Kobe Bryant has been a major pain to foes throughout his storied career with the Lakers. The injury bug, however, has bitten Bryant again. This time, a torn rotator cuff will put him on the shelf. What does the future hold for the five-time champ? We don't know. But if it turns out he has played his last game, what we do know is that Kobe put on quite a show over the years. Check out some of his five-star performances.
Getty ImagesStacy Revere
Hitting 50 for the first time
Dec. 6, 2000: With his first NBA championship finally under his belt, a 22-year-old Bryant notched his first 50-point game, dropping in 51 on 18-of-31 shooting in a 125-122 road loss to the Golden State Warriors. Considering Kobe’s competitiveness, he probably doesn’t remember the game for anything but the final score, but it marked the first of 25 50-point games in Bryant’s career, eight of which have come in defeat. In this game, young Warriors star Antawn Jamison poured in 51 points of his own — in fact, the only two 50-point games of Jamison’s career came in consecutive games over a four-day span — but Kobe definitely panned out to be the bigger star long-term.
Getty ImagesTom Hauck
Notching his first triple-double
Jan. 15, 2001: For all the flak Kobe gets for being a pure scorer, he’s done a fine job distributing and rebounding the ball over the years and has 21 career triple-doubles to his name. The latest of those came just last month, but the first occurred in January 2001, when Bryant tallied 26 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in a 113-112 overtime win against the Vancouver Grizzlies. He’s had bigger assist games (a career-high 17 last week against Cleveland) and bigger rebounding games (16, twice, including a 2001 playoff game against Sacramento), but it’s when he puts it all together that Kobe is at his best, and this was the game against which all his other triple-doubles should be judged.
NBAE/Getty ImagesRobert Mora
Singeing the Sonics for record 12 3-pointers
Jan. 7, 2003: Bryant set an NBA record with 12 3-pointers en route to 45 points during a 119-98 win over Seattle at Staples Center. After missing his only long-range attempt in the first quarter, Kobe went 6-of-6 from deep in the second and 5-of-7 from range in the third. Clearly angling for the record, Bryant took and missed a 3-point attempt just seconds after checking in midway through the fourth, but hit his 12th and final trey on LA’s next possession. Bryant, who hasn’t made more than nine 3s in any other game in his career, has since seen his record tied (by Donyell Marshall in 2005), but it has yet to be broken.
NBAE/Getty ImagesCatherine Steenkeste
Averaging 40 -- for a month
February 2003: Scoring 40 points in a game is an impressive feat that most NBA players will never accomplish. The best do it only a few times a season. But in February 2003, Kobe didn’t score 40 a couple of times — he averaged 40.6 points for the entire month. Over the course of 14 games, of which LA won 11, Bryant scored at least 30 points in every contest, had 10 games with more than 40 points (including nine in a row, tying a record set by Michael Jordan) and cracked 50 twice. And then, just to do one better, he matched the feat again in 2006, when he scored 43.4 points per game in January thanks in part to his 81-point outburst against Toronto (and to be fair, he’d have still averaged 40 without that game included).
NBAE/Getty ImagesNoah Graham
Going double nickel against Jordan, Wizards
March 28, 2003: Kobe’s career didn’t overlap with Michael Jordan’s for long, but they did play together long enough to square off head-to-head eight times, and the eighth and final of those games truly felt like a torch-passing moment, as Bryant dumped 55 points on 40-year-old MJ and the Wizards in a 108-94 win in Jordan’s final game at Staples Center. Jordan fared fine for an old guy, with a team-high 23 points on 10-of-20 shooting, but Kobe stole the show with 42 first-half points on 14-of-19 shooting and 8-of-11 shooting from 3-point range. Over the course of the eight games they played against each other, Kobe’s Lakers won five times, but MJ was at least able to retire knowing that his scoring average in those games (24.5) was higher than Bryant’s (22.8) even if Kobe did get the better of him in the finale.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNoah Graham
Dropping 62 points in three quarters
Dec. 20, 2005: Kobe scored 62 points on 18-of-31 shooting during a 112-90 win over the Dallas Mavericks. The kicker is that he was on the bench for the entire fourth quarter with the game well in hand. When Bryant checked out for the final time at the end of the third quarter, the Mavericks had fewer points as a team (61) than Bryant had all by himself, and given that Kobe got better with each quarter — he had 15 in the first, 17 in the second and 30 in the third — one can’t help but wonder what might have happened had he returned for the fourth.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNoah Graham
Roasting the Raptors for 81 points
Jan. 22, 2006: Nine years ago, Bryant exploded for an incredible 81 points in a 122-104 win over Toronto. The night started inconspicuously enough, with 14 Bryant points in the first quarter and 12 in just six minutes of action in the second. But Kobe erupted for 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting (including making 4 of 5 three-pointers) in the third quarter, and put the game away with 28 more in the fourth, thanks in part to 12 free throws and two more 3s in the final frame. The final stat line: 28-of-46 shooting, 7-of-13 on 3s and 18-of-20 from the line in the second-highest-scoring game in NBA history.
NBAE/Getty ImagesJeffrey Bottari
Picking up his lone MVP Trophy
2007-08 season: It’s almost astonishing that Bryant has one league MVP award to his name given some of the numbers the 17-time All-Star has put up during his lengthy career, but during the 2007-08 season, Bryant more than earned the honor, leading the league in total points for the third straight year while dropping in 28.3 per game to go with 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists per night. Kobe played in all 82 games that season and was tied for 10th in the league with 38.9 minutes per game as Los Angeles finished with the best record in the Western Conference (57-25). Bryant had two 50-point games that season, which paled in comparison to the 10 he had during 2006-07, but it’s tough to say his career would have been complete without a Maurice Podoloff Trophy on his mantle.
Getty ImagesStephen Dunn
Lighting up Madison Square Garden
Feb. 2, 2009: Michael Jordan and LeBron James have had their share of success at Madison Square Garden, each with a pair of 50-point games at the Mecca in their respective careers. But no one has put on a show at the Garden like Kobe did, pouring in 61 points in a 126-117 win over the Knicks. Bryant wasted no time getting into gear that night, scoring 18 of the Lakers’ 31 first-quarter points before adding 16 more in the second quarter for 34 points at the half. Twelve more points in the third quarter and 15 in the fourth (aided by 11-of-11 free-throw shooting in the final frame) made Kobe the only opponent to ever drop 60 as a visitor at MSG. Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony eclipsed Bryant's arena mark last season, scoring 62 points in a January game.
NBAE/Getty ImagesNathaniel S. Butler
Capturing a crown -- sans Shaq
2009 NBA Finals: For most of the mid-2000s, the big knock against Bryant was that he had Shaquille O’Neal around for his championship runs — a three-peat from 2000-02 — but in June 2009, Kobe finally got the monkey off his back, beating the Orlando Magic 4-1 in The Finals to secure his first Shaq-less championship. During the series, for which Bryant was named MVP, Kobe had his only career 40-point Finals game (in Game 1) and filled the stat sheet with 30 points, six boards, five assists, four blocks and two steals in clinching Game 5. He’d win another Finals without Shaq in 2010 before settling in at five total.