Kobe Bryant: From Hated To NBA’s Most Popular Player, Global Icon

This summer, standing at the top of the NBA, Kobe Bryant has a long way to peer down the mountain that he has just climbed. Seven years ago, 2004 proved to be the worst year of his professional life. An abyss he found himself drowning in.

That year, Kobe had to overcome sexual assault charges stemming from an incident in a Colorado hotel, which while the case ended long before a verdict, in the court of public opinion, Kobe was a convicted man.


Sponsors fled like ants after the chicken at a picnic. Friends betrayed him. And, Kobe endured the brunt of the blame for Shaquille O’Neal being traded from the Lakers. 


Kobe was bad guy number one, in the eyes of most NBA fans and complete food for the tabloids. His marriage was on the rocks, his professional life damaged, to what most thought was beyond repair. His popularity waned so far that his jersey sales plummeted. There was barely a shoe contract.


But Kobe used his best asset to rise from the ashes. His intensity and focus proved to get him through his personal storm. The basketball court became his sanctuary and the starting point for his redemption.


And, a funny thing happened on the way to being forever hated. Kobe Bryant became the most popular player in the NBA. Seven years after a sexual assault charge, who'd have thought that was even possible?


Globally, his jersey outsells even LeBron James. And, like King James, Kobe is sponsored by the largest footwear company in the world, Nike. Kobe’s shoe commercials of him jumping luxury cars or being depicted as a puppet along with James are fan favorites.


Another surprising change in Kobe’s image came out this week. Even in the aftermath of the LeBron James deci...

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