On Wednesday night, Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant put it all on the line in what would be his last game in the NBA against the Utah Jazz. Beforehand, the 20-year veteran was greeted with a speech by Magic Johnson, as well as a video put together that included teammates such as Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol, and many more.
In a night that may very well be remembered for years to come, this was an emotional night for Lakers fans around the nation and the planet. Bryant has been an icon for many, and has been one of the rare athletes that spent his entire career with one franchise.
Before the game, it was announced that Bryant would play 36 total minutes. He would plan on playing the entire first and third quarter, as well as the final six minutes in the second and fourth quarter.
After starting the game, Kobe would start off a mere 0-4 from the field, finally landing one with just about five minutes left in the first quarter.
After that? He would post up his next five shots in insane style. You could tell off the bat that Kobe would continue to let the trigger go in his farewell game at the Staples Center.
By the end of the first quarter, Kobe would lead all players in scoring with 15 points on 5-13 from the field. The Utah Jazz would lead the Lakers 21-19 as well by the end of the quarter.
In the second, Kobe would rest a majority of the quarter, allowing the “future” of the franchise to shine. Among those, the most impressive player in my eyes seemed to be none other than Larry Nance Jr. With 6:13 left in the half, Bryant would check in to the game, receiving one of many standing ovations.
By halftime, the Black Mamba would finish with 22 points on 7-20 from the field while holding his own with 6-8 from the free throw line. The Jazz would ultimately hold a large 57-42 lead over the purple and gold.
Kobe would come out just as strong in the second half, consistently throwing up three pointers. By the end of the third, Kobe would have 37 points on 14-34 from the field in one of the most unique games I’ve ever witnessed.
At this point, even ESPN believed Bryant would be going for 50 points in his final game. Bryant actually went over to Byron Scott and asked to play the fourth quarter, even though he was originally planning on only playing in the final few minutes of the game.
Going into the fourth, Bryant was actually 11-18 from inside the arch, which was impressive considering he ended the game shooting below 50%.
With so many memories in the Staples Center, Bryant was looking for one more. After he got 50+ points, he aimed for one last victory for his fans. With under one minute in the game, the Lakers trailed by only one point.
With 31.6 seconds left? Kobe hit the deep two to give the Lakers their first lead of the game. The Lakers would go on to win the game in astonishing fashion by a score of 101-96.
Say what you want about Kobe’s decline in production or the insignificance of this basketball game, but Bryant will go down as one of the toughest athletes in any given professional sport. Farewell to not only a legend, but a hell of a basketball player, Kobe Bryant.