By order of the Los Angeles City Council, August 24 is officially “Kobe Bryant Day” — and the holiday presents the perfect opportunity to relive the absolute spectacle that was Bryant’s last game with the Lakers.
So kick up your heels, grab a snack, and enjoy a look back on a night you’ll remember forever.
After 20 seasons in Los Angeles, the Black Mamba somehow summoned one last epic performance, pouring in 60 points and nailing a game-winner over the Utah Jazz. But first, the night tipped off with Magic Johnson and a litany of current and former NBA stars saying goodbye to Kobe:
There were messages from Phil Jackson, LeBron James, Jack Nicholson, Lamar Odom, and many more.
Once the heartfelt pregame festivities ended, though, it was time for Kobe to go to work. Yet he started slowly. Kobe took the Lakers’ first shot of the night, a 3-pointer, and missed. Then he missed again, and again, and again, and again. One of the game’s most prolific scorers ever couldn’t buy a bucket on his first five shots. A pall fell over the proceedings. Would the Mamba go out like a chump instead of a champ?
Surprisingly, a big-time defensive play got Kobe going. Just over midway through the first, he rejected Trevor Booker’s layup attempt and finally ripped the lid off the basket on the other end:
They say a scorer just needs to see the ball go in once to know he’s hot. Kobe scored 15 points in the final five minutes of the first quarter as the crowd screamed in furious adulation. Trepidation gave way to anticipation — a moment shared by nearly 20,000 people inside Staples Center and millions more around the world.
From that point on, the buckets just kept coming. Kobe pump-faked defenders out of their shoes:
He roasted opponents with vintage dribble-drives, ball-fakes, spin-moves … the entire Black Mamba scoring regiment was on display:
By the second half, there was no chance Kobe was giving up the ball — which seemed to be fine with his teammates, who looked to set him up every time down the floor:
Kobe hit the 40-point plateau for the 122nd time of his career, and it all felt like a dream. He wasn’t done yet, though. Kobe saved the best for last: one final game-winner:
Kobe said a fond farewell to Lakers fans, and that was all she wrote:
Congratulations to Kobe on an outstanding career and for his very special day in the city of Los Angeles. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to celebrate by treating every garbage can in the office as a basketball hoop. KOBE!