Memory Lane Monday: “Bursting Onto the Scene”

A fresh-faced Kobe Bryant emphatically made a name for himself at All-Star weekend in '97. (Getty Images)
A fresh-faced Kobe Bryant emphatically made a name for himself at All-Star weekend in ’97. (Getty Images)

It’s that time of the week again: Memory Lane Monday! But much like last week, today’s #MLM is essentially another homage to the Black Mamba, Kobe Bryant. Yep, “Mamba Monday” is in full effect as we take a look at a brash young Kobe starring in the 1997 NBA Dunk Contest.

The 1996-97 campaign was an interesting ride for the 18-year old rookie. Dealing with inconsistent playing time and adjusting to the NBA game & lifestyle, Kobe was not able to fully showcase all of his raw talent early on.

But in February of 1997, that all changed. The league was abuzz with fresh new talent from the infamous 1996 NBA Draft. Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, to name a few, were making their marks on the league with solid play night in and night out.

Kobe Bryant 97

Kobe, on the other hand, was just biding his time until he had an opportunity to showcase his brilliance. At All-Star Weekend, the rest of the world was put on notice…Kobe was a future star. After nearly capturing MVP honors (31 points & 8 boards) in the Rookie-Sophomore game the night before, Kobe’s swag was at an all-time high (as if it needed a boost to begin with!) and he capitalized upon the crowd’s excitement and energy to put on a nice performance. Take a look:

Ok sure, Kobe’s dunks were “ho-hum” in comparison to Vince Carter’s epic night in 2000 or even Zach LaVine’s prowess this year but it was an incredible beginning of a legendary career. Call him cocky, arrogant, self-absorbed…whatever you want. Anytime a fresh-out-of-high-school player can impress the masses to that degree, it’s special!

Many of the greatest players in NBA history made an impact on the game by killing it in the Dunk Contest. Kobe is no exception. He owned the stage that night and never looked back.


-Jabari J.

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