Kobe Bryant earned the reputation of a winner thanks to hard work, dedication, and natural athletic gifts.
He was a master at his craft, known for his dogged pursuit of greatness and unrelenting sense of perfection. On both sides of the court, he had every possible weapon at his disposal, allowing him to succeed at a high rate in the NBA.
Long before Kobe Bryant sadly passed away, he had earned the reputation of an exceptional basketball player and one-of-a-kind competitor. He was born on August 23, 1978, in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, to Joe Bryant, a former NBA player, and Pam Bryant.
How many rings does Kobe Bryant have? We will answer that question as we take another much-deserved look at the late great’s Hall-of-Fame career.
How Many Championship Rings Did Kobe Win?
Kobe Bryant won five championship rings over 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was also part of two more teams that went to the NBA Finals but ultimately fell short.
Bryant’s first championship came at the start of a three-peat championship run in 2000-02 alongside Shaquille O’Neal, with Phil Jackson at the helm. Then, Kobe won a fourth and fifth ring in 2009 and 2010, winning Finals MVP on both occasions.
Key Kobe Stats
Here are some of Kobe’s stats in the NBA Finals:
1.) He averaged 25.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists in 37 Finals games.
2.) Kobe averaged 13.8 points more than any other player in the 2009 NBA Finals. For over 50 years, no player has outscored the rest in the Finals by more. (Credit to: TupacAG Twitter)
3.) Bryant scored the most OT points in a Finals game since play-by-play was first tracked in the 1996-97 season. He scored eight points in the extra period in Game 4 of the 2000 NBA Finals.
4.) At 23 years old, Kobe was the youngest to win three NBA titles.
5.) In the 2009 NBA Finals, Bryant became only the fourth player to average at least 30 points and win Finals MVP.
6.) Kobe’s 32.2 PPG and 7.4 APG in the 2009 Finals marked only the fourth time someone averaged at least 30 points and seven assists in the NBA Finals. Jerry West did it twice (1969 and 1970), and Michael Jordan once (1991). LeBron James did it three times after Kobe’s 2009 performance.
An Overview of Kobe Bryant’s NBA Championships
The Lakers made waves by trading for the “straight from high school” Kobe Bryant on draft night in exchange for Vlade Divac from the Charlotte Hornets. Bryant had been the 13th pick of the Hornets in the 1996 NBA draft.
While Divac was no Hakeem Olajuwon or David Robinson, he averaged a double-double for the Purple and Gold two seasons before, along with four dimes and two blocks. However, since the Lakers signed Shaquille O’Neal, it made more sense to trade Divac so they could partner O’Neal with a perimeter player to form a solid 1-2 punch.
That plan never came to fruition in Kobe’s first year. Del Harris, a notoriously old-school coach, rarely gave the rookie meaningful minutes. Eddie Jones was still playing at a high level and had earned his stripes already.
Harris consequently relented and made Kobe Bryant the sixth man in 1998. That resulted in the first of many All-Star appearances, but something’s still missing. While they had multiple All-Stars on the team, they never reached the pinnacle of success. The Utah Jazz showed them the door in successive years– a second-round exit in ’97 and an embarrassing Western Conference Finals sweep in ’98.
It wasn’t until Phil Jackson took over the head coaching duties that the tide changed. He took advantage of O’Neal’s dominance and Bryant’s dynamism to mold the Lakers into a dynasty. And this is when the legend of Kobe Bryant grew.
First NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers, 2000)
Even though this was Kobe’s first ring, the whole season (and postseason) was Shaq’s tour-de-force. He still averaged over 21 points in the playoffs, but there’s no mistake about who the best player on this team was – Shaq. Kobe missed most of the 2nd and 3rd rounds with an ankle injury.
Still, he found times to shine. In an elimination game versus the Trail Blazers, Kobe’s alley-oop to Shaq was the iconic moment of the Blazers’ series and of the year for both players.
Shaq went all monster mode in six NBA Finals games with 38 points, 16.7 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks. But in one of these games, they needed the young Kobe to step up and lead the way. Sustaining a severely sprained ankle in Games 2 and 3, the Lakers desperately looked for someone to handle the scoring load when Shaq fouled out late in Game 4.
The 22-year-old Bryant answered the call. He scored eight points in OT to hold off Indiana and finished with 28 in a game where mere mortals would have gone home and rested a painful injury. A win by Indiana would have made knotted the series at 2-2, swinging the momentum in the Pacers’ favor. Instead, the Lakers won two of the following three games to signal the start of a dynasty.
Second NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers, 2001)
Energized by a championship that almost didn’t happen in 2000, the Lakers were ready to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. They went 15-1 in the playoffs and only lost once in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. It is the second-best playoff run in the history of the NBA, only trailing Golden State in 2017 (16-1).
The 2001 run was also when the Lakers realized they had a 1-2 punch, not a Batman and Robin type of partnership. Kobe was arguably their best player. Opponents could put bodies on O’Neal, but they had no answer for the next punch.
The Lakers lost only one playoff game – the first in the finals against the Sixers. Throughout the regular season, Kobe and Shaq each averaged 28 points.
Third NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. New Jersey Nets, 2002)
If the Lakers left no doubt about who the best team in the NBA was in 2001, 2002 was different. The LA Lakers swept the Portland Trail Blazers and defeated the San Antonio Spurs 4 -1.
In the NBA Finals, the Lakers had to get by a more talented Sacramento Kings team, which they did, but not without controversy.
The Finals were again more of a beatdown because of Shaq. O’Neal averaged 36.3 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists to bag his third Finals MVP award. Kobe, though, continued to impress, averaging 26.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Bryant would have easily been the MVP in any other scenario, but Shaq was just too dominant against a smaller Nets team.
With the Lakers’ third win and three-peat, Kobe was dominating from his shooting guard position. See Positions in Basketball Explained.
Kobe Bryant Highlights Video
Fourth NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. Orlando Magic, 2009)
This year was a different chapter in Kobe Bryant’s career. The Shaq-Kobe duo was done by the end of the 2004 season.
Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004. Kobe was not the spry, young buck he once was, but he was at the peak of basketball mastery. And he hadn’t won a title since O’Neal left.
Now paired with Pau Gasol as a teammate, Kobe and the Lakers beat the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets in the first two playoff rounds. They eliminated the Denver Nuggets in the Conference Finals.
Bryant won an MVP in 2008 and went to the NBA Finals but was severely beaten by their archrivals in Boston. So, the question remained: Can he win a ring without Shaq?
True enough, Kobe proved the doubters wrong with a historically great Finals performance over the Magic. He averaged over 32 points and seven dimes, plus a championship trophy and a Finals MVP. Kobe had enough help from his teammates, but there was no doubting who the alpha was this time.
Fifth NBA Championship Ring (Lakers vs. Boston Celtics, 2010)
Kobe had already equaled Shaq’s ring count, but basketball fans knew something was missing. It’s no secret that he wanted to avenge his 2008 loss to the Celtics badly. The great Lakers team in the 80s did it, and Bryant wanted the satisfaction, too.
Now in his 14th season, many felt Bryant’s skills had diminished. They beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, and Phoenix Suns during the Lakers’ run to the Finals. But the Celtics were ready. This was a rematch of the 2008 series that the Celtics had won.
Facing a 3-2 game deficit against Boston, Kobe, Pau Gasol, and the Lakers had their work cut out for them. After a blowout in Game 6, the two teams engaged in a tiring, defensive brawl. Nobody shot well from both sides, especially Bryant. He did, however, grab 15 rebounds, the most by any guard in NBA Finals history.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Lakers outlasted the Celtics, 83-79. He completed the revenge tour and secured his 2nd Finals MVP award, plus his fifth championship ring. And yes, he’d be the first to tell you, “I got one more than Shaq.” For those reasons, Kobe always alluded to the 2010 championship as his favorite.
Kobe Bryant’s All-Time Records
1.) Kobe scored the second-most points in a single game (81 vs. Raptors).
2.) At 18 years and 158 days old in 1998, Kobe was the youngest to start an All-Star game. Bryant was tied with Bob Pettit with the most All-Star Game MVPs with four.
3.) Kobe was the oldest to score 60 points. He did this in his final NBA game against the Utah Jazz.
4.) Besides Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant is the only player to record four 50-point games in a row. He recorded 65, 50, 60, and 50 points in consecutive games in 2007.
5.) Kobe had nine first-team and three second-team All-Defense selections, the most by any guard.
6.) He is the only player in the history of the NBA to score at least 600 points in three consecutive postseasons.
7.) At 34 years and 197 days, he was the oldest player to score at least 40 points and dish at least 10 assists in back-to-back games.
Kobe Bryant’s NBA Championships FAQs
Here are some frequently asked questions about Kobe’s ring count.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal won three NBA Championship rings with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
Kobe won two rings with the Lakers when Shaquille O’Neal played elsewhere. Those two NBA Championships came in 2009 against the Orlando Magic and in 2010 against the Boston Celtics.
Bill Russell won 11 NBA Championship rings – all with the Boston Celtics.
Kobe Bryant’s Tributes
Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020, in Calabasas, California.
Michael Jordan said in a speech at Bryant’s memorial service, “Kobe was my dear friend; he was like a little brother.”
Shaquille O’Neal also said, “Mamba, you were taken away from us way too soon. Your next chapter of life is just beginning. It’s time for us to continue your legacy.”
How Does Kobe Stack Up With NBA Championships To Other Greats
Here are the players with the most NBA Championship rings:
Sam Jones: 10 rings.
John Havlicek: 8 rings.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 6 rings.
Scottie Pippen: 6 rings.
Kobe Bryant: 5 rings.
Steph Curry: 4 rings.
Shaquille O’Neal: 4 rings.
Kobe Bryant’s Legacy: Does he Deserve to be in the GOAT Conversation?
When talking about the GOATs (Greatest of All-Time), most fans would likely pick Michael Jordan or LeBron James. Some who’d romanticize the 70s or 80s would probably go with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, or Wilt Chamberlain.
In Kobe’s case, you’d rarely find a middle ground. His fans would probably list him in the top three, but the self-proclaimed “experts” often rank Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan over him; some barely have him in the top 10. So, does Kobe deserve to be at least in the GOAT conversation?
Yes, he does. Any fan knows he doesn’t have the sheer numbers and efficiency that LeBron or MJ had. LeBron will undoubtedly secure the all-time points record and dozens more when all is said and done. Michael is Michael, and many people think Kobe was just a worse version of him. Therefore, how could a carbon copy be equal to the original?
The Black Mamba Mentality
What separates him from his peers, though, is his mentality, dedication, and skill. It’s even arguable that he had a better work ethic than Jordan, a known psycho regarding winning. He consistently puts in work at dawn and returns for more during the rest of the day. A segment on the Redeem Team documentary highlighted Kobe’s work ethic. He was at the hotel lobby ready for a workout just when his teammates came from a Vegas club at 4 AM! The Black Mamba was a fierce competitor who honed his considerable skills with intense practice.
It’s also interesting that fellow NBA players often pick Kobe over LeBron. The list includes Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal, Jim Jackson, Kenyon Martin, Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes, Gilbert Arenas, and Dwyane Wade, to name a few. O’Neal and Jim Jackson played with Kobe and LeBron, so it’s not like they’re from the outside looking in.
What Others Said About Kobe
Chauncey Billups led a team that beat Shaq and Kobe in the 2004 NBA Finals, but he had no problem calling Bryant “the most skilled player of all time.” Bird picks Kobe “for his desire to win.” Arenas lauded how Kobe made the most out of his average frame – he doesn’t have the physical gifts of Bron and MJ, but he can go toe-to-toe with any of them.
Many players above would tell you that Kobe’s mentality is different. It cannot be quantified, like LeBron’s Player Efficiency Rating or Michael Jordan’s 6-0 record in the NBA Finals, but it’s the “great separator” that nobody else talked about.
However, all of us fans can throw shade at one another, pick who’s the best, and so on, but ultimately these are just opinions. There is no way to correctly identify one GOAT. These guys mostly play in different eras and are all great in their own right. We, as fans, should appreciate their greatness and continue to recognize their contributions to the sport that we love.
By Jan Rey with Mike O’Halloran
Jan is a sucker for all things basketball and still yells, “Kobe!” every time he tosses a crumpled paper into a trash bin. Mike has written three books on youth basketball coaching.
You are on our “How Many Rings Does Kobe Have?” page.
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