Kobe Byrant died tragically in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, 2020, at age 41. After retiring in 2016 after a legendary 20-year career, his jersey numbers, 8 and 24, were retired by the Los Angeles Lakers -- the only NBA team he played for -- at Staples Center in 2017. Now, ET is remembering his career with a look back at photos shared with ET by Andrew Bernstein, the longest-tenured league photographer in the NBA and the co-author of Journey to the Ring, a book co-authored by Phil Jackson which gives a behind-the-scenes look at the Lakers' 2009-10 championship season.
Behind the Scenes
This black-and-white shot showed the Black Mamba in a contemplative moment.
This shot was taken for Los Angeles Times Magazine at the home of Jimmy Goldstein. Goldstein is the eccentric billionaire with the cowboy hat who is seen at almost every Laker game sitting courtside alongside Jack Nicholson. Bernstein says that Goldstein offered to do the shoot at his iconic home in Beverly Hills. "Kobe's reflection is actually in Jim's pool," Bernstein said.
This shot was the result of "luck and preparation," Bernstein told ET. Bernstein was pleased to have captured Kobe in this ballet-esque pose, as his equipment only allows him to take one frame every four seconds, making timing crucial.
This shot from the 1998 NBA All-Star game at Madison Square Garden featured several NBA greats such as Michael Jordan, Karl Malone, Gary Payton and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway. At 19, Kobe was the youngest all-star in NBA history, and as Bernstein put it, "the kid was putting on a show."
Two hours after Kobe won his first championship in 2000, Bernstein snapped this pic in the L.A. Kings training room. Bernstein remembered the new champ as "so young and happy" and also "maybe a little tipsy," considering the champagne had been flowing for some time before this photo was taken.
As the NBA's 2007-08 Most Valuable Player, Kobe took this shot with his wife Vanessa and their daughters, Natalia and Gianna. Bernstein takes pride in this still, because "you can see there's a lot of trust there" between him and the Bryant family.
Fourth Time's a Charm
After Kobe's fourth championship in 2009, Bernstein was on the bus with the team captain during the victory parade in downtown Los Angeles. Bernstein admitted it was "a balancing act to capture the moment" with so much commotion.
Bernstein loves the symmetry with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Bernstein noted that this is an iconic shot of Kobe because it was taken during the time "when he started tailing off from dunking." In the years to follow, it would become an increasingly rare occurrence.
This is one of Bernstein's "top 5 favorite shots ever." It came during the Laker's 2009-10 championship season while Bernstein was putting together Journey to the Ring with coach Phil Jackson. About an hour before game time, Bernstein found Kobe soaking in the locker room at Madison Square Garden with his broken index finger in a cup of ice. While Kobe was meditating in deep concentration for the game ahead, Bernstein snapped the one shot and left so as not to disturb him. Bernstein said Kobe was so beat up he "couldn't even imagine a guy putting on a uniform, let alone playing at that level."
"This was a huge Nike shoot with all top NBA guys," Bernstein said. The shoot took place at an "old abandoned hangar," where he took about four or five frames.
This Media Day portrait shows a rare shot of Kobe in Converse shoes. The NBA star later signed endorsement deals with Adidas and Nike. The walls were brought in from a set building company.
Bird's Eye View
"The first framed picture I ever gave him was this one," Bernstein said. "I set up cameras all over the arena and one of those places is the catwalk." Bernstein said the camera is controlled by radio remote control. He also owns a personal framed print of the photo.