Sports Illustrated Kobe Bryant Special Retirement Tribute Issue: From Kid to Champ to Leader to Legend

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For the last 20 years Kobe Bryant was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, a tenure unsurpassed in NBA history by one player with one team. Drafted as a 17-year-old in 1996 out of Lower Merion High in Ardmore, Pa., Bryant would become a once-in-a-generation talent, a 6'6" shooting guard and small forward who inherited the title from Michael Jordan as the most complete player in the league. In the course of his two-decade career he would not only rewrite the record book of one of sports' greatest franchises but also win five championships, make 18 All-Star teams, earn two scoring titles and two Olympic gold medals, garner the 2008 MVP award and be named to the NBA All-Defensive Team nine times. 

The son of former NBA forward Joe (Jellybean) Bryant, Kobe also established himself as a relentless — some might say obsessive — competitor with a penchant for game-winning heroics, an international basketball superstar who transcended his sport to become a cultural icon. Sports Illustrated was with Bryant every step of the way and celebrates his retirement with a special commemorative edition collecting the best of SI's coverage through the years. 

The scope and breadth of Bryant's career are captured in 104 colorful pages featuring SI's trademark prose and photos: from Phil Taylor's assessment of Kobe on the verge of his breakthrough in the 2000 playoffs, to Jack McCallum's coverage of Bryant's 81-point eruption against the Raptors in 2006, to an assessment of Kobe's thirst for challenges as he neared the end of his career in 2013 by Lee Jenkins, to the great action and off-court photos of Walter Iooss Jr. and John W. McDonough. Many teenagers have aspired to greatness, but few have exceeded their own expectations to become one of the most talked-about people on the planet. Sports Illustrated's Kobe Bryant Special Retirement Tribute Issue is a fitting sendoff for this singular athlete.

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