Kobe Bryant, the son of former NBA player Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, jumped directly from high school to the pros in 1996 and enjoyed an impressive rookie season with the Los Angeles Lakers. He also won the Nestle Crunch Slam Dunk and was the leading scorer in the Schick Rookie Game during the NBA All-Star Weekend. Then, in his second season, he was voted a starter for the 1998 All-Star Game, becoming at 19 the youngest All-Star in NBA history. To top it off, he led the West team in scoring with 18 points. Bryant was the all-time leading scorer in Southeastern Pennsylvania history with 2,883 points, breaking the marks of NBA legend and Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain (2,359 points) and former St. Joseph's player Carlin Warley (2,441 points). Bryant led his high school team to a 77-13 record in last three seasons and was a four-year starter. His father, Joe, played eight NBA seasons for the Philadelphia 76ers, San Diego Clippers and Houston Rockets, and is a former assistant coach at La Salle. As a senior at Lower Merion High School, Bryant was selected by USA Today and Parade Magazine as the National High School Player of the Year. He was also named Naismith Player of the Year, Gatorade Circle of Champions High School Player of the Year and to the McDonald's All-America Team. Bryant averaged 30.8 ppg, 12 rpg, 6.5 apg, four spg and 3.8 bpg. He led Lower Merion to Class AAAA state title with a 31-3 record. Bryant scored a career-high 50 points vs. Marple Newtow and scored 34 points to go along with 15 rebounds, six assists and nine blocks to lead Lower Merion to District I Class AAA title over Chester. He scored 117 points and was named Most Outstanding Player in Prestigious Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Lakers wanted Bryant but were drafting late, so they swung a deal with the Charlotte Hornets whereby Charlotte selected him with the 13th overall pick in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft, then dealt him to Los Angeles in exchange for center Vlade Divac. Despite his youth and lack of college experience, Bryant was a signficant contributor as the Lakers won 56 games in 1996-97. He scored in double figures 25 times, including a streak of seven within 10 games late in the season. He also grabbed the spotlight at the All-Star Weekend by winning the Nestle Crunch Slam Dunk and leading all players with an event-record 31 points in the Schick Rookie Classic. Bryant blossomed as the Lakers' sixth man in his second pro season, averaging 15.4 ppg, scoring in double figures in 65 of his 79 games and being voted by the fans as a starter in the 1998 All-Star Game, where he led the Western Conference with 18 points. At 19 years, 5 months, he became the youngest All-Star in history, replacing Magic Johnson, who was 20 years, 5 months old when he played in the 1980 game.
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