In the midst of recent speculation, including that of Coach Jackson, that he would finish his NBA career elsewhere, Bryant states that he doesn’t plan to play for anyone but the Lakers.
A lot of players want to go to different teams or contend to win championships. I’m a Laker, man. I’m a Laker for better or worse…How many times do I have to say that? Dude, I bleed purple and gold.
Lakers coach Scott says that Bryant will have a hard minutes cap this season. The cap is an attempt to preserve Bryant, who has had his last three seasons cut short by injuries. Scott:
I know Kobe’s a competitor and he’s going to play as many minutes as you want him to play. I’m also a competitor, so I want to win and I know having him on the court gives me the best opportunity to win.
Bryant and O’Neal discuss their relationship on O’Neal’s The Big Podcast with Shaq. O’Neal and Bryant were teammates on the Lakers from 1996 to 2004, winning titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002. However, a constant feud between the two led to O’Neal’s eventual departure from the team in 2004. O’Neal:
It’s time to clear the air, because I’ve said many times that we were the most enigmatic, controversial, most talked-about, dominant one-two punch. I just want people to know that I don’t hate you, I know you don’t hate me. I called it today a ‘work beef,’ is what we had.
Here’s the thing — what we did, our disagreements, what made those things special is we said them to each other’s face. We didn’t go behind each other’s back and whisper to our teammates about this, that and the other, because that does nothing but create friction and it’s cancerous to the team.
Bryant appears on stage during Swift’s show at Staples Center. Bryant presents her with a banner recognizing her for her record 16 sold-out shows at Staples Center, part of her 1989 tour. Swift:
The screams you hear from an LA crowd when Kobe walks out onstage are so deafening you think you may have permanent hearing loss. But it was SO WORTH IT
Bryant tells general manager Kupchak that the 2015-16 season will be his last season with the Lakers. Bryant is 36 years old, and will be entering his 20th season in the NBA. Kupchak:
I think first and foremost, he’s on the last year of a deal. There have been no discussions about anything going forward. I don’t think there will be. A year from now, if there’s something different to discuss, then it will be discussed then. I talk to him from time to time … and he is recovering. He’s running. He’s getting movement and strength in the shoulder. We expect a full recovery, but yeah, he’s much closer to the end than to the beginning.
After Bryant writes a first-person essay for The Players Tribune about passing Michael Jordan on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, he thanks his high school English teacher Jeannie Matriano for develops writing skills.
I had a really really good creative writing teacher in high school…She always said you keep swinging the axe to chop the tree, eventually the tree is going to fall. It might not fall when you want it to fall. It might not fall on the second or third swing. But eventually it will fall. That’s the kind of determination you must have.
Mastriano describes Bryant as an “above average student” that normally earned high B’s on his writing assignments.
I always told students I want writers to bend to their will and write what you want to write about. Don’t let the prompt kill your joy of the moment. You’re not going to get the minutes back. You may as well as say, ‘I’ll write about this.’
He sees learning as empowering. He listens very intently. Could you imagine what the world would look like if everybody lived that way? Everybody would be so much more pleasant and the work would be good work.
Bryant passes Michael Jordan and moves into third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant accomplishes this in a victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he puts up 26 points. The two players who are still ahead of Bryant are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone. Bryant:
I’m just honored to be here, man, to still be playing. I appreciate being able to play this long. Careers normally don’t last this long. I really appreciate the opportunity to still be out there playing and performing and doing what I do.
Bryant accepts the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and nominates SydneyLeroux, Mark Parker, and Johnny Schillereff.
Minaj is featured on the cover of The Music Issue of ESPN Magazine with Bryant.
The Knicks defeat the Lakers. Lin has 38 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists. Bryant puts up 34 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers. Lin:
The only thing we established tonight is four in a row. Now we try to go for five tomorrow. I’m not too worried about proving anything to anybody. As a team we’re growing and trying to build on the momentum.
Bryant on Linsanity:
I think it’s a great story. I think it’s a testament to perseverance and hard work. Good example for kids everywhere
Bryant becomes the Laker’s franchise leading scorer in a regular season match against the Memphis Grizzlies, passing Jerry West. The achievement came on a dunk in the 3rd quarter. Bryant has 44 points for the night, but the Lakers end up losing the match.
It’s a great honor to say the least [because] of the great players that have played here and the tradition we have. [West] taught me so much when I was 17 years old. He showed me a lot about the game, the jump shot and spin moves and all the others. Even though it’s me passing him in the record books, it’s still us, and it’s still Magic and all the other great players.
Bryant becomes the youngest player to score 25,000 points in NBA history. Only 14 other players have reached the 25,000 point mark. The achievement comes with a free throw in a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Bryant is 31 years and 151 days old, whereas the previous record Wilt Chamberlain was 31 years and 186 days old.
That’s what I do best. Steve Nash is a great passer, I’m a great scorer. It’s what I do…I’ve been very fortunate not to have to deal with serious injuries and having my career cut short. I think it’s a testament to that.
Bryant injures his right index finger during a game against the Timberwolves. It is an avulsion fracture, in which a tiny fragment of bone tears away near a tendon or ligament. The injury occurs as Bryant reaches for a pass late in the first quarter. He sits out for most of the second quarter, but returns after halftime and continues playing. Bryant:
It’s pretty painful. I just tried to play through it. … You just get used to it, that’s all. It’s just a different technique to shoot the ball with this.
Kobe hits a game-winning buzzer beater as the Lakers defeat the Heat 108-107. Down by two with 3.2 seconds left, Bryant slips when he catches an inbound pass and is forced to throw up an off-balance 3-point shot over Wade’s outstretched arm. Bryant:
It was the luckiest shot I’ve ever taken, by far. It felt good, [but] I just couldn’t believe this ball might go in on this shot.
In the duel between the two elite shooting guards, Bryant puts up 33 points and 7 rebounds and Wade drops 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 9 assists.
O’Neal performs a freestyle rap in which he insults his old teammate Bryant.
Kobe [expletive], tell me how my ass tastes…I’m a horse. That’s why I’m getting divorced. He said Shaq gave a [woman] a mil. I don’t do that ’cause my name’s Shaquille. I love ’em, I don’t leave ’em. I got a vasectomy, now I can’t breed ’em…You know how I be. Last week Kobe couldn’t do without me.
Despite the insults, O’Neal tells ESPN:
I was freestyling. That’s all. It was all done in fun. Nothing serious whatsoever. That is what MC’s do. They freestyle when called upon. I’m totally cool with Kobe. No issue at all…And by the way, don’t forget, six albums, two platinum, two gold. Anybody who knows me knows I’m a funny freestyler…Please tell everybody don’t make something out of nothing.”
Bryant wins the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award. Bryant averaged 28.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.84 steals for the season while playing all 82 games despite tearing a ligament in his right pinkie in February. Bryant:
This is an award I couldn’t have won on my own. I can’t thank these guys [his teammates] enough. These are my guys, these are my brothers. Let’s get ready for tomorrow.
Bryant becomes the youngest player to score 20,000 career points in NBA history as he scores 39 points in a victory against the Knicks. Bryant is 29 years and 122 days old, whereas the previous record holder Chamberlain reached the milestone at 29 years and 134 days old.
After demanding a trade in May, Bryant now says he is glad he wasn’t traded from the Lakers:
I’m happy to be here. My guys and I — we have such a tight bond. Business and basketball sometimes can cloud things, but when you get here in your element and you’re around your teammates and just having a good time with them and thinking about them and not about the business of the game, that’s when it becomes fun.
Bryant scores 34 points in a victory against the Sacramento Kings. As a result, Lakers claim the 7th seed. Bryant also wraps up his second scoring title, averaging 31.6 points this season.
It’s always a sense of accomplishment because there are so many great basketball players in the NBA. It’s always fun to be on the top of that list.
Bryant scores 50 points against the Hornets, marking his fourth consecutive performance with at least 50 points. In his previous three games he had scoring totals of 65, 50, and 60. All four games were victories for the Lakers. The only player who has had more 50-point games in a row is Wilt Chamberlain, who had a streak of 7 games. Elgin Baylor and Michael Jordan are the only other players to hit at least 50 three straight times. Bryant:
It’s a tremendous honor for me to be in the same (category) with those guys. The coolest thing about it is this younger generation gets a chance to learn about Elgin Baylor, gets a chance to learn about Wilt Chamberlain and some of the things that they’ve accomplished, so that the legacy will continue to live on.
Bryant scores 81 points in a victory against the Toronto Raptors. Bryant shoots 28-46 from the floor, 7-13 from 3-point range, and 18-20 from the foul line. The performance is the second highest scoring display in NBA history, behind only Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game. Bryant:
Not even in my dreams. That was something that just happened. It’s tough to explain. It’s just one of those things. It really hasn’t, like, set in for me. It’s about the `W,’ that’s why I turned it on. It turned into something special. To sit here and say I grasp what happened, that would be lying.
That was something to behold. It was another level. I’ve seen some remarkable games, but I’ve never seen one like that before.
The Charlotte Hornets draft Bryant with the 13th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.