16 Apr Until The Very End, Kobe Bryant Did It His Way
They say fairy tale endings exist only in Hollywood, but now we know that it can happen on the court, too.
Kobe Bryant’s final appearance at the Staples Center was unforgettable. Nobody ever thought that after 1,345 regular season games played, the Black Mamba still had one last round of ammo left in his arsenal enough to produce a game for the ages. Sure, prior to his 1,346th and final NBA regular season game, former teammate Shaquille O’Neal dared him to score 50:
Absolutely not. Maybe Kobe was just a little modest when he said that. Maybe he really meant not 50 because he was aiming for more. That’s how Kobe Bryant played the game. He did it his way.
Kobe became the oldest player to score 60 points but it wasn’t easy. To get there, he had to put up 50 field goal attempts ( he made 22 of them ). Now that’s the most field goal attempts by any player since Basketball Reference started tallying NBA statistics in 1983. No one, not even Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson or even Michael Jordan dared to put up so many shots. Only Kobe.
Sure, it was a no-bearing regular season game. The Lakers were officially eliminated from the playoffs in record time:
Lakers are officially eliminated from playoff contention. This is earliest they've been eliminated since move to LA. pic.twitter.com/H4PM2Ooxq3
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 11, 2015
And the Jazz were already out of the running for the 8th and final spot when the Rockets won ahead of the Lakers-Jazz game. But for all the spotlight on that final Staples Center appearance of Kobe Bryant, everyone though the game was just going to be as nostalgic as the most elaborate farewell season in Pro sports history. Not for Kobe Bryant.
The night for itself was supposed to be bigger than just Kobe’s farewell. The Golden State Warriors were gunning for the all-time record of 73 wins in a single season. Steph Curry was aiming to become the first player to ever hit 400 three pointers in a single season. The Warriors blew out the Grizzlies to eclipse the standard set by Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Chicago Bulls while Curry put the exclamation point on a spectacular season with 46 points and 10 three pointers, giving him a season total of 402 trifectas. But at the end of the day, it was all about Mamba Day.
Even Twitter broke down while it was happening:
The issue has now been resolved, thank you for your patience. https://t.co/SdU8w4qCbU
— Twitter Support (@Support) April 14, 2016
As a proof that it was because of Mamba Day, the Lakers’ official Twitter account completely disappeared:
.@Lakers is temporarily down. We will continue to tweet Kobe Bryant's final game from this account.
— Lakers Digital (@LakersDigital) April 14, 2016
No, the Lakers’ account didn’t retire along with Kobe Bryant. Bryant was simply amazing even for social media:
Sorry about that, everybody.
Kobe got too hot for the Twitter servers.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 14, 2016
Before he got hot, it appeared as though he would be silently going out in the sunset. Bryant missed his first five shots and then he went on a stretch where he made 15 points in four minutes. Somehow, it seemed like Bryant was just trying to go out firing. Deep inside though, it was a game he might have wanted to win so badly.
This was the worst season in Lakers history and knowing Kobe Bryant, he isn’t proud of it. Critics continue to say that he shortchanged the franchise and the fans for picking up a $48M two year contract when he had nothing more to give. Others say this final season of losing games to celebrate Kobe’s retirement was an atrocity. But Bryant gave all of them and those who paid $10,000 tickets to watch his swan song something worth more than what they could imagine: 60 points in his final NBA game, including the final point of his career to seal the victory:
— Product Hunt (@ProductHunt) April 14, 2016
Nobody would have been able to live in a moment like that. Nobody except the Black Mamba. Until the very end, Kobe Bryant went firing. Remember that the Jazz were up 94-84 with 3 minutes left. And then this happened:
— Usman Khan (SEO) (@UsmanKhanSEO) April 14, 2016
Didn’t Kobe tell basketball: “You asked for hustle, I gave you my heart.”?
Kobe Bryant left his heart on Staple Center on April 14th 2016. He wasn’t going to end his career with the worst season in Lakers’ history. He wanted to be remembered as the one who did it his way. He’s been called selfish for being too offensive minded. But that “selfishness” won the Lakers 5 NBA titles. Many used to say he couldn’t have won a title without Shaq. But he won two with Pau Gasol. He proved everybody wrong, right from draft day when only Jerry West wanted him so badly that they traded Vlade Divac for him. Remember the airballs during his first playoff series as a rookie with the Jazz? He always came back from adversity and did it his way. Playing 66 games this season after two serious injuries at his age is already a marvel in itself. Enduring the criticism all season long for losing and coming up with an epic finale is only something Kobe Bryant can do.
Said Kobe the day after dropping 60 points:
Last night was the final chapter to an incredible story. I walk away at peace knowing my love for the game & this city will never be broken.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) April 14, 2016
The game will never be the same again without the Black Mamba. However, he left us with memories worth cherishing for a lifetime. More importantly, Kobe Bryant taught us to do things our way, regardless of the criticisms.
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