The world was shocked on January 26, 2020 to hear about the untimely and tragic passing of Kobe Bryant. Even if you're not a basketball or Lakers fan, you've probably heard about Kobe Bryant and Mamba Mentality over the years. Below we'll reflect on the top 5 Kobe Bryant moments from his defining career.
During his last game in 2016, Kobe Bryant put on a show scoring 60 points despite going the first six minutes of the game scoreless. As a lifelong Laker, Kobe was looking to showcase his talents one more time and firmly secure his legacy as a Laker. What's more impressive was the fact that Kobe hadn't scored more than 60 points since he scored 61 points against the Knicks in 2009 (that's 7 years!). The Lakers were down by 10 with 2:36 left in the game when Kobe took over, scoring 13 unanswered points that included a 19 foot go-ahead jumper the final minute to secure the victory. After the game, he took to the floor to say goodbye and a thank you for the fans which will go down not only as a defining moment of his career but the NBA who will always remember his final game.
No one can forget Kobe's 81 point game, which was the most amount of points scored in a game since Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game in 1962. Kobe shot over 60% from the field and 90% from the free throw line in the game, which is an insanely effective game considering he took 46 shots. To put it in persepective at just how much Kobe took over the game, the next highest scoring Lakers player scored 13 points the entire game and the Toronto starters scored a combined 68 points. To add to all of this, the pace of a NBA game was much slower in 2006 than it is today so for Kobe to score 81, he had to have capitalized on every opportunity during every possession. The game is not only iconic for Kobe's career, but is considered one of modern NBA's iconic moments.
The Boston Rivalry
When the Lakers lost of the Celtics in 2008 NBA Finals, Laker fans were disappointed but most probably didn't realize that it set the foundation for Kobe's Boston rivalry when the two teams met again just two years later. With the help of Pau Gasol, Kobe helped the Lakers secure a Game 7 in the 2010 NBA Finals with the final game at the Staples Center. Much of the game wasn't pretty, which in the NBA means that it was a gritty, hard fought win. Kobe only shot 6/24 from the field (25% is far below his average) but his 15 free throws and 15 rebounds proved to be huge contributions in their win.
Threepeat in the NBA means winning the NBA championship three times in a row. Given the fluid nature of the league and unpredictability due to injuries, it is rare and an incredible feat for a team to have a threepeat. The Lakers completed a Threepeat in 2002, which was only the fifth time in all of NBA history that a team has won the championship three times in a row. Kobe Bryant played a key role in leading his team towards the championship but had plenty of help from his future Hall of Fame teammate Shaquille O'Neal. Though there was controversy along the way, the journey helped define who Kobe would be as a player for the remaining years of his career.
Injury Free Throws
When we saw Kobe go down in the late fourth quarter in a game against the Warriors in 2013, we knew the injury was bad... and so did Kobe Bryant. It turned out to be a torn Achilles which is probably the worst injury you can suffer as an athlete with many never returning to the sport after suffering such an injury. Kobe Bryant, in true Mamba Mentality fashion, not only refused help but got up on his own, limped back onto the court, and calmly sinked two free throws before heading to the lockerroom. The rest of the sports world watched in appreciation and horror as we all knew that given his age at the time, the injury was probably going to end his career. Kobe went on to not only return to the court but to play another 3 years, which is just massively impressive.