Kobe Bean Bryant (born August 23, 1978), nicknamed the "Black Mamba", is an American professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He entered the NBA directly from high school, and has played for the Lakers his entire career, winning five NBA championships. Bryant is a 15-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team. As of March 2013[update], he ranks third and fourth on the league's all-time postseason scoring and all-time regular season scoring lists, respectively.
Bryant enjoyed a successful high school basketball career at Lower Merion High School, where he was recognized as the top high school basketball player in the country. He declared his eligibility for the NBA Draft upon graduation, and was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. As a rookie, Bryant earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest.
The "Shaq–Kobe feud" (or "Kobe–Shaq feud") is the rivalry between National Basketball Association (NBA) players Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, who played together on the Los Angeles Lakers team from 1996 to 2004.
The two were able to win three consecutive NBA Championships (2000, 2001, 2002) and make an NBA Finals appearance in 2004. O'Neal was the NBA Finals MVP in each of their victories. Personal differences and arguments over their respective roles on the Lakers were followed by a trade that sent O'Neal to the Miami Heat while Bryant was re-signed as a free agent by the Lakers. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson would later write a book entitled The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, reflecting on the troubles Bryant and O'Neal had during their last season together.
The National Basketball Association (NBA) is the pre-eminent men's professional basketball league in North America, and is widely considered to be the premier men's professional basketball league in the world. It has thirty franchised member clubs (29 in the United States and 1 in Canada), and is an active member of USA Basketball (USAB), which is recognized by FIBA (also known as the International Basketball Federation) as the national governing body for basketball in the United States. The NBA is one of the four major North American professional sports leagues. NBA players are the world's best paid sportsmen, by average annual salary per player.
The league was founded in New York City on June 6, 1946, as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). The league adopted the name National Basketball Association on August 3, 1949, after absorbing the rival National Basketball League (NBL). The league's several international as well as individual team offices are directed out of its head offices located in the Olympic Tower at 645 Fifth Avenue in New York City. NBA Entertainment and NBA TV studios are directed out of offices located in Secaucus, New Jersey.
The Los Angeles Lakers are an American professional basketball team based in Los Angeles, California. They play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Lakers play their home games at Staples Center, which they share with their local NBA rival, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL, and the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. The Lakers are one of the most successful teams in the history of the NBA, and have won 16 championships, their last being in 2010. As of 2013, the Lakers are the second most valuable NBA franchise according to Forbes, having an estimated value of $1 billion.
The franchise began with the 1947 purchase of a disbanded team, the Detroit Gems of the NBL. The new team began playing in Minneapolis, Minnesota, calling themselves the Minneapolis Lakers in honor of the state's nickname, "Land of 10,000 Lakes". The Lakers won five championships in Minneapolis, propelled by center George Mikan, who is described by the NBA's official website as the league's "first superstar". After struggling financially in the late 1950s following Mikan's retirement, they relocated to Los Angeles before the 1960–61 season.
The NBA Finals is the championship series of the National Basketball Association. The series was named the NBA World Championship Series until 1986.
The series is played between the winners of the Western and Eastern Conference Finals. At the conclusion of the championship round, the winners of four (4) games of the NBA Finals are awarded the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy. (Winners from 1946 to 1983 received the Walter A. Brown Trophy redesigned in 1977 to the current form.) The NBA Finals has been played at the end of every NBA and Basketball Association of America season in history, the first being held in 1947.