On Jan. 26, 2020, the world was rocked by news that Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna Bryant, had died in a helicopter accident along with seven other people. Kobe was 41.
ET is looking back at our interviews with the NBA legend to share the story of his illustrious career, told in his own words.
On April 14, 2016, Kobe played his last NBA game of his 20-year career -- which included five championships, 18 consecutive All-Star selections, two scoring titles, and even a Slam Dunk Contest win -- and stepped off the court as the third-highest scorer in the history of professional basketball. The day before his death, LeBron James surpassed Kobe's record, making him the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history.
“It all boils down to basketball,” Kobe told ET’s Kevin Frazier in 2003, after leading his team to three consecutive NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. “You can get caught up in all the hoopla and the hype, but ultimately, it’s playing the game. It’s putting a round ball in the basket.”
“I just try to keep it as simple as that,” he added. “Just try to execute and instill in my teammates the work ethic of a champion. See if we can’t get it done.”
Kobe spent the entirety of his 20-year career with the Lakers, yet another record that the NBA legend holds. The team has some notable high-profile fans, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, and of course, Mr. Courtside himself, Jack Nicholson, which Kobe said he appreciated throughout his time on the court.
“It’s a lot of fun, because people that come to watch us play -- be it Denzel Washington, Andy Garcia, or Jack [Nicholson] -- we’re big fans of them,” he said in 2004. “We go watch them perform on the big screen, and now they come watch us perform, watch us do what we do best. I take pride in that.”
Kobe also opened up to ET about raising daughters. In addition to Gianna, he was dad to Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and Capri, 1, with wife Vanessa Bryant.
“The kids just keep growing and growing and growing, it’s a trip,” he told ET in 2009. “It happens so fast. I’m looking at Natalia, I’m like, where is this 3-month-old baby that I remember? She’s six and she’s so independent already. It’s scary.”
The NBA champ also made it a mission to give back, visiting hospitals, participating in charity events, and even co-founding the Mamba and Mambacita Sports Foundation -- which aims to “improve the lives of youth and families in need, both domestically and globally.”
“It’s a blessing because you have an opportunity to do something like this beyond basketball,” Kobe told ET on a visit to a children’s hospital in 2006. “We all have God-given gifts and abilities. To be able to do something like this creates a sense of purpose. It’s more than just playing basketball...it’s kind of using it for a greater good.”