Within minutes of the clock striking midnight on the East Coast on Thursday morning, Kobe Bryant's name began trending on Twitter. Was it because of that ticket for talking on his phone while driving that had people taking about him? Or did he drop 68 points in 15 minutes again?
Nope. It was his birthday.
Kobe Bean Bryant was born on August 23, 1978. He is now 34 years old.
After the summer that he has had, one wonders what sort of presents he could still want? The Los Angeles Lakers swooped early in the offseason and signed two-time MVP Steve Nash. They delivered another present while Bryant was helping Team USA to another gold medal at the London Olympics, trading for All-Star center Dwight Howard. While doing all of this, the team managed to keep friend/teammate Pau Gasol, who was among those wishing Kobe a happy birthday.
Kobe recently talked about the possibility of retiring at age 35, telling Graham Bensinger in an episode of In Depth that it would be his 18th season in the league and the last year of his contract.
"I don't know if I'll play any longer than that," he said.
But with some new friends wearing purple and gold and the coveted sixth championship in his sights, the future Hall of Famer may already be looking beyond the the 2013-14 season. After all, plenty of superstars in the past have shined in their mid-30s.
In honor of Kobe's birthday, here are some of his greatest highlights in his 17-year career.