LeBron James' jersey from Game 7 of the Miami Heat's triumphant 2013 NBA Finals has been bought in New York for $3.68million, making it the third most expensive game-worn jersey ever sold by Sotheby's.

The figure comes in behind Michael Jordan's 1998 NBA Finals Chicago Bulls jersey at $10.91m and Diego Maradona's Argentina jersey from the 1986 World Cup game where he scored the 'Hand of God' goal against England, at $9.28m.

The highest previous figure for a game-worn James jersey was $630,000 from the 2020 All-Star Game.

The Heat clinched the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 with James scoring 37 points with 12 rebounds and four assists.

James won his fourth NBA MVP crown during the 2012-13 season along with the 2013 NBA Finals MVP, the second of four in his career.

"Today's tremendous result comes at a pivotal time in LeBron James' career, where he is in arm's reach of clinching the all-time points record," Sotheby's expert Brahm Wachter said.

James (38,210) is on track to pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's NBA all-time points scoring record (38,387) in the next fortnight.

LeBron James' ability to take care of himself allows the Los Angeles Lakers to still rely on the 38-year-old, says coach Darvin Ham.

Having managed 47 points in Friday's win at the Atlanta Hawks, James scored 43 in the Lakers' 121-115 victory against the Charlotte Hornets, becoming the first player beyond the age of 38 to score 40 or more in consecutive games since Michael Jordan.

James, who also recorded 11 rebounds and six assists at Spectrum Center in almost 40 minutes on court, turned 38 on Friday.

"I just want to ride him," Ham said after the win. "And he allows you to do that because he takes such great care of himself. So, it's a great luxury to have."

James has been in impressive form of late, averaging 34.5 points from his last 11 games. He insisted his consistency is unrelated to carrying more pressure following the recent injury to Anthony Davis, though his form also improved last season when Davis was sidelined.

"Last year is last year," James said when it was put to him. "Obviously, I found a good groove last year. But this year is this year, as well. I feel really good in every facet of my game."

Austin Reaves, who scored 15 points with six rebounds and seven assists in just over 22 minutes of action, also paid tribute to James' conditioning.

"It's incredible," Reaves said. "To see him at his age... the stuff that he does, the way that he moves, the contact that he endures in a full game and just the way that his body has held up this whole time, it's super impressive.

"But it's a testament to what he does on a daily basis. He's always the first one in the training room, the first one taking care of his body and also getting the work in as well. So, to say the least, I'm happy to be on his team."

Roger Federer is the greatest of all time and tennis' equivalent of NBA legend Michael Jordan, according to Frances Tiafoe.

Federer retired in September of this year after one of the most successful careers in tennis history, having won his first grand slam at Wimbledon in 2003.

Playing in one of male tennis' most competitive eras ever alongside Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, Federer went on to win 20 grand slam titles before calling it quits at the age of 41.

Tiafoe, ranked 19th in the world, is a big NBA fan and found a basketball parallel for Federer in the form of Jordan, who won six NBA championships in the 1990s as well as five MVP awards.

Asked which NBA player he would compare Federer with, Tiafoe told The Old man and the Three Podcast: "I would say MJ.

"You think of MJ and you think that brother was crazy and you think of Federer...everything they did, you're just in awe every time you watched them."

Questioned on whether the Jordan comparison meant he viewed Federer as the greatest tennis player ever, Tiafoe replied: "Oh absolutely. Even though Rafa [Nadal] has more grand slams."

Federer once held the record for most grand slams among male players, but he has now been surpassed by both Djokovic and Nadal, the latter of whom leads the way with 22 titles.

Tiafoe overcame Nadal in the fourth round of the US Open this year and compared the Spaniard's mentality to that of the Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"I would give Giannis, just from how he approaches the game and the effort he brings every night," added Tiafoe.

"Just because Giannis is coming to kill you every night. He's going to kill you and Rafa has that attitude too.

"Super nice guy, but as soon we get out there you can just feel that aura and it's the same with Giannis."

Djokovic's chase of Nadal at the top of the grand slam leaderboard was hindered in 2022 by his vaccination status, which prevented him playing at the Australian Open or the US Open, the former of which was won by the Mallorcan.

Djokovic did however collect a seventh Wimbledon crown, and will be able to resume hunting down Nadal at the upcoming Australian Open in January having been granted a visa.

Tiafoe compared the 35-year-old to Denver Nuggets star and fellow Serbian Nikola Jokic, who is the reigning NBA MVP having won the prestigious award two seasons running.

"You're watching him [Jokic] play and you just like how but also you're just in awe of his greatness," Tiafoe added. "Like what can't this guy do on a basketball court?

"This guy [is] a freak. It doesn't look your most traditional way or how you want it to look or whatever.

"Same with Novak. It's not like the prettiest game ever but these guys just get it done."

Michael Malone reflected on the "pretty cool" moment he was able to present Nikola Jokic with the first Michael Jordan MVP award on a night he shone again for the Denver Nuggets.

It was announced on Tuesday the prestigious prize, won two seasons running by Jokic, would be renamed in honour of the Chicago Bulls legend – seen by many as the greatest player of all time.

Jokic received the trophy following the Nuggets' high-scoring 141-128 victory over the Washington Wizards, a game where the Serbian had a season's best 43 points alongside 14 rebounds and eight assists.

He finished 17-of-20 from the field, missing only once inside the three-point line in a matchup lacking in defense.

Head coach Malone said of handing the MVP prize to Jokic: "Just had a really cool moment giving Nikola Jokic his MVP trophy in the locker room and the first ever Michael Jordan MVP award.

"It was pretty neat to give him that and the players to give him as much love as they gave him. 

"We got the win, we have to be better taking care of it, our three-point defense, it's going to bite us in the butt soon. So, if we can win a game with our offense it's better than losing a game with our defense."

The Nuggets put up 98 of their points inside the paint, the second most recorded in NBA history.

"I had no idea we were close to breaking the record, DeAndre Jordan pointed out with around 3:30 to go in the game and I was shocked you don't see that number very often," Malone added.

"I wanted us to get 100, but I wasn't going to take a shot that last possession, that's not how you play the game especially when you have a friend on the other end. 

"Incredible number, obviously no defensive player of the game tonight because there was no defense in the game!"

This season's MVP winner in the NBA regular season will be the first recipient of the Michael Jordan Trophy.

The NBA announced on Tuesday the renaming of the award after the former Chicago Bulls star, widely considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time, who won the MVP award himself five times during his career.

The Michael Jordan Trophy is the headline of six newly-designed trophies, which includes a new award for Clutch Player of the Year, named after Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West, the only player to win the Finals MVP award as part of the losing team when he did so in 1969.

The Hakeem Olajuwon Trophy will be awarded to the Defensive Player of the Year, the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy for Rookie of the Year, the John Havlicek Trophy for Sixth Man of the Year and the George Mikan Trophy for Most Improved Player.

"Our new collection of trophies celebrates some of the greatest and most impactful players in the history of the NBA," said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. 

"As we recognise the league's top performers each season, we also pay tribute to the legends who embody these prestigious awards."

The announcement comes shortly after the league revealed a new trophy for the 2022-23 campaign to be awarded to the team that finishes with the best regular-season record.

The Maurice Podoloff Trophy – named after the NBA's first commissioner – will be handed out for the first time this season. The MVP trophy had previously been named after Podoloff up until last year when it was retained by Nikola Jokic.

The Los Angeles Lakers ended their winless start to the season to move to a 1-5 record with a 121-110 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

LeBron James scored a game-high 26 points with six rebounds and eight assists, while Anthony Davis excelled with 23 points and 15 rebounds, although he appeared to nurse a back injury late.

Russell Westbrook was solid again off the bench, adding 18 points on 50 per cent shooting with eight rebounds and eight assists. Westbrook scored four points in the final two minutes to see off any Nuggets' challenge.

The Lakers improved their three-point shooting, making 13-of-30 attempts at 43.3 per cent, while they also scored 48 points in the paint, taking advantage of the defensive limitations of the Nuggets' two-time MVP-winning center Nikola Jokic.

Jokic recorded a double-double with 23 points and 14 rebounds while Jamal Murray, who missed the 2021-22 campaign with a ruptured ACL, had his best scoring game of the season with 21 points.

The win ends the Lakers' five-game losing run to start the season. For Denver, the defeat means they are 1-3 on the road this season and 4-3 overall.

Warriors beaten by struggling Pistons

The Golden State Warriors had defensive issues again as they suffered back-to-back losses and fell to a 3-4 record after a 128-114 loss to the Detroit Pistons, who ended their own five-game losing run.

Last year's top NBA Draft selection Cade Cunningham was an assist short of a triple-double, contributing 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Pistons dominated after quarter-time.

Stephen Curry scored 32 points on 10-of-24 shooting, while Jordan Poole added 30 with Klay Thompson rested. The Warriors, who have given up 120-or-more points in five of their past six games, only made 12-of-39 three-point attempts (31 per cent).

Doncic matches rare Jordan feat

Luka Doncic became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1986 to score 30-or-more points in each of the first six games of the season as the Dallas Mavericks won 114-105 over the Orlando Magic.

The Slovenian point guard shot 17-of-26 from the field for 44 points with three rebounds and five assists. Doncic scored 30 of his 44 points in the first half.

Top 2022 NBA Draft pick Pablo Banchero failed to reach 20 points for the first time in his career, scoring 18 on six-of-20 shooting for the Magic.

Michael Jordan is still the best NBA player of all time despite LeBron James' achievements, says former small forward Kendall Gill.

Since being drafted first overall by the Miami Heat in 2003, James has won four NBA championships and four Finals MVP awards, while being selected in 18 All-Star teams.

James is also just 1,325 points behind all-time NBA scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, a record he could break this season - which gets under way with the Boston Celtics facing the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.

Gill says even if James breaks Abdul-Jabbar's scoring record, it does not make him the best player of all time above Jordan, telling Stats Perform: "You've got to be in the 'six five' club to be even mentioned in the conversation of the greatest of all time, and that's at least six championships and at least five MVPs.

"Only three players have ever done that; Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan. That's why LeBron can't be in that conversation right now.

"I think Michael Jordan is the greatest NBA player of all time. Numbers don't lie.

"This is the one that really tells me what people think deep down inside. I say, 'if you have one game to win for your life, who are you gonna pick, Michael Jordan and LeBron James?'

"The answer is always Michael Jordan."

James' Los Angeles Lakers face a tricky season opener on Wednesday against the Golden State Warriors, who are looking to retain the title they won in June by overcoming the Celtics in the NBA Finals.

Gill does not believe the Lakers have what it takes to win the franchise's 18th NBA championship, adding: "I love LeBron James but I don't think that the LA Lakers have the chemistry to win.

"You've got Russell Westbrook there, you've got Anthony Davis, you have LeBron James, you have Pat Bev [Beverley] there.

"Sometimes too much talent on a team is bad. It's not good, because everybody is trying to be the guy that they used to be on their previous team.

"I tell people this all the time. It's very hard to play with Lebron James. The reason why is because you have to completely change your game.

"LeBron is really the de facto point guard. Even though he's six foot nine, 270 pounds. He's going to handle the basketball most of the time.

"Everybody has to change the game because LeBron has the basketball most of the time. That's why Westbrook struggled last year because he wasn’t really allowed to play his position full-time."

Tom Brady remembered Bill Russell as a sporting figure with "a great presence" as he recalled striking up a rapport with the Boston Celtics great, who died on Sunday.

NFL superstar Brady told a news conference about his sorrow at hearing of Russell's death at the age of 88.

He had come to know the basketball hero when living in the Boston area, while spending 20 seasons as quarterback with the New England Patriots.

Russell was drafted by the Celtics in 1956 and went on to win 11 NBA titles. He was a five-time NBA MVP and is one of only four players to have been named to all four NBA anniversary teams (25th, 35th, 50th and 75th).

He became the first black head coach of any North American professional sports team, leading the Celtics to back-to-back NBA championships in 1968 and 1969 when he served as a player-coach.

Russell also made a significant impact away from the basketball court, championing the civil rights movement, and Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

Brady said: "I knew him pretty well. I had a lot of time up there in Boston and got to know him and he was a very impactful figure.

"Going back to my early days with the Patriots, in my second year at training camp he came and spoke to the team.

"A really imposing figure, he had a great presence around him and obviously what he overcame in his career was pretty unbelievable. It was a sad day."

Chicago Bulls hero Michael Jordan on Sunday described Russell as a "pioneer" and a "legend", while Obama also paid tribute to "a giant".

The Celtics said Russell's "DNA is woven through every element" of the organisation.

Michael Jordan has hailed Bill Russell as a "pioneer" and a "legend", while the Boston Celtics and Barack Obama also paid glowing tributes to the basketball legend after he died on Sunday.

Russell's family announced that he had passed away peacefully at the age of 88.

One of the all-time greats, Russell won 11 NBA titles, was a five-time NBA MVP and is one of only four players to have been named to all four NBA anniversary teams (25th, 35th, 50th and 75th).

He was the first black head coach of any North American professional sports team, leading the Boston Celtics to back-to-back NBA Championships in 1968 and 1969.

Russell also made a huge impact off the court, championing the civil rights movement and Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.

The legendary Jordan said: "Bill Russell was a pioneer – as a player, as a champion, as the NBA's first black head coach and as an activist.

"He paved the way and set an example for every black player who came into the league after him, including me. The world has lost a legend. My condolences to his family and may he rest in peace."

The Celtics said Russell's "DNA is woven through every element" of the organisation.

"To be the greatest champion in your sport, to revolutionise the way the game is played, and to be a societal leader all at once seems unthinkable, but that is who Bill Russell was," the NBA franchise stated.

"Bill was a champion unlike any other in the history of team sports – an 11-time NBA champion, including winning eight consecutive titles, a five-time MVP, an Olympic gold medalilst and the NBA’s first Black head coach.

"Bill Russell's DNA is woven through every element of the Celtics organisation, from the relentless pursuit of excellence, to the celebration of team rewards over individual glory, to a commitment to social justice and civil rights off the court. 

"Our thoughts are with his family as we mourn his passing and celebrate his enormous legacy in basketball, Boston, and beyond."

Former United States president Obama posted on Twitter: "Today, we lost a giant.

"As tall as Bill Russell stood, his legacy rises far higher – both as a player and as a person.

"Perhaps more than anyone else, Bill knew what it took to win and what it took to lead. On the court, he was the greatest champion in basketball history. Off of it, he was a civil rights trailblazer – marching with Dr. King and standing with Muhammad Ali.

"For decades, Bill endured insults and vandalism, but never let it stop him from speaking up for what's right. I learned so much from the way he played, the way he coached, and the way he lived his life."

Brooklyn Nets' All-Star Kevin Durant has showered praise on upcoming opponent Ja Morant comparing him to Hall of Famers Michael Jordan and Allen Iverson.

The Nets take on Morant's Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, with Durant describing the first-time All-Star as a combination of Jordan, Iverson, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose.

Morant has enjoyed a breakout year after being pick two in the 2019 NBA Draft and leading the Grizzlies to the playoffs last season.

The 22-year-old Memphis guard is averaging 27.6 points up from 19.1 points in the 2020-21 season along with 5.7 rebounds, 6.7 assists and 1.2 steals this season for the playoffs-bound Grizzlies who have a 49-23 record.

"He's a combination of players, I feel," Durant told reporters after the Nets' 114-106 win over the Utah Jazz on Monday.

"I think the greatest players in our game can transform into anybody at any given point, and I think Ja is on the way to that. I mean when he's playing I see like two or three or four different hall-of-famers in his game.

"From Iverson, he might make a Jordan-like lay-up, he might run down the court like a Westbrook or a D-Rose. His float game is up there with some of the best that's ever played.

"I don't wanna gas him up too much since we're playing against him, but I think the sky is the limit for him. His future is obviously bright, and he makes everybody better playing against him."

On the Grizzlies, Durant added: "When you got a future Hall of Famer at the head of the snake, it just makes everybody better."

Durant scored 37 points with nine rebounds and eight assists in Monday's win as the Nets improved to 38-34.

The Nets forward surpassed close friend Jerry West (25,192 points) into 22nd on the NBA's all-time scoring charts with his 37-point haul on Monday.

"Winning the championship with Jerry, having conversations with him, knowing the history of who he is, he helped kickstart the NBA basically, it's an honour," Durant said.

"He's a legend in the game. He's almost like the godfather of our sport. Good to see him back around our game but it's even better to pass him. He's one of the all-time great players in this league."

Durant moves to 25,213 points, with Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller next above him on 25,279 points.

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 46 points as the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Chicago Bulls at United Center, and later attributed his achievement in part to Bulls legend Michael Jordan.

Saturday's encounter saw the Grizzlies win 116-110 to move to 42-20, while the Bulls are 39-22.

Steven Adams also hit 12 points with a season-high 21 rebounds for Memphis, while DeMar DeRozan extended his 30-point streak to 10 games with a 31-point haul as the Bulls' six-game win streak came to an end.

After the game, Morant was asked if he had seen the highlights video played in the arena of Jordan's most memorable moments.

"I did watch it," he said. "And then, I did start scoring a lot. It probably played a part in it."

The 22-year-old made 15 of 28 field goal attempts, sank three shots from beyond the arc and made 13 out of 15 free throws.

His 46-point haul comes just 10 days after he racked up 44 against the Portland Trail Blazers, and makes it 16 games in a row in which he has scored at least 20 points.

"I've seen too many [incredible performances]. Kinda boring now," Grizzlies team-mate Adams said jokingly. "He's such an amazing player."

Morant also went on to praise the effort of his team, saying: "They gotta be recognised for the job they do for us on the floor. Obviously we had a lot of guys who contributed big for us tonight.

"[Desmond Bane] hit a big-time three, Kyle [Anderson] with the stops on the defensive end, Steve being the man inside the paint, Tyus [Jones] stepping up and hitting big free throws, and so on down the line.

"Obviously without them, we probably wouldn't have been in that position, so a lot of credit has to go to my team-mates."

DeMar DeRozan vowed to remain grounded after breaking a 60-year NBA record held by Wilt Chamberlain in the Chicago Bulls' win against the Sacramento Kings.

The five-time All-Star scored a game-high 38 points in Wednesday's 125-118 victory at United Center as the Bulls won for a fifth game running to go 38-21 for the season.

In doing so, DeRozan became the first player to score 35 points or more and shoot 50 per cent or better in seven straight games.

That is a record previously held by legendary figure Chamberlain, who achieved the feat on separate occasions in 1960-61 and in 1962-63.

After writing his name in the NBA record books, DeRozan struggled to sum up his feelings.

"I can't. I'll be honest with you, I can't. I can't describe it," he said. "It's one of those things where I'm completely locked in as soon as I come to work."

DeRozan's run of at least 30 points in eight straight games is also the longest streak by a Bulls player since Michael Jordan in 1996.

"As a kid, as a fan of the history of the game, being in the league as long as I've been in this league – things like that continue to make me even more humble," he said. 

"Being an NBA player and being able to have the privilege to be able to play this long and have these opportunities, it's something I never take for granted. 

"And the crazy thing is I felt like I missed eight easy shots [against Sacramento] I normally would have made."

 

DeRozan is level with the Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid for the longest streak of 30 or more points by a player this season.

He leads the Bulls this season with 1,547 points at an average of 28.1 through 55 games, which is the fourth-best tally of any player in NBA behind LeBron James (29.1), Embiid (29.3) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (29.4).

The Bulls are now guaranteed at least a share of first place in the Eastern Conference heading into the All-Star break, with the Miami Heat able to draw level when they face the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday.

While DeRozan has played a vital role in what has been an impressive campaign to date, head coach Billy Donovan has been pleased with the input from every player.

"I'm just really appreciative of this group of guys from top to bottom," Donovan said. 

"The way they come to work every day, how professional they are, how they try to keep themselves ready, how it's all about the team, all about winning and what each individual can do to impact and help in winning."

Chicago Bulls star DeMar DeRozan surpassed the great Michael Jordan with a 40-point haul against the San Antonio Spurs, and took heed from another sporting legend.

DeRozan has been in sensational form for the Bulls this season and was their key player as they ran out 120-109 winners over the Spurs on Monday.

The 32-year-old finished witih 40 points, three rebounds and seven assists. He has the most points in the NBA this season, having amassed 1,509 across 54 appearances at an average of 27.9 per game (the fourth best in the NBA).

Trae Young, of the Atlanta Hawks, ranks second for points on 1,412 – 97 behind DeRozan.

The Bulls talisman has now put himself into the team record books, too, with his showing against the Spurs marking his sixth consecutive 35-point game.

That passes the previous record of five, set by Jordan, who achieved that feat four times across his illustrious career, last doing so in the 1996-97 season.

After writing his name into Bulls folklore, DeRozan revealed he channelled the advice of boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr.

"I'm not a knockout puncher. I want to wear you down because I know I can go the length, however long I need to go," DeRozan said, recalling a conversation he had with Mayweather several years ago. 

"Every shot that I take is a shot that I work on. I'm just not shooting a shot just to be shooting it. I just try to lock in every time it's time to score."

 

The Bulls needed DeRozan to be at his best, with Chicago trailing by six points heading into the final quarter.

DeRozan scored 13 of the Bulls' next 15 points to inspire the comeback.

"It's not only the scoring piece, which is absolutely incredible what he does, the other piece of it is just his basketball IQ, his experience, how savvy he is," Bulls coach Billy Donovan told reporters.

The Bulls (37-21) are second in the Eastern Conference with a 63.8 win percentage. 

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich bemoaned mistakes from his team, but conceded DeRozan was just too good.

"The combination of him being super and us not executing very well was a big contributor to losing the game," he said.

Giannis Antetokounmpo declared his place in history will take care of itself as he closes in on matching Michael Jordan's NBA triple-double haul.

The Milwaukee Bucks star nudged ahead of Lakers great Elgin Baylor and up to 19th on the NBA all-time list as he tallied 35 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in a 136-113 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Jordan Nwora weighed in with 23 points in 19 minutes, while Jrue Holiday grabbed 21 as the Bucks delivered a 400th career win for coach Mike Budenholzer.

Greek maestro Antetokounmpo takes pride in his achievements but says there is little time to stand still and appreciate where his career has taken him – because there is always another game around the corner.

He now has 27 triple-doubles, one shy of all-time great Jordan, who sits 18th on the list.

It was some way to start 2022 for the 27-year-old, who posted on Twitter: "New year, same me."

“To be honest with you, obviously we're so locked in and so focused on what we gotta do, that those moments go, not unnoticed – obviously it’s a great compliment to be with those guys – but you kind of brush it off and just focus on the next game which is Detroit," he said in a post-game news conference.

"But as I get older I gotta take a moment and live in the moment and enjoy this moment. Having 27 triple-doubles, it's insane. I remember getting my first one.

"It's been a long journey, and I've got a long way to go. I'll just keep enjoying every moment, and if you keep playing the right way, good things happen.

"I believe that as long as I am enjoying the game and live in the moment, I keep creating special moments. You've got to appreciate the moments but continue moving forward. That's what I've done my whole life and that's what I'm going to continue doing. It's been working."

He spoke of how his approach had brought rich reward, stating: "I'm just trying to stay aggressive. I feel I'm at my best when I'm aggressive.

"My mindset through the whole game is to be aggressive, make the right decisions, put my team in the right spot."

Wednesday marks 24 years to the day since the late Kobe Bryant made his NBA debut with the Los Angeles Lakers.

While that first appearance against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the age of 18 was nothing to write home about, Bryant went on to enjoy a legendary career.

He won five NBA championships with the Lakers in the space of a decade and was selected to the All-Star Game 18 times, placing him behind only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19).

Bryant tragically died in a helicopter crash last year, aged 41, but his legacy will live on for generations.

Here we look back at where it all began for one of sport's most iconic figures and pick out some other statistics from his incredible career.


STEADY IMPACT IN ROOKIE SEASON

The Charlotte Hornets drafted Bryant 13th overall in 1996 and traded him to the Lakers for Vlade Divac.

It was a move that would have a lasting impact on the sport, although it took Bryant a few seasons to really start to make his mark.

He played six minutes off the bench against the Timberwolves on his debut, failing to register a point during his short cameo; he did get a rebound, a block and a steal, though.

That appearance made him the youngest player to feature in NBA, aged 18 years and 72 days old, but he was supplanted by Jermaine O'Neal (18 years, 53 days) the following month. Andrew Bynum (18 years, six days) took the record in 2005.

 

"Rest In Peace to the late, great Kobe Bryant." pic.twitter.com/jmqQMVC2UO

— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 1, 2020 BEHIND ONLY LEBRON

Bryant steadily became more involved and made the All-Rookie second team at the end of his debut campaign.

The Philadelphia-born star scored a combined 613 points in the regular season and playoffs before turning 19, which only LeBron James (625) can better.

One record James could not take from Bryant, though, is for the youngest player in NBA history with at least 20 points in a postseason game.

Aged 18 years and 250 days, Bryant registered 22 points in Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference first-round series.

Bryant averaged 7.6 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 15.5 minutes on the floor during his rookie season.

To put that in some context, James averaged 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists, albeit with far more minutes (39.5).

That is still some way below the levels of Michael Jordan in his breakthrough season, with the Bulls great averaging 28.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists in his first year in the league.


THE SCARCELY BELIEVABLE STATS

Bryant still went on to carve out a place as one of the greatest players of all time, receiving All-NBA honours in 15 seasons, being named in the first team on 11 occasions. Only James, with 13 appearances in the first team, beats Bryant's total.

He was also named nine times to the NBA All-Defensive First Team, matching the all-time high; Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton and Jordan achieved the same total.

In the 2005-06 season, Bryant recorded his highest points-per-game average for a single campaign, with 35.4. He led the NBA in scoring in that season and in 2006-07.

In January 2006, he scored 81 points in a 122-104 victory over the Toronto Raptors – the second highest individual score in an NBA game, behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors against the New York Knicks in 1962.

Bryant received his lone NBA MVP award in 2008, having become the youngest player to reach 20,000 career points aged 29 years and 122 days.

In his final game, on April 13, 2016, Bryant scored 60 points for the Lakers in a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz. A fitting farewell after a phenomenal career.

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