December 6, 2022

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Kobe Bryant’s first Sports Illustrated cover appearance

In life, most people have to go through years of struggles and pay their dues before they achieve success.

It has been said that the road to the top is lonely.

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However, a few select individuals are so good and lucky that they start achieving a very high level of success at a very young age.

The late great Kobe Bryant was one of them.

After appearing on the nation’s basketball radar as a precocious high school senior in the Philadelphia area, he declared for the 1996 NBA draft and had the good fortune of being selected by the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his second pro season, he was chosen by the fans to start in the All-Star game, even though he didn’t start for the Lakers yet.

A couple of months later, Bryant was placed on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the first time at the tender age of 19.

L.A. won 61 games that season, but it was coming off a humbling 4-1 series loss to the Utah Jazz in the 1997 Western Conference semifinals.

It was believed the team would need Bryant to be a major contributor if it was to make a serious run at the NBA championship.

Although the Lakers made it to the Western Conference finals that year, the Jazz embarrassed them again, this time in a sweep.

It took only two more years for Bryant and crew to start collecting rings.