The 20-year-span of watching Kobe Bryant daze and confuse defenders with his array of offensive weapons came to an end on April 13th, 2016, but not before we witnessed him brandishing those weapons of mass destruction one more time.
We should be remembering this day with Kobe breaking down the final quarter as only he can. Instead, we remember this moment with heavy hearts. His wife, Vanessa summed it up best on IG.
Fortunately, Kobe has left us so many memories and in his swan song performance, he exited stage left by dropping 60 points on the Utah Jazz. Early in the game, the Los Angeles Lakers were down by as much as six points, and Kobe had missed his first five shots in a row.
But you could tell by the way teammates were risking turnovers to sloppily force the ball into Kobe’s hands throughout the 1st quarter, and the seemingly pensive atmosphere that not only affected a few Lakers ball handlers but permeated the very pace of the game, that something amazing and electrical was on the verge of happening.
It was already written.
Bryant would drain his first jump shot for two, which were his only points scored with 5:12 left in the quarter, but by 1:47 he would have 15 points. The Staples Center was rocking and you couldn’t help but do the math in your head. “Well, if Kobe Bryant scores 15 points in each quarter he would have 60, no problem!”
Yeah, no problem for the amazing Kobe of ten years prior. No problem before the torn Achilles and torn rotator cuff. Certainly no problem for the Brandy Norwood-dating, Adidas Crazy Eights wearing, Philly fade-having, Kobe Bryant of two decades ago.
However, at 37-years-old, Kobe was finally beholden to the laws of the universe; things are born and things grow old. The sight was sometimes painful to watch.
That final season he averaged near career- lows in scoring, field goal percentage and minutes played. By any and every meaningful basketball measure, Kobe was old.
Yes, he has carried the legacy of Lakers franchise that is steeped in the bright lights and big dreams of a Hollywood feature film, but this is real life.
Nobody walks off into the sunset. They either run off, limp off or get carried out on a stretcher. But Kobe Bryant is no normal player. He is an all-time great.
We didn’t want to see him score no stinkin’ 20 points! No way, homes!
As big a competitor as Kobe is, there is no way that he was going to quietly walk off into history. He was going to go out with a bang
You didn’t have to like Kobe as a person. You didn’t have to like his shoes when he was with Adidas, and many did not. But what you had to do was respect the fact that this man is one of the greatest players in NBA history — a man who even Earvin “Magic” Johnson said is the greatest Laker of All-Time.
38 points in the second half, 23 points in the 4th. A comeback win. A fitting tally for a fitting departure. Kobe also became the oldest player in NBA history to score 60 points. It was his first game of 50 or more points in seven years.
In Hollywood — and massage parlors once frequented by Pats owner Robert Kraft — they call that a happy ending. We had no choice but to give him a standing ovation, look around, and ask ourselves, “Did that really just happen?”
It’s the same thing the world said when he and daughter Gigi, along with seven other passengers passed away in a tragic private plane crash over Calabasas. All of these highs and lows will be relived at Kobe’s 2020 Naismith Hall of Fame enshrinement.