a great player, and isn’t one of the greatest players in league and franchise history?

    As you know, it is just gene’s way of reminding us that he doesn’t like Kobe, which is fine, but I think reminding us of this on the first post of a Happy Birthday Kobe thread is, shall we say, gratuitous.

  7. Grateful to see 17 years of brilliance, growth and winning from Kobe. May never see another Laker match his acheivements. Savor the moments.

  8. Really Gene? Are you the king of guy who brings a blow torch to a birthday party to light the candles?

  9. mindcrime: You are now the mindliberator! Thanks for freeing gene!

  10. Kobe Alert: Pending his comeback, this coming year will be Kobe’s 18th. This will tie him for 12th on the all time list for seasons played. Only three guys have played 20 seasons or more: Kareem, Robert Parish, and Kevin Willis. Yet another category that Kobe could own before he is through.

    Dear Kobe: Happy Birthday. My only present will be to continue to be your #1 fan. I hope to be there for your 1st game back and for your move into the #3 slot. You will definitely be able to hear me.

  11. If you enjoy basketball, you appreciate the brilliance and heart of Kobe Bryant — regardless of whether you are a Kobe guy or not.

    Put another way, how many players in the modern era (of fame and F-U money) have risen to the pantheon multiple times and REMAINED this hungry and this dedicated this late in their career?

  12. Time sure flies. I remember being a teen in ’96 working my summer job in the Pyramid at Long Beach State. That was back when they had the Fila Summer Pro league there. I saw the then 17 year old Kobe play his first official Lakers game. As a bonus D-Fish played his first games in the purple and gold as well. Magic had a team that played on Saturday and Kobe and company played on Sunday. The day Kobe played I pulled into the lot to park and knew this was different. People were parking in the residential neighborhood across from the college because there was no space left in the parking lots. I had never seen it like that before. And I was a veteran at working those summer league games.

    This was just 5 years after Magic’s announcement. There was feeling in the building that the Lakers had finally found the next “great one” to pick up the baton Magic was forced to drop. Kobe played limited minutes. Still he was a natural from the moment he stepped on the court. The kid had the look of a player who belonged. The buzz in that building was amazing. We all knew Dr. Buss and Jerry West had struck gold yet again. And the Lakers were back.

    Congrats to Kobe. I’m glad to have seen him all these years. I’m glad he was able to capitalize on the enormous potential everyone in that area saw back in 1996.

  13. Kobe Bryant’s Top 10 Plays of his Career:

  14. Robert,
    No better time than the present for a ‘Kobe Alert’

    Much Respect and Happy Bornday to the legendary Kobe Bryant. Won’t even try to recount all of the great moments that you’ve blessed me with over the last 17 yrs. I’m just hoping that you’ll give me plenty more.

    So until your return, from the Bald Head to the Nappy Fro’ to the Light Ceaser that you’re currently rockin’, I send my salutes.

  15. Kobe Bean Bryant. A Happy Birthday. 35 is the new 25. Speedy recovery.

  16. Warren, nicely said.

    Mr. Bryant, here’s another fan wishing you a very Happy 35th. Get well. Stay young. Best wishes.

  17. T. Rogers,
    wonderful anecdote! geez, i wish i coulda been there with you.
    Happy Belated Mamba! Love you brother!

  18. Happy Birthday Kobe. 🙂

  19. I have to get in on this Magic V Kobe discussion… The reason Kobe is a step ahead of Magic is soley because Kobe is one of the greatest perimter defenders of all time and Magic was an average defender at best. Half the game is defense people. Too many smart basketball fans for some reason can’t acknowledge that. Its just inherent. If you are someone who thinks offense is so important that means you also think defense is just as important. It’s just logic. It’s a fact. Defense effects the other teams offense. So however important you think offense is that means inherently defense is just as important.

  20. Keno (re: Gene),

    Only if the cake is made of ice cream. : )

  21. Happy b-day Mr Bean,wish you a speedy recovery and us fans lots of more highlights!

  22. Wow. Just saw the news on Odom. I know this is a Kobe thread (happy bday Kobe!) but Lamar, come on man…

  23. It’s amazing how short sighted some Lakers fans are. This Odom signing is as great as the Kaman signing. The best way to tank is playing awful players who can’t play defense at the end of their careers. Young players are better defensivley and can improve and grow. They also can be sat behind worse older players simply because vets get the nod. Nobody complains and the team can lose more games without is being called tanking. Old players just get worse. A frontline with Kaman, Gasol, amd Odom will give up 120 PPG. A rotation of Kaman, Odom, Gasol, Young, Meeks, Blake and Nash is my dream. That rotation could get us a top pic in the lottery. I don’t want to see players like Farmar and Johnson playing heavy minutes. Farmar is the only guy on that rotation that can create shots (and he can play pretty good D) and Johnson is the only guy who is a plus defensivley. If we can avoid those two guys from playing heavy minutes we have a great shot at a top three pic.

    The proof is in the pudding… And the pudding is being served in a giant “TANK”.

  24. Change your site to forum Kobe and Kobe. All Kobe lover here!

  25. Kobe is among the top 10 players ever. Enough with who is better. Everyone has their own opinion. The guy can be ranked from 1 to 10 depending on who you ask. I think the imprint he leaves on the game is he’s fearless, confident extremely hard working and an extreme competitor second to none. It’s a privilege to have watched him play and grow up before us. He’s truly inspirational having to compete in everything he did with the greatest of all time.

  26. I don’t see any news on Odom. Where are you seeing this?

  27. Aaron,

    There are some stories out saying that LO has a serious substance abuse issue.

  28. Anonymous: “Change your site to forum Kobe and Kobe. All Kobe lover here!” Well – I think you need to read this board more often : )
    Aaron: Once again we agree. Magic was my ATF and Kobe replaced him in that spot. Yes – Kobe is simply one of the better defenders of all time amongst the elite players. Magic was not. Magic was a great leader and team player. Bottom line – they are both great – but KB gets the nod. And he is not done yet.
    Kobe Alert: Kobe has no substance issues and never has had one; Kobe always shows up for every practice and every game; Kobe plays injured; Kobe has one goal – and that is to be the best ever – and he continues to pursue that.

  29. Damn, already 3 days and I cant open my twitter account to greet Kobe on his birthday.

    Happy birthday Kobe. Hope he gets that 6th ring he wanted.

  30. If the stories `bout LO are true, I wish him the best of luck, it´s HELL falling through the cracks substance abuse, a bottomless abyss;
    a big ol´ bear hug to you LO, don´t lose that smile

  31. What I’m interested in are the STATSLLC cameras now being installed in all 30 arenas. It’s a tremendous system, but with the huge flow of data, you really need a dedicated stats team to properly sift through and utilize relevant data. Without a stats department, how will the Lakers utilize the new gifted system? Will they fall behind other teams that make far more use out of the system?

  32. Will they fall behind other teams that make far more use out of the system?

    Some, including the KBros, have suggested that they already have.

  33. Kobe is a great player no doubt but Magic played in a tougher era with tougher rules..Magic could do everything that Kobe can do but better..better passer…better rebounder…better teammate…

  34. Couple of points:

    6 teams used them two years ago, and half used them last year (not the Lakers). For the anti-stat guys here, the cameras are really in some respects more about high-tech video analysis than about advanced metrics per se.

  35. I have nothing against advanced metrics. They serve a very good purpose and all teams should use them to help analyze both players and games.

    However, they don’t definitively prove anything. They have to be used with context, observation, and understanding. When looking at two players who are nearly equal, they can spell the difference in ranking players for drafting purposes.

    They can also help analyze team weaknesses and used to study systems and tendencies.

    I am in favor of their extensive use by the Laker front office. It is just that some commenting on this blog try to use them to prove things like ‘who is better’. This is not a good use of advanced metrics. Actually, the ‘who is better’ arguments are mostly silly, though extremely human. What really matters is how the team functions and that is a more complex animal.

  36. Happy birthday kb24…

  37. Happy Birthday Kobe. It has been a pleasure to be a Lakers fan duing your career. Best wishes for your continued drive towards number 6 plus, and the all time scoring list.

  38. I just read the article in the LA Times about the 25th anniversary of the 1988 Dodger World Series win. The thing about that club was that absolutely nobody could ever have predicted that club would even get to the World Series, never mind win it. They were a collection of cast off parts and pieces, with a couple of stars. They had the ‘mighty Casey’ near the end of his career (Kirk Gibson).

    What they were was a team, brought together by a maligned manager, and assembled by a run-of-the-mill general manager.

    While nobody in his right mind would predict anything for this year’s Lakers, it is nice to remember it once happened here, 25 years ago.

  39. However, they don’t definitively prove anything

    No, but they provide a lot better evidence in many cases than subjective observations like ‘I saw him play and you didn’t’ do. Daryl Morey said a few years ago that advanced metrics can help a lot with assembling the roster at the margins. You don’t need sophisticated stats to tell you it is a good idea to get Dwight Howard, but they can help you 5-9–where the Lakers have at times had a lot of trouble.

    And, if you favor their extensive use by the Lakers FO, then you should be criticizing Jim Buss for the Lakers’ seeming lack of highly-qualified personnel in this area, not attending Sloan Analytics, etc.

    Also, if you read the link, the SPORTVU technology is being used to analyze things at the team level, like the Toronto ghost-defense overlay stuff. Remember, this is advanced high-speed video, which can be used to evaluate in-game actions, not just numbers-crunching being used after the fact.

  40. As someone who reads every comment, I must say that seeing rr try to take down every other post that Craig W. puts up is tiring.

    For example, Craig’s last comment about advanced stats was very balanced acknowledging that teams should use them and that he wants the Lakers to use more of them to help analyze, players, schemes, tendencies, etc. Yet, here comes rr taking one line from that comment — a line that is true, by the way since advanced metrics don’t definitively prove anything — and then proceeds to go on some witch hunt to take down Craig’s comment. This happens every thread. Every. Single. Thread.

    I enjoy back and forth dialogue between commenters. What I’m enjoying less as every day passess is the tendency to take one sentence from someone else’s comment and then using that to spring board into a semi-rant that sometimes doesn’t even address the full merit of the comment they’re responding to.

  41. I should add that I’m a proponent of using advanced metrics to help inform my opinion and to get a better handle on what I see happening on the floor. So when I say that stats don’t definitively prove anything that’s not the same as saying they don’t have value or can’t be useful. Since that’s not true at all.

  42. My least favorite stat/comment is how Howard doesn’t have a post moves….Howard must have something to score over 20 a game….they are not all put backs….

  43. I’ve been busy lately with a new baby, but I had to get in here and say Happy Birthday Kobe! I’ve watched you play since you first stepped foot in the league and you’ve had so many amazing moments that there are too many to count. Thanks for all the memories.

  44. Gene,

    There are a lot of data that show that Howard is more effective in PnR than in post-ups. It is not that he can’t post up; it’s more that it is not his best thing.

  45. Re: Stats
    PER proves more about how effective an offensive player is than anything else on this planet including “Counting rings”.

    Re: Howard Post Moves
    “Moves” are a means to an end. Howard didn’t need post moves because he was so strong and explosive. So he was very good in the post especially for a 6-9 guy. Howard lost his athletisism after his back surgery like everyone before him older than 22 years old. Since howard didn’t have a polished post game he couldn’t compensate for the loss of explosiveness and became an ineffective post player last season.

  46. Dwight has no post moves. for a player of his stature and tenure and position, it’s near criminal. he’s very good in pnr(when he wants to be) and on the defensive end, he’s also a fairly good rebounder. he just has no post moves. really.

    i’ll bet he looks better this year being more healthy than last, but i’m hoping the Rockets run everything through Dwight in the post. i need them to fail a bit for the team that i like to have an easier time in the west.

  47. This is from SSR, July 6:

    Of course, according to MySynergySports, Howard ranked 121st overall (.74 points per possession) in the league as a post-up player and 9th overall (1.29 points per possession) as a roll man out of the pick-and-roll last season. The prior season he averaged .88 points per possession out of the post and an astonishing 1.36 points per possession as a roll man — good for second in the league overall.

    Don’t know numbers from previous years.

  48. Howard, like many players, seems to want what he doesn’t have – instead of concentrating on getting better at what he is really good at. If he can curb this tendency, he will be really effective for Houston in the P-n-R. If he can’t, he will clog up their entire offense and frustrate his team, his fans, and the front office.

    He will still be a monster on defense so Houston will be formidable. However, to succeed in the post season teams need to take full advantage of what they do best and not continue to attempt that which they are just ordinary at.

    I guess that is what frustrates me most about Dwight – and why I am not really sorry to see him gone. Not that he couldn’t be good, but that his ego actually gets in the way of him getting better and contributing more.

  49. Nice stats rr. To bad he can’t read stats or just doesn’t care.

  50. Dwight is a classic case of an old man in pain killers. While its working, he can be happy and be reasonable and logical. Once the meds lose steam, he gets cranky, frustrated and he complains alot. It doesn’t depend on his character, it depends on his mood.

    In retrospect some 45 days after his decision to leave LA, it still comes out comical to me how he did what he did. Not choosing Harden, Lin and company over Kobe and Pau, but how he handled himself to always be hating the Lakers guts as if he had enough tenure to earn such a right. He was out East for the entire of his career and he only faced the Lakers, as a franchise and a brand in the 2010 Finals where he lost.

    If you dig up nearly all of his footage pre-trade, you would see he was intent on heading to the Nets. He mentioned Nets or bust several times and that he didn’t want to be in LA due to Kobe. When he was traded to LA, he put on a clown act and expressed how thankful and excited he was to be in LA. Then again he only wanted to be here alone and wanted Kobe amnestied. Yeah right.

    Again, all things considered, I acknowledge how good he is, but boy am I glad he is no longer our problem.

  51. Craig W.-it’s more like he doesn’t want to work on what he doesn’t have. he’s relied on his instincts and natural gifts, which are prodigious, and that’s lead to his being proclaimed as a “great center”. i think he just expects to be able to do that stuff easily and so he doesn’t work as hard as he needs to. that’s the point of Kobe saying that he would teach him how to win.

    it’s the same with Kobe as with Magic, Kareem, Wilt, heck any true winner. it takes hard work that really isn’t that fun, in order to win consistently. it’s obvious that Dwight has not put in the work. you can see it when he get’s stripped game in and game out, or by how clumsly his feet are.

    actually, it’s not fair to say that he has NO post game. Dwight has one very effective move. that move is easily taken away by any good defender because Dwight has no counter, no second, third move. this is why Pau dominated Dwight in almost every game when they met in the finals.

    just for the record, i was really happy to get Dwight, and i wanted him to stay, but he was also the player that i was most often disgusted by after lackluster or foolish play. most telling, when Kobe was down, the guards were down and the Lakers were facing San Antonio Howard did NOTHING. he didn’t lead the team to steal one game, play like an animal one time or act like he really cared about how hard some players tried to make the playoffs even one time. that is something i’ll never see from Kobe. i didn’t see that in the series that Kobe supposedly tanked to “prove a point”. i saw Kobe do what the coaches and even the press and fans asked him to, keep feeding his teammates, no matter what, to prove his “trust” in them. ahh, getting carried away…

  52. I meant Dwight btw

  53. And as we have seen so many times, Kobe cebrates his birthday while preparing as a madman to come back as a top 5 player and push for another playoff run… and then another old running mate has gone missing. This time literally: where is Lamar Odom?

    I was not aware that he had had drug problems, what a shame for a good guy like him. I wish him the best and hope to see him resurface and get clean.

  54. To Heck with Howard!
    Craig W.,
    nice comment on the improbable `88 Dodgers, I hope we can emulate them!
    As for the STATS LLC SportVU cameras,
    it´s clear they´ll give teams which can utilize the amassed data to its fullest a much needed edge in today´s Association, and I know many of you here are full-on numbers supporters, my hats off to you, but man, what kind of pressure, added to the already intense one, the players must be under (& will be, league-wide) now that every single move they make can be broken down into cold numbers and into `ghost´ defenders…yikes…To wit:
    “ah, look here Johnny, you see as you went to the post here against two defenders you failed to realize that because of the half cup of gatorade you´d had during the timeout, well uhh, [cough..cough], you see your bladder was 1/24th of an inch thicker at that precise moment, this is proven by our camera having analyzed the angle at which you tilted the cup toward your mouth there, see.. and uhh, and therefore, uhhh, you were an eighth of a step slower because of it after the TO, you´ll notice here as you received the ball how your left foot, there, was angled slightly to the right, demonstrating, of course, the bladder having influenced your drive, this is bona fide info here son, cutting edge, yeah ..and so, you weren´t able to split that double team and ahh, [hrmph, cough] this allowed your `ghost´ defender an extra split second to tap his real-life player on the shoulder and point this out to him, uuhh, yeah… and so you should´ve dished it out to the perimeter player who hadn´t had anything to drink…see?´´
    Yes, I know I´m taking it too far, just having a little fun there… but perhaps someone´ll get my point..

  55. sad to hear T-Mac retiring. Along with AI, they were legit competitors to Kobe, and both probably better ‘talents’ as long as you don’t include will & determination when measuring talents.

    seriously feel like we missed out on T-mac, more so than Shaq; I know appearances aren’t everything but if T-mac worked as hard as Kobe… he may have set a standard so high that even LeBron might have had trouble matching it.

  56. Kobe Bryant in my opinion is the greatest Laker that ever lived. However, James Worthy and Maigic remain my all time favorite Lakers. Has nothing to do with “being better” (they are not), rather, I fell in love with the Lakers watching these guys play so to me they will always be my favs.

  57. Blood,

    Obviously, if there is overload that inhibits players’ reactions, that could be a negative. However, if you can analyze tendencies and give players specifc feedback about certain things, that can be helpful. In Chris Ballard’s book “The Art of a Beautiful Game” he has a long chapter about how Shane Battier, when he was with the Rockets, made use of data from the Houston stat dept to infrom how he defended LeBron James, Kobe, etc.

  58. rr,
    Thanks for the tip, I´ll have a look at it asap.

  59. Great line, D.
    We’ve watched him grow up right before our eyes, from boy to man, from the guy who believed he could do it to the guy who everyone believed would do it.