As a rookie, Bryant earned himself a reputation as a high-flyer and a fan favorite by winning the 1997 Slam Dunk Contest. Bryant and Shaquille ONeal led the Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002. A heated feud between the duo and a loss in the 2004 NBA Finals was followed by ONeals trade from the Lakers after the 200304 season. Following ONeals departure Bryant became the cornerstone of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. He led the NBA in scoring during the 200506 and 200607 seasons, setting numerous scoring records in the process. In 2006, Bryant scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second most points scored in a single game in NBA history, second only to Wilt Chamberlains 100-point game in 1962.
He was awarded the regular seasons Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in 2008. After losing in the 2008 NBA Finals, Bryant led the Lakers to two consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010, earning the NBA Finals MVP Award on both occasions. At 34 years and 104 days of age, Bryant became the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points. He is also the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. Since his second year in the league, Bryant has been selected to start every All-Star Game.
He has won the All-Star MVP Award four times (2002, 2007, 2009, and 2011), tying him for the most All Star MVP Awards in NBA history. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won gold medals as a member of the USA national team. Sporting News and TNT named Bryant the top NBA player of the 2000s. In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexual assault after having sex with a hotel employee in Colorado. In September 2004, prosecutors dropped the case after his accuser refused to testify. A civil suit was later filed and settled out of court.