Kobe Bean Bryant (born August 23, 1978(1978-08-23)) is an American All-Star shooting guard in the National Basketball Association (NBA) who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant is the only son of former Philadelphia 76ers player and former Los Angeles Sparks head coach Joe "Jellybean" Bryant. Bryant rose to national prominence in 1996 when he became the first guard in league history to be drafted out of high school. Bryant and then-teammate Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. Since O'Neal's departure following the 2004 season, Bryant has become the cornerstone of the Lakers' franchise, and was the NBA leading scorer during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons. During his first season, Bryant mostly came off the bench behind guards Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel. Initially, he played limited minutes, but as the season continued, he began to see some more playing time. He earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan-favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. A particularly damaging salvo came from Phil Jackson in The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul. The book detailed the events of the Lakers' tumultuous 2003-04 season and has a number of criticisms of Bryant. In the book Jackson also calls Bryant "uncoachable." Also in January, Bryant became the first player since 1964 to score 45 points or more in four consecutive games, joining Chamberlain and Baylor as the only players ever to do so. For the month of January, Bryant averaged 43.4 per game, the eighth highest single month scoring average in NBA history, and highest for any player other than Chamberlain. By the end of the season, Bryant had also set Lakers single-season franchise records for the most 40-point games (27) and most points scored (2,832), among others. Bryant won the league's scoring title for the first time, posting a very high scoring average (35.4), second only to Michael Jordan's 37.1 average in 1986-87. Bryant finished in fourth-place in the voting for the 2006 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, but also received 22 first place votes — second only to winner Steve Nash, and by far the highest number of first-place votes Bryant had ever received in his career. On March 16, Bryant scored a season-high 65 points in a home game against the Portland Trail Blazers, which helped end the Lakers 7-game losing streak. This was the second best scoring performance of his 11-year career. The following game, Bryant recorded 50 points against the Minnesota Timberwolves, after which he scored 60 points in a road win against the Memphis Grizzlies - becoming the second Laker to score three straight 50-plus point games, a feat not seen since Michael Jordan last did it in 1987. The only other Laker to do so was Elgin Baylor, who also scored 50+ in three consecutive contests in December 1962. On March 23, in a game against the New Orleans Hornets, Bryant scored 50 points, making him the second player in NBA history to have 4 straight 50 point games behind Wilt Chamberlain, who is the all-time leader with seven consecutive 50 point games twice. Bryant finished the year with ten 50-plus point games becoming the only player other than Chamberlain in 1961-62 and 1962-63 to do it in one season, and won his second straight scoring title. On May 27, 2007, ESPN reported that Bryant stated that he wanted to be traded if Jerry West did not return to the team with full authority. Bryant later confirmed his desire for West's return to the franchise, but denied stating that he would want to be traded if that does not occur. However, three days later, on Stephen A. Smith's radio program, Bryant expressed anger over a Lakers "insider" who claimed that Kobe was responsible for Shaquille O'Neal's departure from the team, and publicly stated, "I want to be traded." Three hours after making that statement, Kobe stated in another interview that after having a conversation with head coach Phil Jackson, he has reconsidered his decision and backed off his trade request.
They married on April 18, 2001 in Dana Point, California. Neither Bryant's parents, his two sisters, longtime advisor and agent Arn Tellem, nor Bryant's Laker teammates attended. Bryant's parents were opposed to the marriage for a number of reasons. Reportedly Bryant's parents had problems with him marrying so young, especially to a woman who was not African-American. This disagreement resulted in an estrangement period of over two years, during which Kobe Bryant did not have any contact with his parents. The Bryants' first child, a daughter named Natalia Diamante Bryant, was born on January 19, 2003. The birth of Natalia influenced Bryant to reconcile his differences with his parents. Vanessa Bryant suffered a miscarriage due to an ectopic pregnancy in the Spring of 2005. In the Fall of 2005 the Bryants announced that they were expecting their second child. Their second daughter, Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant, was born on May 1, 2006. Interestingly, Gianna was born 6 minutes ahead of former teammate Shaquille O'Neal's daughter Me'arah Sanaa, who was born in Florida.