The case against Kobe Bryant officially began with a set of missed field-goal attempts.
The Lakers were eliminated in overtime of Game 5 of the Western Conference semi-finals when Bryant shot an air-ball at the end of regulation, followed by another that would have tied the game in the extra period. He was comforted by his teammate Shaquille O’Neal who encouraged him to keep shooting the ball. It was advice that would ironically contribute to their division years later.
Kobe Bryant hasn’t stopped shooting. He became the NBA’s all-time leader in missed field-goals during the Lakers 102-107 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. As infamous as it sounds, being known as the player who has missed the most shots means you have been around long enough to take them.
It wasn’t a forgone conclusion that Kobe Bryant would miss the most shots in NBA history. He had a mere 176 attempts during the regular season of his rookie year. To put it in perspective, fellow 96 draft class rookie Antoine Walker hoisted away 1,354 attempts for the Boston Celtics. It took Bryant two seasons and change to become the starting shooting-guard for the Lakers after Eddie Jones was traded to the Charlotte Hornets during the 1999 lockout season.
Kobe has been consistently good for so long that the evolution of his game is taken for granted. Unlike LeBron James, Bryant wasn’t given the green-light as a rookie. He even endured DNP’s under coach Del Harris when he was known as “Showtime” because of his flashy play in practice. But Bryant still had to earn minutes behind Eddie Jones and current Head Coach Byron Scott.
And he kept shooting.
He quickly earned the reputation as an introvert by choosing not to be a part of the Hollywood club scene with known playboys like Shaq and Rick Fox. His competitive nature and aggressiveness got around the league quickly, and the elder statesman started laying the wood as a right of passage. It all culminated with a fight with Chris Childs against the New York Knicks during the Lakers 2000 championship run. The nationally televised game between the two most popular teams in the NBA was the graduation of Kobe Bryant into superstar status.
His longevity has masked the fact that he’s played in seven seasons of 70 games or less. It took him five years before he completed an 80 game NBA season.
Bryant hasn’t ceased firing away, continuing to add bricks to the foundation he’s set. He has the chance to join Michael Jordan as the only players to lead the league in scoring at 36-years old. He has displayed that athleticism is still very much a part of his game, and although they won’t admit it, many analyst privately expressed that Bryant would no longer be an all-star after the layoff.
Kobe said he would rather go 0-30 instead of 0-9. He’s missed the most shots because he’s had the drive to make the most.