Only nine seconds still grace the scoreboard and the shot clock is turned off. Everyone in the arena knows who is going to get the ball, but not much can be done to stop him.
He receives the ball right off of the left elbow, backing into another unwary young shooting guard just waiting to be violated. What happens next is what created the phenomenon: Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!
But as millions of us continue to chant “MVP” to no avail, one must wonder, what would the NBA be like if Kobe wasn’t dressed in purple and gold? Would he be known more commonly as just Bryant?
When Bryant first entered the league, he was surrounded by extreme talent—though he was criticized by scouts for his size and cocky demeanor. However, since Bryant had the opportunity to play around future stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher for the majority of his career, his mantra was born.
If Bryant would have stayed in Charlotte, however, his legacy may tell a completely different story—or may have been nonexistent.
Before the higher education policy of the NBA implemented preceding the 2005 season, prep-to-pro phenoms were deemed “saviors” by their respect teams, and thus, immense amounts of pressure were placed on athletes still too young to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Few players are truly ready for the NBA at such a young age—LeBron James and Dwight Howard are good examples.
However, unlike these future Hall of Famers, Bryant would have been placed into a small Charlotte market that didn’t have a lot of time to wait for a young athlete to develop physically and he may have fallen by the wayside.
Small programs do not have the time or the resources to culture draftees for multiple years without a supporting roster to balance the load.
Bryant also had another asset in his corner: a phenomenal front office staff, coupled with the coaching genius of Phil Jackson, who knows how to deal with young talent.
In his first two seasons, Bryant started only seven games out of the 150 that he appeared in. During his third season (1998-99), he started all 50 games that he played in. Then with the help of Shaquille O'Neal, Bryant won a championship ring in just his fourth season.
The same fate may have game for Oklahoma City star, Kevin Durant, who played his first two seasons in the dismal professional basketball market of Seattle.
Durant nearly stole an opening-round series from the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers last week, but may have never gotten the opportunity if he would've remained in the unfriendly Northwest sports realm.
Durant has since developed into a superstar at the ripe old age of 21, with future Western Conference dominance on the horizon for the young OKC squad.
Bryant owes all of his success to the patience of the Lakers front office, and the support of star heavyweights like Robert Horry and O'Neal, though basketball fans need rejoice more for the 31-year-old superstar—because without him, we would have no one to compare LeBron James to.