Today, Kobe Bryant is one of the elder statesmen of the NBA and next weekend his career will be celebrated at his 18th and final All-Star game. Like Peyton Manning, he now relies on his intelligence and guile rather than his athleticism to keep competing against the young upstarts.
Things were very different in 1997.
Back then, Kobe was an 18-year-old rookie phenom who had not yet learned how to fully corral and direct his talent, but who was already showing flashes of the brilliance that would come in later years.
He could also jump out of the gym and he put those skills on display at the Slam Dunk Contest, winning the award the only time he participated (with Brandy wildly cheering him on).
Christopher Pierznik is the author of eight books, all of which can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. His work has appeared on XXL, Cuepoint, Business Insider, The Cauldron, and many more. You can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.