Kobe Bryant nicknamed himself as the Black Mamba after watching the poisonous snake kill a villain in the Quentin Tarantino movie “Kill Bill 2”. Bryant said he got so fascinated that he read up the snake and found out that it had a 99% striking accuracy at maximum speed. And then he realized that he had the same instinct.
Bryant’s Mamba instinct epitomizes his unrivaled passion for excellence. Bryant always played his best in order to be the best and to be better than the best. Bryant never settled for second place. He never wanted to be just the bridesmaid. He wanted to become the greatest.
His quest for greatness has led him to third overall in the NBA’s All-Time scoring list, behind only legends Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Karl Malone. He also won a total of 5 NBA championships, just one less than Michael Jordan’s six. Outside the court, Bryant was just as successful. He has made more money from playing in the NBA more than anybody in history.
According to an article from Forbes, Bryant earned a total of $680 million from his playing salary and endorsement deals during his entire NBA career. That’s more than $200M compared to what Michael Jordan roughly made ( $465M). Adjusted for inflation, Bryant still had the top figure at $762 2015 dollars. Jordan was at second with an adjusted $740M.
The $680M isn’t just the most by an NBA player. It’s the most by an athlete who played in team sports. Only three others earned more and they played in individual events: Tiger Woods, Michael Schumacher and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Jerry West knew he had a diamond in the rough when he traded Vlade Divac for the 13th pick of the 1996 NBA draft. Many in Los Angeles were surprised because not only was Divac the remaining link to Magic Johnson, but the big man had become a popular cult figure in Tinseltown. But West knew more than most and took the gamble on the 18 year old phenom from Lower Merion High School.
Bryant was the son of former NBA player Joe ‘Jelly Bean’ Bryant and spent his early childhood in Italy where his father played pro ball. When Joe retired in 1991, the Bryants moved back to the United States and Kobe embarked on a sensational high school career. After taking R&B pop superstar to the high school prom, Bryant decided to skip college and go directly to the NBA. One year earlier, Kevin Garnett was drafted 5th overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Bryant became only the 6th high schooler to make the leap. Without doubt, he has been the most successful.
Bryant’s first NBA contract with the Lakers was worth $3.5M for three years. The Lakers went on to pay him $320 over the next 17 seasons , including $48.5M for his final two years. In his last six years with the NBA, Bryant was its highest paid player. He was the only player aside from Michael Jordan to earn at least $30M in a single season. His total career salary of $323.5M ranks only second to Kevin Garnett’s $332M.
Kobe Bryant’s first endorsement deal was with shoemaker Adidas. The shoe giant signed a then 17 year old high school kid to a six year $48M deal shortly before Bryant was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1996 NBA Draft. That explains why he wasn’t wearing Nikes during his early years. But after a reported disagreement with the shoe designs, Bryant decided not to re-sign with Adidas in 2003. He made the coup-de-etat to Nike for a reported five year deal worth an estimated $45M. And then controversy happened.
Bryant was accused of raping a woman in Denver in 2003 and his stock plummeted. Experts projected that he would lose around $100-$150M in potential endorsement earnings. Fast food giant McDonalds was among those who abandoned Bryant during the issue. When Bryant’s three year $10M deal expired at the end of 2003, it wasn’t renewed. Sprite ( Coca-Cola ) and Nutella are among the other prominent companies which dropped Bryant after their contracts expired. Meanwhile, Nike stood by Bryant during hard times, although they didn’t release the first Kobe shoe until after three years after the incident. Bryant returned the favor by signing a multi-year extension with Nike in 2007. The terms of the deal were never disclosed but you can only imagine what Kobe was worth during his second title run.
With retirement in mind, Bryant put up Kobe Inc. in 2014 with the goal of making sound business investments for the future. His first venture was a $4-6M investment in the sports drink BodyArmor. According to sources familiar with the negotiations, Bryant bought a 10% share and will sit on the board of directors of the company. In April 2017, BodyArmor launched the first ever ad written and narrated by the retired Kobe Bryant. With his playing days behind him, Bryant has directed his passion to his business ventures.
In August of 2016, Kobe Bryant and businessman Jeff Stibel set up a $100M business called Bryant Stibel. The venture seeks to invest in technology, media and data companies. Prior to this new venture, Bryant and Stibel had invested together in 15 ventures including the media outlet The Players Tribune, Legal Zoom, Scopely and Alibaba group among others. With these investments in place, you can bet that Kobe Bryant is set for life. Or even two.
Photo: LA Times
Kobe Bryant has supported numerous charities in the past. Some of them are After School All-Stars, Aid Still Required, Cathy Kids Foundation, Make a Wish Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer and The Vijay Armitraj Foundation. Later on, Bryant and wife Vanessa established the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation to help young people in need, especially those who are homeless. Beneficiaries are both local and global, and the foundation also aims to develop the youth through athletics. In 2016, The Los Angeles City council declared August 24 or 8-24 as Kobe Bryant day in honor of Bryant’s contributions to the city on and off the basketball court.
As of December 2016, Forbes ranked Kobe Bryant as #33 on its Top 40 list of Richest Entrepreneurs below 40 years old. In the list, Bryant’s net worth is reported at $350M, ahead of Floyd Mayweather Jr. who is valued at $340M. In his last playing year, Bryant ranked 10th in Forbes’ World’s 100 Highest Paid Athletes List with earnings of $49.5M. The amount was broken down as $23.5M in salaries and $26M in endorsements.
Kobe Bryant Top 100 Plays of Career
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