From the very start when Kobe Bryant played his first game for the Los Angeles Lakers as an 18-year-old basketball phenom, his path to greatness seemed assured. But it would not be easy.
The NBA wasn’t convinced that any player, no matter how sensational or talented, could jump directly from high school to the big leagues.
But Bryant was a different sort of athlete, the son of a well-to-do Philadelphia family who spent his formative years in Europe. His unusual upbringing and steely determination — holding himself and those around him to the highest standards — sometimes led to friction with coaches and teammates.
None of that could stop the 6-foot-6 shooting guard from becoming one of the greatest in the history of the game, equally dangerous driving to the basket or shooting from outside. None of it could dull the sense of shock that came over Los Angeles, a city that grew to love him, when he died Sunday in a helicopter crash that also took the lives of his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others.