The End Of Kobe Bryant: The Beginning

“Posthumously.”

It was an SAT word we learned but never used. That is until the 1996 release of Tupac Shakur’s album The Don Killuminati under the pseudonym ‘Makaveli’ following his unsolved murder.

A few months before, Magic Johnson had officially called it a career. His retirement in the summer of ’96 coincided with the beginning of the new Los Angeles Lakers’ dynasty.

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant arrived in Los Angeles during a tumultuous period of transformation.┬áThe city was going through a major police scandal, and homicides spiked amid gang violence. The infamous Death Row record label began to crumble, losing foundation members Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg. The Los Angeles music and sports entertainment industry would forever be changed.

Shaq and Kobe became intertwined with hip-hop. They would both drop records before winning their first championship.

In the fall of ’96 a rapper named Jay-Z released his debut album titled Reasonable Doubt. Although sales were mediocre, Bryant says the album is his favorite.┬áDespite both rookies having slow starts, Kobe and Jay-Z would ultimately go in the pantheon of greats in their respective professions. It was O’Neal and Bryant’s hug after winning the 2000 NBA Finals which inspired the line “Jigga man is diesel, when I lift the eight up,” in his song Breathe Easy off his 2001 album, The Blueprint.

In October of ’96, Shaq released You Can’t Stop The Reign with rapper Notorious B.I.G. only a few months before the Brooklyn native was slain. After entering training camp out of shape, critics began accusing Shaq with being more concerned about being an emcee than a basketball player.

Meanwhile Bill Clinton was re-elected in the 1996 Presidential Election, the first Democrat to win a second-term since Franklin Rosevelt.

1996 brought the retirement of Magic Johnson, the arrival of Shaq & Kobe, the exit of Tupac (rather Makaveli), and the entrance of Jay-Z. All are still very much relevant 20 years later, but only one still holds the same job with the same company.

Bill Clinton’s wife is now running for president, Jay-Z ditched the Roc and became a mogul who raps part-time, while Shaq is still watching Kobe play as a TNT commentator.

Now Bryant announced he is walking away from something he has done for more than half of his life. To put it in perspective, Kobe has been a Laker longer than he has been an adult.

All eyes or on him now that he’s decided it’s check out time.

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