The curtain comes down on Kobe Bryant’s 20-year NBA career tonight, and nothing makes you realise just how old this guy is like seeing the gulf between the first and last video games he made an appearance in.
Bryant was selected 13th overall in the 1996 NBA draft, and at the age of 17 was so young he had to get his parents to cosign his first contract. That meant he was in the league in time for NBA Live games that were released, with pixellated players, on the Genesis and Super Nintendo.
Two years later, Kobe got his own game—Kobe Bryant in NBA Courtside—for the Nintendo 64.
In 1999 that game got a sequel, NBA Courtside 2: Featuring Kobe Bryant, which flipped the title, pushing the growing superstars name to the end. This time it went multi-platform, appearing on not just the N64 but the Game Boy Color, PC and PlayStation as well.
By the time of the third game in the series, NBA Courtside 2002, Bryant’s name was gone altogether, though he did remain on the cover of the GameCube-exclusive.
Skip a few more years and we see Bryant again playing the cover star, this time in 2006 for Sony’s now-deceased NBA series.
Of course, during this time he’d been appearing in other NBA titles as well, and in 2009 he again made the cover of a sports video game, this time his one-and-only appearance on the box of the now-dominant NBA2K series.
Bringing things to a close, here’s how Kobe looks in his latest (and last, as a current player at least) game, NBA 2K16.
For an animated recap, check out this video made by Zambing G2K, which runs down Bryan’ts model and appearance throughout the past 17 years of NBA video games, starting with 1999's NBA2K on the Dreamcast.
So long, Black Mamba, and thanks for the memories. May the Lakers suck less next year in your absence.