Before he became the Lakers' all-time leading scorer, Kobe Bryant was a star on the Lower Merion (Pa.) High School basketball team. And he was all smiles in this April 1996 photo. After winning the state 4A championship, Bryant and his teammates were honored at the state capitol in Harrisburg.
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A member of the East team, Bryant shoots over the West team's Jamaal Magloire during Magic's Roundball Classic at The Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., in April 1996.
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We all knew Bryant was a superstar when he took singer/actress Brandy to his high school prom in 1996. Stud.
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Bryant was among a star-studded cast at the 1996 NBA Rookie Orientation Program.
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Like father, like son. (Only the son went on to become a better basketball player.) Bryant poses with his father, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, a former Philadelphia 76er and former coach of the WNBA's L.A. Sparks.
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Of the many reasons Bryant should be smiling in this 1997 photo, perhaps he's flashing his pearly whites because he was the first guard taken straight out high school in the NBA draft. Or because he would become the youngest starter ever in the league. Just a couple possibilities.
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The rookie poses outside his new home in 1997, the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
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Here's Kobe, striking a pose during his rookie photo shoot. Charming.
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Kobe and Philadelphia's Allen Iverson chat it up during a game at the Great Western Forum in 1997.
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Another day in the life of Kobe Bryant. This one during the 1997 All-Star Game. He won the dunk contest off slams like this.
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My how things have changed since this 1997 photo. Kobe's arguably the greatest player in the NBA while Stephon Marbury is playing in China.
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Lakers' center Shaquille O'Neal carries Bryant during a team media day photo shoot. Aww, they look so happy!
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The good times didn't exactly last for O'Neal and Bryant.
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Yes, he can jump really high and and really far and dunk really hard. That's Kobe.
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En route to winning his second championship, Kobe goes up for a shot against the Sixers' Dikembe Mutombo in Game 4 of the 2001 Finals.
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Bryant, of the West All-Star team, talks with Michael Jordan and Antoine Walker from the East team before practice during All-Star weekend in 2002.
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Donning a Michael Jordan jersey, Bryant arrives for Game 4 of the 2002 Finals. The 22-year-old took home his third NBA title that year.
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Bryant, with Laker teammates Trevor Ariza (now with the Rockets), Derek Fisher and Andrew Bynum flash a smile at practice in 2007.
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Bryant returned to Lower Merion High in 2007 to enjoy a few laughs.
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Bryant tries out the refurbished Stallings playground in New Orleans.
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Bryant and Olympic teammate LeBron James pose before the 2008 Games in Beijing. The "Redeem Team" struck gold, ending an eight-year U.S. drought in basketball.
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Family portrait! Kobe poses with wife Vanessa and daughters Natalia and Gianna at the 2007-08 MVP press conference.
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After winning his fourth title, Kobe and the Mrs. return home with his 2009 NBA Finals MVP trophy.
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