It’s hard to believe Kobe just completed his 15th NBA season. It seems as though it was just yesterday Kobe was breaking into the league as a rookie.
Considering Kobe has spent the last 15 years establishing himself as one of the game’s all-time greats, trying to rank his seasons wasn’t an easy task.
Keep in mind, while I held the seasons Kobe won championships in high regard, all of them don’t necessarily qualify as one of his best overall seasons.
In any case, enjoy the slideshow. Feel free to comment on which one of Kobe’s past seasons you think was the best.
This was the beginning of the Kobe Bryant era in the NBA. In his rookie campaign, Kobe averaged seven points in 15 minutes of action per game.
Kobe was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team, in addition to winning the NBA Slam Dunk Contest at All-Star Weekend.
Kobe did exhibit some growing pains, however. In Game 5 of the conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz, Kobe famously shot numerous air balls in overtime, sealing the series victory for Utah.
Kobe Bryant had much more of an impact for the Los Angeles Lakers in his second season with the team. Kobe doubled his scoring average from the previous season, averaging 15 points a game as the team’s top reserve.
In the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, Kobe Bryant became a full-time starter for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kobe averaged 19 points a contest en route to being named to the All-NBA Third Team.
Following the 2004 season, Shaquille O’Neal was traded and Phil Jackson temporarily retired, leading to an underwhelming 2004-05 season for both the Los Angeles Lakers and Kobe Bryant.
Kobe missed 16 games, and the Los Angeles Lakers failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993-94.
It wasn’t a good start for Kobe in his attempt to lead the Lakers as the team’s alpha dog.
After the Los Angeles Lakers added Gary Payton and Karl Malone in the summer of 2003, Kobe’s overall production dropped from previous seasons in order to accommodate playing with his two new teammates.
The Lakers made it to the NBA Finals for the fourth time in five years, but the Detroit Pistons shockingly upset them in five games.
Nonetheless, Kobe made his third straight All-NBA First Team and second consecutive All-Defensive First Team.
Given his five championships and numerous individual achievements, Kobe entered the 2010-11 season gaining steam as being considered as one of the all-time greats.
In the middle of the 2010-11 season, Kobe climbed to No. 6 on the all-time scoring list.
The Lakers came up short in their bid for three straight championships, losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the conference semifinals.
Given Kobe’s age and nagging injuries, there were more “is he getting too old” discussions amongst fans and analysts during the 2010-2011 season.
Despite the disappointing end to the season, Kobe was named to his ninth career All-NBA First Team and ninth career All-Defensive First Team and won his fourth All-Star Game MVP award.
The 2001-2002 season saw the Los Angeles Lakers win their third consecutive championship. While Kobe Bryant’s regular season and postseason scoring both decreased from the previous season, he was named to his first All-NBA First Team.
Kobe also took home the All-Star Game MVP. That year’s game was held in Philadelphia. Kobe, who grew up near Philadelphia, was booed by his Pennsylvanian brethren as he accepted the award.
Kobe Bryant averaged 31 points per game in 2006-07, earning his second consecutive scoring title. But the season proved to be reminiscent of '05-06 with Kobe trying to singlehandedly lead the team back to relevancy.
The Lakers barely made the playoffs and were embarrassed by the Phoenix Suns in the first round.
One of the few bright spots was Kobe winning the All-Star Game MVP for the second time in his career.
By now, Kobe Bryant was well on his way to becoming one of the game’s best players. Kobe saw his scoring average climb to 22 points a game, as the Los Angeles Lakers won their first championship since 1988.
Kobe had moments in the playoffs showing that he was not only talented but also clutch.
In Game 7 of the Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, Kobe scored 25 points with 11 rebounds, seven assists and four blocks.
Kobe continued to shine in the NBA Finals against the Indiana Pacers. After missing Game 3 of the series with an ankle injury, Kobe came up huge for the Lakers in Game 4.. With Shaquille O’Neal fouling out of the game in overtime, Kobe hit numerous clutch baskets to give the Lakers a 3-1 series advantage.
Kobe ended the season being named to the All-NBA Second Team and All-Defensive First Team.
Kobe Bryant averaged 28 points a game in 2000-2001, which was good enough for fourth-best in the NBA.
Kobe also had a very impressive run in the playoffs, averaging 29 points, six assists and seven rebounds per game, which included a 33-point average against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
The Lakers cruised to their second straight championship, losing only one playoff game in the process.
Kobe Bryant won his first MVP award in 2008, averaging 28 points, six rebounds and five assists a game. Kobe led the Lakers to the best record in the Western Conference, although the acquisition of Pau Gasol midway through the season didn’t hurt either.
While I was happy Kobe won the award, it’s hard to take the MVP voting seriously when his 2007-08 season is deemed MVP-worthy but not the amazing season he had in 2005-06.
Kobe Bryant led the Los Angeles Lakers to back-to-back championships, winning his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP award.
The Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in seven games, getting revenge for their loss to the Celtics in the 2008 finals.
2008-09 was easily one of Kobe Bryant’s most impressive seasons. Coming off their loss to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers’ toughness was questioned, in addition to speculation about Kobe’s ability to lead the team to a championship.
Kobe temporarily silenced his critics, leading the team to its first championship since 2002, proving he could indeed win the big one without Shaq.
Although the Los Angeles Lakers failed to win their fourth consecutive championship, Kobe had one of his best seasons in 2002-03, yielding serious debates as to whether he had replaced Shaquille O’Neal as the team’s best player.
Kobe ranked second in the league in scoring, averaging a team-best 30 points a game.
Additionally, Kobe had one of the most impressive scoring stretches in league history. Kobe had nine consecutive games of at least 40 points and averaged 40.6 points a game in February.
Kobe Bryant backed up his disappointing '04-05 season with arguably one of the most impressive seasons in league history.
Kobe won his first scoring title, averaging 35 points a game, which included his famous 81-point performance (55 of which came in the second half) against the Toronto Raptors. Kobe had an equally impressive game earlier in the season when he scored 62 points in just three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks.
Kobe led the Lakers to 45 wins, which is saying something considering the supporting cast he played with, and a near upset of the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs.
It was a total travesty he didn’t win the MVP award. Instead, Steve Nash won his second consecutive MVP after leading the Phoenix Suns to 54 wins with Amare Stoudemire missing the majority of the season.
Some like to argue Kobe’s gaudy numbers that season were because he was selfish and didn’t bother getting his teammates involved. People say that as though he had an All-Star cast playing alongside him. Lamar Odom was the only quality teammate he had that season.