On a night where the Golden State Warriors made history, Kobe Bryant stole the show one last time. In the final game of a remarkable 20-season career, Kobe Bryant had the best farewell game anyone could have possibly imagined, given the circumstances.
All of the stars were sitting courtside for the game: Kanye, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, David Beckham, Adam Levine, Jack Nicholson, the list goes on. Many of Kobe’s former teammates were there including Shaq, Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw, Rick Fox, Gary Payton, Robert Horry, and Lamar Odom, who a few months ago Kobe Bryant was visiting in the hospital.
With all of the stars in the building, and all of the pressure of his final game, the first few minutes were ugly to say the least. Kobe missed his first 5 shots, and virtually every player on both teams could not have looked more nervous. Players were bricking shots left and right, dribbling off their shoe, turning the ball over – it was bad. For a few minutes, it looked like Bryant’s send off wasn’t going to be pretty.
Once the butterflies went away, Kobe started to get it going. At the end of the first quarter, Kobe had totaled 15 points – the same number of points Michael Jordan had in the ENTIRE final game of his career.
Kobe had a bit of a slow second quarter, entering halftime with 22 points, and the Lakers trailing by 15.
You could tell the whole time that his teammates really wanted to get him going. It got the point where his teammates were refusing to shoot, wanting to feed Kobe the ball every time down the floor.
In the 3rd quarter, Kobe started to heat up again, scoring 15 points. Bryant is now up to 37 heading into the 4th quarter. Reminder: his season-high was 38 points against the Timberwolves.
At the beginning of the 4th quarter, the Lakers trailed Utah 73-66. At one point the Lakers trailed by 15 points, and it looked like Kobe’s final game would finish with one more tally in the loss column.
Then, something miraculous happened. Throughout the years Kobe made a living being the clutchest man in the NBA, refusing to lose. In Kobe Bryant’s final game, he did just that – he took over one final time.
You could tell that Bryant was exhausted – he played 42 minutes in the game. But, that wasn’t going to stop the Black Mamba.
In the final 3:15 of the game, the Lakers went on a 17-2 run led by none other than Kobe Bryant himself. In that stretch, Kobe scored 15 points on 5/5 field goals, and hit the game winning shot.
Bryant finished the game with 60 points – his highest total this season, the highest total in the NBA this season, and the highest total in a farewell game. Kobe also outscored the ENTIRE Utah Jazz team 23-21 in the fourth quarter.
Prior to the game, Shaq jokingly asked Kobe to go for 50 points. Here’s what he had to say about his former teammate after the game:
“I challenged him to get 50, and the m*****f****r got 60” – Shaq
In the final moments of the game, there were a few things that the average fan may not have picked up on. Kobe’s final points came at the free throw line with 14 seconds left in the game. So many of Bryant’s signature moments came at the free throw line, including his first NBA point, and the free throws after he tore his achilles. It was certainly fitting that his final point came at the charity stripe with the “MVP” chants in the background.
Another special moment at the end of the game came on Bryant’s final play. Right before he checked out, Kobe got a steal and launched the ball down court to a streaking Jordan Clarkson who threw it down at the other end – symbolic of a passing of the torch to the next generation of youngsters. Believe it or not, on Kobe Bryant’s final play in an NBA game, he recorded an assist.
As Bryant checked out of the game, he embraced D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Jordan Clarkson all at once – another moment where you see a legend heading off into the sunset, embracing the next generation.
After the game, Kobe Bryant came to the center of the court, and spoke to the fans who have been loyal to him throughout his legendary career. The speech was memorable to say the least, and ended with one of the greatest mic drop’s in history.
Kobe Bryant would have loved to end his career competing for a championship. But, that just wasn’t in the cards for him. So instead, he went out in the most Kobe Bryant way possible. He put on a show for the whole world to watch, scored an unimaginable 60 points, hit the game winner, and was the hero one final time.