Whether he wore number 8 on his jersey, as he did from his rookie year in 1996 to 2006, or number 24, as he did from 2006 until his retirement year in 2016, Kobe Bryant was one of the biggest stars in one of basketball’s biggest cities. After jumping to the NBA straight from high school in 1996, the Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard played second fiddle to Shaquille O’Neal on three Lakers championship teams, before taking the reins himself in the early 2000s. In his 20 seasons with the Lakers, the most by any player with a single NBA team, Bryant won five NBA titles, including two back-to-back championships after O’Neal’s departure, ending earlier questions of whether he could carry a team.


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