"#MambaDay" is currently trending on Twitter, having generated over 119,000 tweets by the morning of Wednesday, April 13.
The hashtag celebrates the legendary 20-year career of Kobe Bryant, who will play his final NBA game tonight, when his Los Angeles Lakers host the Utah Jazz at the Staples Center.
As a future lock Hall of Famer, Bryant's career spanned five NBA championships, two Finals MVPs, one league MVP and 18 All-Star Game selections. It also spanned five video game console generations since Bryant's splashy 1996 debut straight out of Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania.
Can you name the five consoles? Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64/PlayStation, PS2/Xbox, PS3/Xbox 360 and PS4/Xbox One.
Here, we take a look at the evolution of Kobe Bryant in video games, touching on his appearance across five generations of consoles. The Black Mamba — one of the greatest to ever do it.
NBA Live 98 On Super Nintendo
You may have to squint, but look at the bottom right and there he is — a then-19-year-old Kobe Bryant, starting for the Lakers in his second NBA season. Just to Bryant's right is then-Lakers swingman Eddie Jones and behind him is Nick Van Exel. Remember this team? And this started a long string of video game appearances that Kobe would make across his legendary career.
NBA Courtside On N64 And NBA Shootout 98 On PlayStation
Less than a year later and Bryant was back in a video game with the April 1998 release of NBA Courtside. With Bryant being the cover star of the title, the game's April 1 release date came just a couple of weeks before the start of the 1997-98 playoffs, a postseason in which the then-rising star only played 20 minutes per game. Still, gamers tapping their thumbs to this title couldn't care less about that, using a spry Kobe to catch and throw down alley-oops and break defenders down off the dribble. We guess these highlights were a taste of real-life highlights to come.
NBA 2K2 On PlayStation And Xbox
Allen Iverson covered NBA 2K2 for PlayStation and Xbox, but Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal's Los Angeles Lakers had just defeated The Answer's Philadelphia 76ers in the 2001 Finals months before the title was released in early 2002. Bryant's dominance in the game would pave the way for his dominance on the court, having helped guide the Lakers to a third straight NBA title. Greatness personified.
NBA 2K8 On PS3/Xbox 360
No Shaq? No problem. When NBA 2K8 came out in October 2007, Kobe Bryant was readying perhaps his greatest season ever, resulting in him averaging a splintering 28.3 points per game and winning his only league MVP award at the end of the 2007-08 campaign. Although his Lakers came up short in the 1998 Finals against the Boston Celtics, he was flat-out the best player to use in NBA 2K8. Leading the Lakers to back-to-back titles from 2009-10 was proof.
NBA 2K14 On PS4/Xbox One
A 35-year-old Kobe Bryant getting a 93 overall rating by NBA 2K, entering the 2013-14 NBA season is only a testament to the Black Mamba's incredible work ethic over the years. Although, his last few years, including this one, haven't been his best work, Bryant is leaving fans with a wealth of hoop memories to last a lifetime — both in NBA footage and those able to be replayed in video games.
Thank you, Kobe.