He has the most missed shots in NBA history, the most missed shots in a single game. The most missed shots in a single season. The most missed game-winning shots/buzzer beaters missed. The worst shot attempt to assist ratio in any career. This terrible player’s name? Kobe Bryant.
Bryant is also one of the most hated players in all of American sports for a very long time. His success is extraordinary, his achievements prolific. Fans seem to despise the “Black Mamba” because of his killer instinct and ability to torch every team he faces. But after his final season—full of memories, throwback performances, and a retirement tour—people have seemingly gained a certain level of respect for Bryant. They say once something great is gone, you don’t realize how valuable it really was. Kobe Bryant devoted 20 years of his life to the Los Angeles Lakers and would surely love to relive them. He even won five championships in the process.
On April 13, 2016, Kobe Bryant drained his 37-year old body for the millions of fans watching the final performance of his iconic career. Of course, everyone was expecting Kobe to put on a show—say, 20-35 points—but nobody would’ve thought the man would do what he did that night.
Hundreds of media outlets covered the game. Millions of viewers watched worldwide. NBA legends sat in the capacity crowd. Dozens of ex-Lakers teammates, the biggest names in pop culture. Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson began the night with an awesome introductory honoring Bryant. Then, it was go time.
As calm as Kobe Bryant was, you could tell he was nervous—not nervous to win or lose the game, but nervous about his ability to put on a show to meet everyone’s expectations. Bryant came out blazing, the ball in his hands every trip down the court. After forcing five missed shots in the first few minutes of the game, the “Black Mamba” caught fire and finished the first quarter with 15 points on 5/13 shooting. He nailed five straight shots, which electrified the star-studded crowd. Kobe played all twelve minutes and would rest six in the second quarter.
The score stood at 21-19 Utah after the first quarter. The second quarter was kind of quiet. Bryant added 7 points on 2/7 shooting in six minutes. He finished the half with 22 points on 7/20 shooting in 17 minutes of action. On pace for 44 points, the Lakers crowd clearly wasn’t ready for the second-half explosion.
With his team down 15 points at halftime, Kobe Bryant knew his final game needed to end in winning fashion. Bryant tacked on 15 points in the third, but at the end of the quarter, Los Angeles was still down 14 points. Heading into the final quarter with 37 points, Bryant would do the amazing, cutting Utah’s lead and ultimately guiding Los Angeles to victory.
Kobe torched the Jazz with 23 fourth-quarter points, outscoring the whole Jazz team 23-21, and proving that old men can still ball. The crowd oohed and ahhed after huge three-point shots from Bryant cut the Jazz lead to single digits. The Lakers took over after a tough, pull-up jumper licked the back of the net from hands of the Black Mamba.
Bryant then sealed the game with his 59th and 60th points coming off free-throws, which also sealed the victory for Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant’s 60 points were the most in the NBA this season and represented the fifth time he’s scored 60 or more points in his career. At 37 years,, Bryant became the oldest player in NBA history to record 60 or more points.
After Bryant’s historic night, Los Angeles Lakers guard Lou Williams said the “Black Mamba’s” performance is a testament to what every NBA player should strive toward. Williams said, “As basketball players [in the NBA], I think we all strive to have that storybook career.”
The final buzzer rang, and the Lakers had defeated the Jazz 101-96. An era ended right in front of fans’ own eyes. Kobe Bryant rode off into the sunset, hugging dozens of former Lakers teammates who came out to support the great player.
After his fifth and final championship in 2010, everybody knew Kobe Bryant was one of the greatest players in Los Angeles Lakers history. In between the time of his final championship and final game, Bryant accomplished legendary feats, moving up in the record books, cementing him as the greatest Laker in franchise history. Sixty points and millions of awed fans later, on April 13, 2016, Kobe Bryant officially sealed his place among the all-time greats.
Thank you from all of us, Kobe Bryant.
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