Kobe Bryant: The rise, fall and rise again
Continuing our theme of fallen sports stars it is fitting to finish with an American athlete who has come back after a sexual controversy – Tiger Woods take note.
By Declan Whooley
This week we have look at the careers of Mike Tyson, Ben Johnson and Barry Bonds. Johnson and Bonds never returned after their misdemeanours, but Tyson did, just like today’s profiled player, Kobe Bryant. In fact his career arguably got even better.
Kobe Bryant is without doubt one of the modern day greats. The 34 year-old has spent his entire career at one team and the LA Lakers have certainly reaped the benefits.
He is a five-time NBA champion, two-time MVP, fourteen-time All-Star and has two Olympic medals along with a host of other accolades. One of his most cherished must surely be his 1997 Slam Dunk Contest winners’ medal.
The son of Joe Bryant, the former 76ers player, Kobe moved to Italy when he was young when his father chose to continue his career there. He became an AC Milan fan and quickly learned to speak Spanish and Italian. Bryant has said he would have become a professional footballer had his family not returned to the States in 1991.
After starring in High School, Bryant was drafted for the La Lakers in 1996, though originally he was to sign for the Charlotte Hornets. This did not materialise, and the rest as they say is history.
Bryant’s retired Lowe Merrion High School jersey
By the 1998/99 season Bryant had established himself as one of the finest guards in the league and signed a 6 year contract extension worth $70 million after starting every game that season.
The arrival of legendary coach Phil Jackson in 1999 changed the fortunes of the Los Angeles outfit and they would go on to dominate the sport over the next decade.
After winning an array of personal and team honours, in 2007 Bryant was voted in an ESPN poll as the second best shooting guard in NBA history after some chap called Michael Jordan. In an annual survey of NBA general managers this year, Bryant was selected for the 10th consecutive season as the player they most wanted taking the shot with the game on the line.
In 2003 however Bryant was caught with his pants down. He was to undergo knee surgery in Colorado and checked into a nearby hotel before he was to go under the knife. What is undeniable is that the Lakers star had sex with a 19 year-old hotel worker.
The married father of one claimed it was consensual, something Katelyn Faber disagreed with, and Bryant was subsequently arrested on sexual assault.
The American later admitted that he could “understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.” They struck a deal out of court after Faber was unwilling to testify in court.
His wife may have stood by him at the time – they divorced in 2011 – but commercially Bryant paid a high price. His reputation plummeted as did his shirt sales, while deals with McDonald’s and Nutella were terminated.
He recovered both commercially – in 2010 he was ranked behind only Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan in Forbes’ list of the world’s highest paid athletes with $48 million – and on the field of play. This was in part due to the return of Phil Jackson to the Lakers in 2005.
They had their differences in the past, Jackson at one stage calling him ‘uncoachable’ in his book, but the two men had the utmost respect for eachother
The youngest ever player to have won three championships has ensured that an athlete can recover from a fall from grace and come out the other side with more silverware and achievements.
We leave you with a popular YouTube clip showing the similarities between Kobe and Michael Jordan.