Late Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant was not only one of the greatest NBA players of all time, but he also rose to prominence as a special player at a very young age.
Legend has it that Bryant put on some incredible performances as a teenager at invite-only basketball camps and in private workouts against men who were playing in college or the pros.
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Over the years, many stories of the Black Mamba have been told that highlight his precocious talent at a young age or his insane work ethic and dedication.
Tim Legler, an analyst for ESPN who also played in the NBA during the 1990s, recently recalled one story of Bryant from when he was just 15 years of age.
Via Lakers Daily:
“Former NBA player Tim Legler offered a memory about his first glimpse of Kobe Bryant on the basketball court, which came when Bryant was just 15 years old.
“Legler spoke about how offseason pickup games in the Philadelphia area always had plenty of talent, with Bryant’s performance against NBA professionals getting his attention.
“‘I’m getting my ankle taped. I’m gonna jump into a game, and I’m watching the game being played, and there’s this dude out there, and he’s doing pretty ridiculous athletic stuff,’ Legler said. ‘You could tell he was young, but he looked kind of scrawny, but striding out. Playing against Eddie Jones, I’ll never forget it. He was an All-Star for the Lakers, and they’re going head to head pretty much, and I literally said to the trainer, “Oh, who’s that guy?” I thought he was gonna say, “Ah, that’s such-and-such. He plays at whatever college,” whatever. He says, “Oh, that’s Kobe Bryant. That’s Joe Bryant’s son.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.” I said, “How old is he?” He goes, “Oh, he’s 15. He’s 15.”‘”
Jones, of course, would go on to become Bryant’s teammate in the 1996-97 season. They would spend two years and change as teammates in the Purple and Gold.
As Bryant himself admitted, he did everything young. He became the youngest player to win the Slam Dunk Contest (he did so as a rookie), and the following year he was the youngest starter in the history of the All-Star game.
He won his first NBA championship at the age of 21, and before he turned 24, he had three straight world titles under his belt.
But despite starting very young, Bryant had amazing longevity, as he would give the Lakers 20 seasons, five championships and countless indelible memories.