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Bryant popular on and off the court

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant

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(CNN) -- The accusations against Kobe Bryant stand in contrast to the image he has gained as an NBA star.

At 24, Bryant is a seasoned professional basketball player with accomplishments the rest of his NBA peers envy.

Bryant's image as a role model has fueled his popularity with fans, and fellow players have rallied to his defense. He frequently appears in television advertising campaigns and has a multimillion-dollar contract with Nike.

By the time he was 19 he was an all-star and now, only in his mid-20s, Bryant already has helped win three professional basketball championships.

Bryant turned pro out of high school seven years ago, a first-round draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996. Later that year he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he has played since.

The 6-foot-6 guard was a member of the Lakers team that won three straight NBA championships in the 2000-2002 seasons. He was named most valuable player in the NBA All-Star game in the 2002 season.

Bryant is married and has a daughter, who was born in January.

Bryant, who is named after a steak house in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, is the third child born to Pamela and Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, once a journeyman forward for the Philadelphia 76ers. Bryant would learn the game from his father who also played in Europe after leaving the NBA.

The Bryants moved to Rieti, Italy, in 1984 when Joe Bryant began his European playing career. Kobe, 6, learned Italian and still speaks the language fluently. Bryant would practice with his dad after school.

The Bryants returned to the United States in 1991 when Kobe was 13. He joined a summer league in Philadelphia where a counselor scolded him for naming the NBA as a future career.

"The guy said NBA players are one in a million," Kobe recounted. "I said, 'Man, look, I'm going to be that one in a million.'"

Eventually, Bryant beat his dad in a game of one-on-one.

"When I was 14 or 15 he started cheating," Kobe said. "He'd elbow me in the mouth, rip my lip open."


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