Kobe Bryant Career Timeline from Rookie to Star

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Mamba Mentality" by Kobe Bryant. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What was the timeline of Kobe Bryant’s career? How did Kobe Bryant progress from draft pick to Lakers legend?

The timeline of Kobe Bryant’s career spans several decades. Kobe Bryant started like anyone else, as a young, talented draft pick, and eventually became a star player and fan favorite.

Read more about Kobe Bryant’s career below.

Kobe Bryant Career Timeline

Read the full Kobe Bryant career timeline below and map out his career.

June 1996: Kobe is the 13th overall draft pick. He’s picked up by the Charlotte Hornets and traded to the Lakers within a week. 

November 1996: Kobe is the youngest player to compete in an NBA game. 

1997: At just 18 years old, Kobe is the youngest player to score in a playoff game and the youngest to win the NBA Slam Dunk contest. 

February 1998: Kobe is the youngest All-Star in NBA history. 

June 2000: Kobe returns from an ankle injury to win his first NBA championship. 

2001: Kobe wins his second NBA championship. 

2002: Kobe and the Lakers sweep the New Jersey Nets to win a third consecutive NBA championship.

2004: Kobe and the Lakers compete in the NBA Finals—the fourth time in five years—but they don’t win the championship. 

January 2006: Kobe scores 81 points in a game—a career-high record and the second-most of any player in NBA history. 

2008: Kobe becomes the league MVP and the all-time leading scorer for the Lakers. 

June 2008: Kobe and his Olympic teammates win a gold medal in Beijing. 

2009: Kobe wins his fourth NBA championship, and he becomes the Finals MVP. 

2010: Kobe wins his fifth NBA championship, and he’s named Finals MVP for the second year in a row. 

2014: With 33,634 regular-season points, Kobe becomes the NBA’s third all-time leading scorer, behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. (Shortform note: LeBron James surpassed Kobe’s record in January 2020, bumping Kobe down to the fourth spot.)

April 2016: Kobe retires after scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz in his final game. Kobe’s 20 seasons with the Lakers is the longest tenure any NBA guard has had with one team. 

Kobe Bryant Career Timeline from Rookie to Star

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Kobe Bryant's "The Mamba Mentality" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Mamba Mentality summary:

  • How Kobe Bryant was able to play and dominate the best players
  • Why Kobe took up tap dancing for a summer
  • How reading the referee's handbook helped Kobe improve his game

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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