Kobe Bryant left the world a year ago today. We’ll always remember him the way he was on the court – all of his audacious shots, his smiles, the bear hugs he gave his teammates to celebrate so many Los Angeles Lakers victories.
We’ve sifted through Kobe Bryant’s career highlights to honor his memory. There are so many huge moments. Bryant played 20 seasons and made the all-star game in 18 of them. He left the NBA as one of the most prolific scorers in history. And he also won two Olympic gold medals.
Here are some of the best, on-court moments in the career of Kobe Bryant:
Kobe Bryant Wins an NBA Title
Remember, it’s all about the big, gaudy ring. And on June 19, 2000, Bryant soaked in his first NBA championship. It was the first of three straight won by his Lakers.
Shaquille O’Neal won MVP for the championship series, but a hobbled Kobe did his part. In the clinching game six over the Indiana Pacers, Bryant scored 26 points. But his best performance was in game four, after he’d missed most of game two and all of game three with a sprained ankle. Bryant’s 28 points led Los Angeles to a 120-118 overtime victory over the Pacers. Shaq fouled out so it was up to Bryant to lead the Lakers. His put back with 5.9 seconds was the game winner.
That Time Kobe Scored 81
All you need to know about Kobe Bryant and his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006 is what Chris Bosh said after:
“We were just watching him shoot.”
The NBA hadn’t seen such a game in decades. Wilt Chamberlain owns the NBA record. He scored 100 against the New York Knicks in 1962. In the years between 1962 and 2006, there were six performances of at least 70 points, with four of them happening within the year after Chamberlain put up a century of points. But no one sniffed 80 until Kobe did it. David Robinson’s 71 in 1994 was the closest anyone got in more recent years.
Here’s Bryant’s scoring line. He was 28 of 46 from the field, including 7 of 13 from three-point range. He hit 18 of his 20 free throws. Bryant scored 55 points in the second half.
Bryant said in post game interviews that he, too, was stunned by his accomplishment.
“Not even in my dreams,” Bryant said. “That was something that just happened. It’s tough to explain. It’s just one of those things.
“It really hasn’t, like, set in for me. It’s about the `W,’ that’s why I turned it on. It turned into something special. To sit here and say I grasp what happened, that would be lying.”
Lakers coach Phil Jackson very nearly put Bryant on the bench when the game looked to be clinched. At that point, Bryant had scored 77 points. He was one away from tying Chamberlain for second-most points in a game. But an assistant coach told Jackson “there would be a riot” if he put Bryant on the bench.
“That was something to behold,” Jackson said. “It was another level. I’ve seen some remarkable games, but I’ve never seen one like that before.”
Maybe Kobe Bryant had extra incentive. His grandmother was in the seats, watching him play pro ball for the first and only time.
We’re Calling This One Kobe Vs Michael
On March 28, 2003, the brilliant Michael Jordan, 39, handed off the star torch to Bryant, 24.
You can say Bryant was twice as good, at least on paper. Bryant scored 55 points in the Lakers win over the Washington Wizards. In comparison, Jordan scored a meager 23 .
Bryant was fabulous from the tip. He scored 25 points in a five-minute span. He had 42 points by halftime.
“It came to a point where there was that curiosity factor: was he going to hit 80? I’m sure it went through his head,” said Phil Jackson, who coached by Bryant and Jordan in their primes.
Jordan retired in 2003. So this was his final game against Kobe Bryant. MJ wiped away tears while giving a eulogy at Kobe’s memorial service.
Laker Great Hits 50 Again and Again and Again and Again
During a March stretch in 2007, Bryant was as good as Wilt Chamberlain. We’ve already told you about Bryant’s 81 points and Wilt’s record of 100.
Now, here’s another Kobe to Wilt comparison. From March 16-22, Bryant scored at least 50 points in four straight games. Just like Wilt.
His four-game totals: 65 points, 50, 60 and 50. He failed to hit 50 in five straight games. Call Bryant a slacker. He only scored 43.
When he hit the third straight game of 50-plus, Bryant tied other NBA icons to do it. Other than Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor and Michael Jordan also accomplished it.
“Growing up I idolized all of them,” Bryant said after the third game. “From Wilt, to M.J. to Elgin. It’s a tremendous honor to be in that same class with those guys and in the history books.”
Then after four-straight, Bryant put the spotlight on Baylor’s historic, but somewhat dimmed achievements.
Via AP: “The coolest thing about it is this younger generation gets a chance to learn about Elgin Baylor, gets a chance to learn about Wilt Chamberlain and some of the things that they’ve accomplished. … The legacy will continue to live on.”
A Final Game Recalls Past Glory Days
The glitterati was there to see Kobe one final time on April 23, 2016. And, no one was disappointed.
Bryant scored 60 points. It didn’t matter that Bryant had struggled with injuries all season and that he never looked quite like himself.
On the final night at the Staples Center, Bryant was the Black Mamba one last time. He thrilled by helping lead the Lakers to a comeback win over the Utah Jazz. His free throws gave the Lakers the lead.
“The perfect ending would have been a championship,” Bryant said after that game. “But tonight was (me) trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time.”
Now and forever, we applaud you, Kobe Bryant.