The 13th pick of the 1996 Draft, Kobe arrives in Lakerland via a Draft-day trade and is immediately ready to impress
POSTED: Apr 11, 2016 8:54 AM ET
Kobe Bryant -- nicknamed "Showboat" by his teammates -- pushed coach Del Harris for a major role from Day 1.
More Quote History of Kobe:
"I, Kobe Bryant...have decided to skip college and take my talents to the NBA."
With those words, a precocious 17-year-old phenom from the Philadelphia suburbs launched what would become one of the most decorated careers in NBA history, spanning two decades and a Hall of Fame resume bursting with accolades:
• Five championships with the Los Angeles Lakers
It was less about what Bryant accomplished than how he did it, with a singularity of purpose that impressed even his role model and mentor, the ferociously competitive Michael Jordan.
Kobe Bryant's Career Top 10 Plays
Check out the top 10 plays that have made the Lakers' Kobe Bryant a perennial All-Star.
But whereas Jordan was an artist, polished and stylish enough to make his success look almost effortless, Bryant -- who will play his final game Wednesday against the Utah Jazz (10:30 ET, ESPN) -- stubbornly hammered away at his objectives until something broke. Often the opposition, sometimes his own teammates, and now his own body after nearly 60,000 total minutes in the regular season and playoffs.
It's telling that Bryant feuded with the two most important figures in his professional career, Lakers teammate Shaquille O'Neal and coach Phil Jackson.
But as the following collection of quotes will attest, Bryant never wavered from the goal he laid out all those years ago: To wring every last drop of success out of his career that he possibly could, obstacles be damned.
Few general managers ever had a summer as good as the one West enjoyed in 1996. While the signing of free-agent superstar Shaquille O'Neal drew the headlines, his Draft-day trade for Bryant would have an even greater impact. But before Bryant -- dubbed "Showboat" by his new teammates for his flashy playing style and boundless confidence -- could secure the starring role he so desperately coveted, he first had to earn his keep.
"He was, by far, the most skilled player we've ever worked out. By far. He's a very, very talented young player. Whether or not he plays very much here this year depends on circumstances, situations, how he develops. But he's not going to embarrass himself even at this age against these players. He's not going to do it. This is not a 17-year-old kid. Period. We think this young man is really one of the most exciting young prospects we've seen in a long time." -- West, Los Angeles Times, 1996
Top 10 Plays: Kobe Bryant In 1996-97
Check out Kobe's best plays from his rookie season in the NBA!
"He's a very confident individual. I can't believe how talented he is mentally, and his focus on basketball, and what he wants to do in basketball. A lot of people would see that as cocky, but he's not cocky. He just believes in himself. It doesn't come off the wrong way." -- Lakers teammate Cedric Ceballos, Los Angeles Times, 1996
"He said, 'Coach, if you just give me the ball and clear out, I can beat anybody in this league.' Then he'd say, 'Coach, I can post up anybody who's guarding me. If you just get me in there and clear it out, I can post up anybody.' I said, 'Kobe, I know you can, but right now you can't do it at a high enough rate for the team we have, and I'm not going to tell Shaquille O'Neal to get out of the way so you can do this.' Kobe didn't like it. He understood it, but in his heart he didn't accept it." -- former Lakers coach Del Harris recalling his relationship with a rookie Bryant, Sports Illustrated, 2008
"I wanted to prove at 17 that I'm fine. You don't have to worry about me. You don't have to give me a bib and a pacifier. You don't have to have somebody tuck me in. I'm ready to go. If I get knocked down, I will be fine." -- Bryant, Los Angeles Daily News, 2016
"There's one thing I can't believe: That the rookie, Kobe Bryant, had four airballs, but Del Harris continues to go to a rookie here in pressure situations. And he has not responded." -- Utah Jazz broadcaster Ron Boone during Game 5 of the 1997 Western Conference semifinals, as reported by the Los Angeles Times, 1997
"People around me, meaning the media and coaching staff, really looked at those shots as kind of being a turning point. I just basically looked at it as giving me more confidence. Even though I didn't hit the shots, I knew that my teammates had confidence in me to take the shots." -- Bryant, Los Angeles Times, 1997
He's a very confident individual. I can't believe how talented he is mentally, and his focus on basketball, and what he wants to do in basketball. A lot of people would see that as cocky, but he's not cocky. He just believes in himself. It doesn't come off the wrong way.
– Cedric Ceballos in 1996, on a then-rookie Bryant
"When you know his mentality, you know that one failure or 10 failures isn't going to defeat him. I knew he wouldn't worry about it. He'd want that shot again the next day and tomorrow and today." -- Harris, Los Angeles Times, 1997
"You either grow up big time like he did or you don't. He was brave enough to take the shots. He was put in that position, and he didn't fear it at all. He wanted to take the shots, and I just knew it would make him stronger. Which he was, and has been ever since." -- former Lakers teammate Byron Scott, NBC Los Angeles, 2015
Top 10 Plays: Kobe Bryant In 1997-98
Check out Kobe's best plays from the 1997-98 NBA season!
"It's amazing how smart this kid is. He's got the whole world in his hands with his game, he can do everything. And he's still learning, which is bad news for his opponents. He's gonna be one of the greats, probably the (NBA's) all-time leading scorer." -- Lakers teammate Robert Horry, Slam Magazine, 1998
"I believe that 'Showboat' is the future/Call the play and let that (expletive) shoot." -- Lakers teammate Shaquille O'Neal, serenading Bryant in the locker room to the tune of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love Of All," Rolling Stone, 1998
"Sometimes you say Michael (Jordan) could do things Kobe does, and sometimes it's unanimous that he couldn't." -- Lakers teammate Jon Barry, Sports Illustrated, 1998
"(Being compared to Jordan) doesn't bother me. I expect to be that good." -- Bryant, Sports Illustrated, 1998
"Fine, do whatever you want to do!" -- Lakers coach Kurt Rambis during an in-game argument with Bryant, Sports Illustrated, 1999
"I told him, '("Showboat") is not a becoming name. You don't want to be a showboat. When somebody looks at you, they want to see the greatness you can attain if you change some of the things you're doing.' And, boy, did he ever do that." -- West, Los Angeles Daily News, 2016