From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
As a kid Kobe Bryant wasn't much to look at. His legs were so skinny, says his sister Shaya, 23, "we used to call him Kermit the Frog." Now 22, the 6'7" L.A. Laker guard is among basketball's crown princes. Two years ago he signed a six-year $70 million-plus contract and this season was among the top 10 scorers in the NBA. But it's his regal visage that has helped him win spots pitching Adidas shoes, Sprite and McDonald's burgers. These days even his sister sees him differently. "I love his thick eyebrows," says Shaya. "And he's got a nice cheekbone structure too." Teammates agree that Bryant, nicknamed Showboat for his dazzling oncourt moves, is an eyeful. "He commands attention," says Lakers forward Mark Madsen, 25. Bryant, who spent much of his childhood in Italy, where his father, Joe, 46, played basketball in the Italian leagues (mother Pam, 47, is a homemaker), never obsessed about his appearance. He says his chief grooming aid is "hair grease," which keeps his Afro "soft, not dry-looking." And when asked about his goatee, he confesses, "It's there because I could never grow one in high school!" For style direction Bryant turns to his bride, Vanessa Laine, 18, who recently encouraged him to pierce his left ear. Shaya's cool with that. "I'm glad it was an earring," she says, "and not a tattoo!"