It seems like just yesterday when Kobe Bryant was a precocious kid from Lower Merion High in Pennsylvania who just happened to be the top high school player in the country, so good in fact that he declared his eligibility for the NBA.

Picked in the 1996 draft by the Charlotte Hornets and later traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a pre-draft agreement (one of the biggest deals in league history), he has become as synonymous in this generation with the team as Magic Johnson was in the 80s, and was arguably one of the cornerstones of the league during the 90s and early 2000s, earning five championship rings, two championship MVPs, and a record 18 All-Star Game appearances.

Bryant’s final season, in which the Lakers end at the bottom of the NBA West, was more of a victory lap than anything else for him. He took time to say goodbye to throngs of adoring fans who remember the league in a much simpler, if not transitional time. So of course social media took it upon itself to express how much “Black Mamba” would be missed after he hangs up his shoes Wednesday night at the Staples Center against the Utah Jazz.

Bryant was one of the kings of ESPN’s highlight reels, so they put his numbers on display on the SportsCenter set.

They didn’t have Vine when Kobe first started in the league, but imagine if they did.

A decade ago, Bryant hit 81 points in a single game, something that has been celebrated ever since. But it was at the expense of the Toronto Raptors. Check out the look on then-Raptors forward Charlie Villanueva’s face at the end. He talks about it here.

Hip-hop was always a friend to Bryant. Just ask Kanye West, Swizz Beats and Mos Def.


A photo posted by XXL (@xxl) on

When Serena Williams gives you love, you know you’ve done something right.

We don’t think Bryant broke Dwight Howard’s neck, but that’s sure an awkward position.

And finally, considering the countless number of butts Bryant has put in arena seats over the course of his career, the NBA itself is probably saddest of all to lose him. So they put together this retrospective.