On Nov. 3, 1996, Kobe Bryant made his NBA debut with the Los Angeles Lakers, beginning what would be an illustrious 20-year career. At 18 years, 72 days old, he became the youngest player to ever appear in an NBA game.
Though that mark was later broken by Jermaine O’Neal (18 years, 53 days) on Dec. 5, 1996, which then was surpassed by former Lakers center Andrew Bynum (18 years, 9 days) on Nov. 2, 2005.
Bryant only played six minutes off the bench in his debut, missed the only shot he took, grabbed one rebound and had one block. The Lakers were carried by 35 points and 19 rebounds from Shaquille O’Neal against a Timberwolves team that was led by a young Kevin Garnett.
Coincidentally, Garnett made his NBA debut exactly one year prior. Against the Lakers in 1996, he finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
While Bryant didn’t have much of an impact in his first game with the Lakers, he went on to average 7.6 points, 1.3 assists and 1.9 rebounds while appearing in 71 games and was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team.
Though, that season also famously ended with Bryant hoisting on air-ball after another in what was an elimination loss to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. But rather than derail his career, the failure fueled Bryant to become one of the league’s all-time greats.