10th Degree: All-Star Philanthropy
He practices charity far and wide. He established the Kobe Bryant China Fund to raise money within China for education and health programs. Back in the states, he appeared at a launch event for the videogame Call of Duty: Black Ops and presented a $1 million check to the Call of Duty Endowment, a nonprofit organization that helps veterans transition to civilian life.
In addition, since 2007, he has been the national ambassador for After-School All-Stars, an organization that strives to keep kids safe during the hours when they’re most in danger of trying drugs or alcohol, joining gangs, smoking, or engaging in sexual activity. The organization serves 70,000 kids nationwide. Last year, Bryant auctioned off a Hummer and handed the keys to the winning bidder. All proceeds went to the organization.
11th Degree: Family Life
When Bryant was 21, he met 17 year old Vanessa Laine, a dancer on a music video by Tha Eastsidaz. He began dating the higher schooler, and two years later, on April 18, 2001, they married. Reportedly, there was no prenuptial agreement because he “loved her too much for one.”
His parents, sisters, teammates, and agent did not attend the wedding. His parents were against the marriage. As a result, Kobe and his parents were estranged for two years, until his first child, Natalia, was born on January 19, 2003. The couple’s second daughter, Gianna, was born on May 1, 2006.
12th Degree: Close Encounter
In 2003, 19-year-old Katelyn Faber claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Bryant. She worked at The Lodge and Spa at Cordillera in Edwards, Colo., where Bryant checked in prior to knee surgery nearby. Faber accused him of rape the night before the procedure. Bryant admitted to having sex, but denied raping her. Charges were dropped after she refused to testify. Bryant’s public statement: “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.” After she filed a civil lawsuit against Bryant, the two sides settled. Terms were not disclosed.
After the sexual allegations, Bryant’s public persona suffered. His NBA jersey sank to the 10th highest seller for the year in 2004, after having been a world sales leader. McDonald’s and Nutella scuttled his endorsement deals, but Nike did not pull the plug, opting instead not to market his goods for a time. Two years later, when his image bounced back, Nike began promoting his shoes. Also, the Coca-Cola Company used him to promote its Vitamin Water brand.
13th Degree: A Career for the Record Books
Finally, Kobe Bryant will be remembered mainly for his athletic ability. He ranks as one of the greatest basketball players in history. He led the NBA in scoring during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 season, holds numerous scoring records, and led the LA Lakers to consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010 (he holds 5 championship rings). He was named NBA Finals MVP on both occasions.
He is the leading scorer in Lakers history, started in every NBA All-Star Game, and won the All-Star MVP award in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011. He was also named NBA Player of the Decade by Sporting News and TNT.
Among his most amazing achievements: scoring 81 points in a single game, the second highest point total in NBA history. Only one NBA-er has topped that – Wilt Chamberlain, who scored 100 points in a game in 1962. But that’s another story.