Time Magazine International Edition

Kobe Bryant: 1978-2020

West, then executive vice president of the Los Angeles Lakers and one of the best players in NBA history, less than a half hour to know the answer. As part of a workout ahead of the 1996 draft, Bryant played one-on-one against the recently retired defensive specialist Michael Cooper. The GM ended the session early. “I was embarrassed for Michael to watch a 17-year-old just basically demolish him,” West tells TIME, “and enjoy doing it.”

West acquired Bryant in a draft-day deal, pairing the teenager with the towering Shaquille O’Neal and launching one of the most decorated careers in professional sports. Over 20 seasons—all of them with the Lakers—Bryant won five NBA championships, two scoring titles, a pair of Olympic gold medals, one MVP award and was named to 18 All-Star teams. More than merely guarding Jordan, Bryant emerged as his heir, a scoring assassin who could rip a defender’s heart out by way of a devastating dunk or an elusive fadeaway jump shot from the baseline, his singular work of athletic art. His ascent coincided with the

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