In case you hadn’t heard, Kobe Bryant retired at the end of this past season. He culminated a 20 year career with as Kobe a performance as possible, pouring in 60 points while everyone pretty much marveled at what he was able to accomplish.
Looking all the way back to when it all started, maybe it wasn’t clear Kobe would end up being the player he became, but there were certainly flashes. Jerry West saw it in pre-draft workouts and did everything he could to acquire him on draft night.
Then, in the summer of 1996, Kobe showed summer league spectators a glimpse of what was to come. In (grainy video) footage I’d never seen until today, here is a 17 year old Kobe playing at the Pyramid in Long Beach in a Lakers’ summer league game against the Suns. Even then, he looked like something special.
(h/t to hoopshype for the clip)
Yes, these are highlights so it’s really the best of his plays. It’s also summer league. But, still. It’s crazy to see such an advanced scoring arsenal out of a player so young. Layups, dunks, fadeaways, long jumpers out of the triple-threat after multiple jab steps…Kobe had such diversity in his game. Oh, and he was only 17.
This past week at the ESPY’s Kobe (along with Peyton Manning and Abby Wambach) received the Icon Award for career excellence. The accomplishments throughout his career are too many to list in this space without it becoming overkill. But, it’s fun to look back to when it all started 20 years ago and see hints of what was to come.