Kobe Bryant is one of the best players in NBA history, and he is one of the greatest clutch players of all-time, but when he was a rookie... he had one airball party against the Jazz, in the NBA Playoffs 1997.
“I had some good looks,” Bryant said afterward. “I just didn’t hit the shots.”
Nearly 19 years, five NBA championships and 33,044 points later, Bryant believed that rookie hiccup served him well.
“I look back at it now with fond memories of it. Back then, it was misery,” said Bryant, “It helped shape me.”
That surprises no one.
“That was a defining moment in his career,” said Golden State Warriors executive Jerry West, the Lakers’ general manager from 1982 to 2000. “If somebody would have shot an air ball on our team and they had shot a second one, they would only shoot a third one. He was fearless. I think that’s one of the things that spurred him to greatness. He wasn’t going to allow himself to fail.
In his first season as a rookie, Kobe Bryant averaged only 7.6 points with15.5 minutes per game.
20 years later, he is the greatest Laker of all-time.