Wednesday will mark the end of Kobe Bryant‘s memorable pro career, which spans two decades. A lot has changed since Bryant made it to the NBA along with a terrific draft class that included Allen Iverson, Steve Nash, Ray Allen and many other basketball greats. What was the league and the world like back then?
WHEN KOBE BRYANT ENTERED THE NBA…
NBA legend Robert Parish, who first played an NBA game in 1976, was still in the league. The first time they met, Parish, 43 at the time, actually had more playing time than a 18-year old Bryant. Parish’s Bulls won 129-123 in overtime in Chicago.
The Los Angeles Lakers were still playing at The Forum. They were still three years away from moving to the Staples Center.
ESPN.com, Amazon and Yahoo! looked like that. Google had yet to make it, Web Crawler was the No. 1 search engine and Netscape Navigator was America’s favorite browser. Roughly 45 million people were using the Internet around the world.
Everybody was doing the Macarena, the popular song from Spanish duo Los Del Rio. Even Bill Clinton did the Macarena during his 1996 presidential campaign.
Independence Day, Twister, Mission: Impossible and Jerry Maguire were the biggest box office hits of the year.
Motorola launched StarTAC, the world’s first clamshell mobile phone. We were 11 years away from the iPhone and Apple was a struggling company.
Janet Jackson was the highest-paid musician thanks to a $80 million deal with Virgin Records.
Both Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls were alive when Bryant was drafted. They were both dead at the end of his rookie season.
The San Antonio Spurs had never won the NBA title. They hadn’t even made it to the Finals, something they have accomplished six times during Kobe Bryant’s years in the league.
There was just one NBA player who had made the jump from high school to the NBA in the previous 21 years: Kevin Garnett. Bryant and Jermaine O’Neal joined him in 1996. Thirty-six high school players would be drafted in the following nine years.
The Dallas Mavericks had just led the NBA in three-pointers with 725 makes. Eight teams didn’t even get to 400, a mark Stephen Curry is approaching this year.
Suns guard Devin Booker was a new-born baby. Laker teammate D’Angelo Russell was eight months old when Bryant played his first official NBA game.