* This is a repost of my Blog from last year in Tribute to Kobe on the 1 Year Anniversary of his tragic passing.
It has been 2 weeks since Kobe Bryant has passed away and it still doesn't feel real. He might be the last person on this entire planet that anyone could imagine would leave us so early and so suddenly. He was a superhero and superheros are not suppose to die. He was the King of LA, the greatest franchise in all of basketball and home to more stars and celebrities than anywhere in the world.
Well here is my In Depth Blog to pay tribute to some of Kobe's greatest accomplishments on the court and some amazing facts that you may not know about the Black Mamba, as well as some sick video highlights.
I have already talked about Kobe on numerous occasions in my previous blogs ranking him 4th All Time among The Greatest Players Ever here and ranking him the 2nd Greatest Player this Century here (behind Lebron).
It was obvious that Kobe was an amazing father and also enjoyed tremendous success off the court since he retired. He was much more than just a legendary basketball player but for this blog I will focus only on his accomplishments on the hardwood starting with 24 Game Winners and 8 Buzzer Beaters.
24 Game Winners (and 8 Buzzer Beaters)
Kobe has more Game Winners than anyone else in history. And other than a couple drives to the basket, almost all of them were difficult long range shots with a defender (or 2...or 3!) in his face. I cannot list them all but below are 24 of his best ones followed by 8 Game Winning Buzzer Beaters, listed in order of time remaining when he made the shot. (Video Highlights are in chronological order).
1. March 2004 @ Rockets
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 31 seconds
Shot: 22ft Pull Up Fall Away (Defender: Yao Ming)
Kobe dribbles right and is met by Yao at the 3 point line. While off balance going to the right he rises up over Yao for the long 2.
2. January 2010 @ Mavericks
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 29 seconds
Shot: 19ft Jump Shot (Defender: Josh Howard)
After L.A lead by 8 with over 2 min left, Jason Terry makes a 3 and Dirk makes a 2 and a 3 to tie the game. Kobe would then pull up just inside the arc as he has done so many times to hit the Game Winner.
3. April 2003 vs Suns
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 28 seconds
Shot: Stutter Step 21ft Step Back (Defender: Shawn Marion)
First Kobe makes the game tying jump shot to force overtime, then he jab steps and makes a long 2 right in the face of one of the best defenders Shawn Marion.
4. January 2009 @ Rockets
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 27 seconds
Shot: 27ft 3 Pointer (Defender: Shane Battier)
No way through a tough Houston Defense so Kobe rises above the outstretched arms of another elite defender Shane Battier to swish the long 27 ft 3.
5. March 2004 vs Bucks
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 25 seconds
Shot: 20ft Pull Up (Defender: Keith Van Horn)
Kobe gets the switch on to Van Horn and Pulls Up just inside the 3 to win in OT.
6. 2008 Playoffs vs Spurs (Western Semis Game)
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 23.9 seconds
Shot: 9 ft Pull Up Jump Shot (Defenders: Bruce Bowen and Tim Duncan)
His 2nd Game Winner in the playoffs against the Spurs. Kobe scores 14 in the 4th and avoids the Duncan trap and crosses up Bruce Bowen to get in the lane for the short Game Winner.
7. March 2012 vs Hornets
Score: Down 2 Time Left: 20 seconds
Shot: Left Wing Pull Up 27ft 3 Pointer (Defender: Jarrett Jack)
One of the worst shooting games of his career, but he was still the hero scoring 11 4th quarter points including another Game Winning 3.
8. January 2015 vs Pacers
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 12.4 seconds
Shot: Jump Hook in the Lane (Defender: Solomon Hill)
The last Game Winner before his famous finale against Utah, this is a bit different from all the other ones. Instead of a tough pull up shot, Kobe drives, spins and goes for the baby hook in the lane.
9. January 2006 @ Clippers
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 11.4 seconds
Shot: 6ft Driving Runner (Defenders: Whole Team!)
Kobe has 22 4th Quarter points, driving past two defenders and shooting over another 2 to win the game and finish with 50 points.
10. March 2013 vs Raptors
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 10.6 seconds
Shot: Driving Two Handed Dunk (Defenders: Alan Anderson, Aaron Gray)
One of the greatest finishes of his career, Kobe makes 3 impossible 3 pointers in a row to force OT after trailing by 7. Then Vino Mamba gets aggressive in OT as he gets double teamed at the top and just drives around them for a huge two handed Tomahawk Dunk - the only Game Winning Dunk of his Career at age 34!
11. March 2013 vs Hawks
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 9 seconds
Shot: Driving Layup (Defender: Al Horford)
Vino Mamba getting aggressive again with a dunk, 2 free throws and a driving layup with 9 seconds left to win the game by 1.
12. January 2006 vs Cavs
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 8.6 seconds
Shot: 20 ft Jump Shot (Defender: Lebron James)
Kobe shows Lebron how to be clutch scoring 3 straight long 2s in the final 1:30 including an 'In Your Face' pull up from the left wing to win the game. Lebron then misses a free throw and a jumper at the buzzer.
13. December 2002 vs Mavericks
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 8.4 seconds
Shot: Spin Move 16ft Pull Up (Defenders: Jason Terry and Dirk)
Biggest comeback in Laker history, the Mavs were leading by 27 points in the 4th quarter! Kobe scored 21 4th quarter points including the game winner over 2 players as the Lakers outscored the Mavs 44-15 in the 4th to win the game by 2. Oh and the Mavs were an NBA best 17-1 at the time.
14. January 2010 @ Celtics
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 7.3 seconds
Shot: Fall Away 16ft Jump Shot (Defender: Ray Allen)
His only Game Winner against the Celtics, Kobe fakes, leans, fades and nails the tough shot with Ray Allen all over him.
15. 2002 Playoffs @ Spurs (West Semi Finals Game 4)
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 5.1 seconds
Shot: Big Offensive Rebound and Put Back (Defender: David Robinson)
Maybe the best offensive rebound in NBA History, Kobe used all heart and desire to snatch that board from behind his head and put the Lakers up 3-1 on the way to a 3 peat.
16. Feb 2001 @ Nets
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 4.8 seconds
Shot: Driving Layup plus the foul (Defenders: L.Harris, K.Martin & A.Williams )
Kobe had 38 points to stop a Marbury lead comeback with his only Game Winning 3 point play, the old fashioned way.
17. January 2008 vs Sonics
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 4.3 seconds
Shot: 18 ft Jump Shot (Defender: Jeff Green)
Going up against a young Kevin Durant who ties the game with a 3 to force OT. But Kobe would teach the rookie a lesson in OT with 3 straight daggers to turn a 4 point deficit into a 2 point win. Kobe finished with 48 points.
18. February 2010 @ Grizzlies
Score: Down 2 Time Left: 4.3 seconds
Shot: 26ft 3 Pointer (Defender: Rudy Gay)
Kobe scores 9 straight in the last 2 min including 2 threes, the last one on a Pick N Pop with 4 seconds left to win the game.
19. February 2012 @ Raptors
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 4.2 seconds
Shot: 18ft Baseline Turnaround Fadeaway (Defender: James Johnson)
Kobe makes a 3 to pull within 1 and then takes the inbound pass with his back to the basket, goes baseline turns, fades and scores to win the game by 1.
20. January 2009 vs Pacers
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 3 seconds
Shot: 18ft Post Up Fadeaway (Defenders: Jarrett Jack)
Kobe winds down the clock and then posts up Jarret Jack before hitting an easy fadeaway from behind the foul line to finish with 36 points and 13 assists.
21. 2000 Playoffs vs Suns (West Semi Finals Game 2)
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 2 seconds
Shot: 2 Point 13ft Hang Time Pull Up (Defender: Jason Kidd)
Kobe's 1st ever Game Winner was in the playoffs against an All NBA Defender Jason Kidd.
22. March 2010 vs Raptors
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 1.9 seconds
Shot: 17ft Jump Shot (Defenders: Mo Peterson and Bargnani)
Similar to his other shot against the Raps, Kobe makes a high arching tough baseline fadeaway over two defenders - 2 of his 14 4th quarter points. This was his NBA record 7th Game Winner of the 2010 season!
23. March 2005 @ Bobcats
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 0.9 seconds
Shot: 20ft Pump Fake Jumper (Defender: Keith Bogans)
Kobe has a huge 21 points in the 4th to lead a Lakers comeback including a Pump Fake Game Winner with less than a second left.
24. November 2005 @ Nuggets
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 0.6 seconds
Shot: 23ft Pull Up Jumper (Defenders: A.Miller and Najera)
Opening night 2005 and Kwame Brown inexplicably tries to take the game winning shot but luckily he rebounded his own miss and passed to Kobe. Then Kobe, who had 8 pts in the OT makes a tough curling long jumper over 2 defenders with 0.6 sec left.
Now for the 8 best Game Winners...the walk off buzzer beaters that ripped the heart out of his opponents with no chance of a comeback.
(In Chronological Order)
1. February 2002 @ Hornets
Score: Tie Game Time Left: 0 seconds
Shot: Pump Fake 18ft Jumper (Defender: George Lynch)
The 1st walk off Buzzer Beater of his career, this was a typical game where Shaq was dominating the 1st 3 quarters and then Kobe takes over down the stretch. Kobe dribbles right then pump fakes George Lynch and nails the shot while falling to the ground.
2. April 2003 @ Grizzlies
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 0 seconds
Shot: One Dribble 21ft Pull Up Jumper (Defender: Shane Battier)
Once again Shaq dominates 3 quarters and Kobe takes over in the 4th with the Lakers making a huge comeback from 23 down! Lead by Kobe, the Lakers would outscore the Grizzlies 36-12 in the 4th including Kobe's clutch long jumper over Battier as time expired.
3. December 2003 vs Nuggets
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 0 seconds
Shot: Pump Fake Hanging 21ft Jumper (Defender Jon Barry)
No idea what the Nuggets were thinking putting Jon Barry on Kobe for the last shot. Kobe pump fakes and rises easily to make yet another long 2 at the buzzer.
4. April 2004 @ Blazers
Score: Down 2 Time Left: 0 seconds
Shot: High Arching Falling Down 3 (Defender: Theo Ratliff)
Arguably his greatest ever buzzer beater and definitely the most meaningful one in the regular season, this was classic Kobe. The Lakers were 4th in the West coming in and had to win to jump to 2nd. First Kobe gives up the dribble but still makes an impossible 3 with Ruben Patterson all over him with just 1 second left to force OT.
Then in OT Damon Stoudamire scores 7 straight points including a layup with just 2 seconds left to put the Blazers up 2. With the crowd chanting 'Beat LA, Beat LA', Kobe takes the inbound pass, turns and makes an equally impossible high arching 3 to silence the crowd and secure another division title.
5. 2006 Playoffs vs Phoenix (1st Round Game 4)
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 0 seconds
Shot: Elbow Pull Up 17ft Jumper (Defenders: Raja Bell and Boris Diaw )
Kobe's most memorable and dramatic Buzzer Beater. First after an improbable steal, Kobe ties the game with a much harder than it looks running floater to force OT. Then who could forget the jump ball and then dribble drive to the elbow and classic Kobe Pull Up over the double team to send the crowd into delirium. And right after this unforgettable game little Gianna Bryant was born.
6. December 2009 vs Heat
Score: Down 2 Time Left: 0 seconds
Shot: Running sideways Bank Shot 27ft 3 (Defender: Dwyane Wade)
Probably his most famous regular season Game Winner, it was Kobe vs D-Wade who were the two best guards in the league. Kobe scores 17 of his 33 in the 4th including a dramatic improbable 3 off the glass right in Dwyane Wade's face at the buzzer.
7. December 2009 @ Bucks
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 0 seconds
Shot: Turn Around 16ft Jumper (Defender: Charlie Bell)
The week after the Heat game and Kobe hits another walk off. The Bucks go up 6 in OT with just over a minute left. What does Kobe do? He scores 5 straight points to pull within 1 and then with 5 seconds left Kobe would dribble to the left side, turn, fake left, turn right and bury the shot as time expires.
8. January 2010 vs Kings
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 0 seconds
Shot: 25ft 3 Point Jumper (Defender: Nobody!)
It's New Year's Day just a couple weeks after the Bucks game and Kobe with another Walk Off 3. But after more than a decade filled with tough shots and defenders in his face, Kobe's finally gets a wide open shot! Lakers were down 2 with 4 seconds left to inbound the ball and the Kings get confused on the switch leaving Kobe wide open behind the arc. Nothing but net.
So that is 8 incredible buzzer beaters, and of course 7 out of 8 of those games, the Lakers were down 1 or 2 so there was even more pressure.
Now there is another famous Game Winner which I did not cover. Of course it is his very last game where he scored 60.
April 2016 vs Jazz
Score: Down 1 Time Left: 32 seconds
Shot: 19ft Pull Up 2 Point Jumper (Defenders: Gordon Hayward & Trey Lyles)
Kobe would save his most memorable moment for last scoring 17 straight points in the 4th to lead the Lakers back from 10 pts down including a huge 3 and of course the dagger over Hayward which sent Snoop Dog and the whole crowd crazy.
So that's 24 Game Winners, 8 Walk Off Buzzer Beaters and 1 Final Game which equals 33 - Kobe's Famous Number from Lower Merion High School.
Now lets look at 8 Incredible Individual Feats with Video Highlights (not including his 5 championships!)
8 Incredible Feats
1. Mr. All Star
Kobe Bryant was a part of All Star Weekend since his rookie year when as a young brash 18 year old, he stole the show in the Rookie Game with a Game High 31 points and followed it up in the Slam Dunk competition with a between the legs tomahawk dunk, flexing his muscles to the crowd as they cheered.
At the time nobody would have guessed this would be the beginning of the next legendary player in this league. The very next year before he even started for his own team, he was voted into start opposite Michael Jordan at 19 years old, still to this day the youngest All Star ever selected. And boy did he not back down from MJ going right at him at every chance and finishing with a Western Conference High 18pts including several highlight plays (and he was not put back in the game in the 4th quarter or else he would have scored even more). Yes a 19 year old kid who had not yet started for the Lakers was the top scorer on a squad with Karl Malone, Garnett, Shaq, Duncan, Robinson, Payton and a bunch of veteran All Stars!
Kobe had arrived.
He would be voted into start a record 18 consecutive times by the fans showing just how great and popular he was over 2 full decades. And if there was not a lockout season in 1999 he would have made 19 straight games. He would also win 4 MVP's which is another All Star record, even sharing one with Shaq and giving the trophy to Shaq's son Shareef which helped to mend their relationship.
And in 14 games that he actually played proper minutes, the West went 10-4 against the East as Kobe would always ensure the game was played the right way with passion and maximum effort (unlike today's game). He would end his All Star Career 2nd All Time in Points scored and 1st in Steals.
2. vs Michael Jordan
A couple months before he would meet MJ in his 1st All Star Game, Kobe would go head to head in his 1st real chance to show what he was made of as the coach gave him almost 30 min of playing time. And of course at 18 years old Kobe would show MJ he was coming, with a Career High 33 pts on 60% shooting. The two time defending champion Bulls naturally won that game but Kobe had announced himself to Jordan and the world with his fearless performance.
Fast forward to 2003 and now it's Jordan's last game and Kobe was entering his prime. But do you think Kobe would go easy on a 40 year old MJ? No chance! MJ could still play and started the game hot making his 1st 4 shots and scoring 17 in the 1st half. But Kobe went nuclear scoring 42 points in the 1st half alone, making a Career Best 8 first half 3 pointers. Jordan would finish with 23 and Kobe with a double nickle 55 including 9-12 from 3.
Kobe would of course pass his idol in All Time Scoring on December 14th, 2014 eventually finishing his Career with 33,643 points, now 4th All Time (after Lebron just passed him) and the most for any one franchise.
3. 9 Game 40 Point Streak
Not a lot of people know about this streak which he shares with Michael Jordan for the longest 40 point streak since the NBA/ABA Merger in 1976 (and only Wilt had a longer streak before the merger). And no this wan't one of those streaks when he was with no All Stars in the mid 2000s. This was younger Kobe playing with Shaq for most of the games.
It started on February 6th at where else but Madison Square Garden, with Kobe getting 46 points on 63% shooting and 4-4 from 3 in a 114-109 point win (Shaq had 33). Then in a home and home series with Denver he would get 42 at home and 51 on the road in two more wins (Shaq had 20 and 18 pts). Then the Lakers would suffer their only 2 losses of the streak against the Spurs and Knicks but Kobe still had 44 and 40 points making it five 40 pt games straight.
Shaq would miss the next game against the Rockets and Kobe took over with 52 points in a 106-99 win. Shaq would also miss the following game and Kobe would get 40 in a tough defensive road win against the Jazz. Shaq would then return and Kobe still gets 40 (Shaq 24) in another grind out win over a talented Portland team, followed finally by 41 more points in another tough win against the Sonics. Kobe would get 32 in the next game against the Clippers to end the streak at 9.
He would later state that he could have easily kept the streak going but Phil Jackson stated that Shaq was getting a bit frustrated and jealous that the offense was running through Kobe so he implored him to stop the streak and keep the Big Fella happy.
He would finish the year leading the Lakers in scoring over Shaq, averaging over 30ppg for the 1st time.
4. 4 Game 50 Point Streak
Yes a 9 game 40 point streak was NOT Kobe's best streak....his crazy 65pts,50pts,60pts,50pts explosion in 2007 is the craziest 7 days of basketball we have ever seen (not including Wilt of course).
It all started on a Friday night against Portland when Kobe torched them for 65 points - 2nd most of his career. He shot 60% and made 8-12 3 pointers and 11-12 from the free throw line in the huge comeback overtime win. Kobe dominated the 4th quarter with 24 points and the Lakers were trailing 96-89 with under 2 minutes in regulation. Kobe then nailed a 3 to cut it to 4 and then another 3 to cut it to 1 with 49 seconds left. Portland goes up 3 again and of course Kobe makes his 3rd 3 in a row to force overtime. In OT he would dominate scoring 9 points including an impossible twisting turning fading 3 from the corner to give the Lakers the lead for good.
He followed that up with a 50 point gem against the KG lead Wolves in a 109-102 win. And it must be said his teammates during this time other than Odom were just lucky to even make an NBA roster. Luke Walton would complete the starting lineup with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown - maybe the 2 worst starters ever in history! Kobe single handedly dragged these scrubs to the playoffs on more than 1 occasion.
After dominating the Wolves it was on to Memphis where Kobe scored 60 pts for the 2nd time in 3 games and 4th time in his career (at the time), in another tight 2 point win. He would have 2 more memorable 60 point performances to make 6 total for his Career.
And finally another 50 against Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets to complete a perfect 4-0 record stretch where he would score 225 points - 2nd most ever in a 4 game stretch behind Wilt. The streak would finally end in the next game but Kobe still put up 43 in a 2 point win against the Warriors.
5. 11 All NBA 1st Teams AND 9 All Defensive 1st Teams
Kobe has 20 1st team selections when combining All NBA with Defensive 1st Team and NOBODY has matched this in history. Not Jordan, not Lebron, not Kareem...nobody.
This is a testament to what Kobe Bryant was on both sides of the ball. He would always guard the other team's best player, lock him up AND give him 40 on the other end. His 11 All NBA 1st Teams are 2nd All Time and his 9 All Defense Teams are tied 1st. He was All NBA 1st Team 11 times in a 12 year period only missing 2005 when he only played 66 games. He also made two 2nd teams in 2000/2001 and altogether he made 15 All NBA Teams which is tied 1st All Time.
When you add in his 5 championships and 18 All Star selections to his offensive and defensive accolades, it is hard to argue that Kobe is not a Top 5 player All Time.
6. 81 Points, 2nd Most Points Ever
Without a doubt the most memorable moment of Kobe's Career and in my opinion the greatest game ever played by any single player. He scored 55 out of 73 2nd half points for the Lakers, He scored 27 in the 3rd and 28 in the 4th!...His teammates literally made 2 shots in the 3rd and Odom made one 3 pointer in the 4th and that was it! The rest was all Kobe every time and the Raptors couldn't do anything about it.
And it was mostly tough shots, deep 3s, long 2s and a variety of fadeaways and pullups, with a couple drives to the rim for good measure. He made 8 straight shots in the 3rd as the crowd lost their mind before finishing the 3rd with a breakaway dunk to send the crowd into delirium. In the 4th he was even better scoring 28 as the Lakers pulled away for the win.
And the most important part was that the Lakers needed every single point. It was an 18 point Raptor lead in the 3rd quarter but by the time Kobe was done it was the Lakers that won by 18 points.
When compared with Wilt's 100, there is a strong case that Kobe's 81 was more impressive considering the big comeback as well as the difficulty of the shots and overall efficiency. Wilt needed 63 shots and 32 free throws to get 100 and he played all 48 minutes even though it was a blowout win. And there was some major stat padding in the 4th with teammates even fouling on purpose to stop the clock and get the ball back to Wilt even though they were up 20!
Kobe on the other hand needed only 46 shots for his 81 (making 28 at 61%) even though he took much tougher shots than Wilt and he lead a huge comeback win. In my opinion Kobe's 81 is easily the better game and the best individual game ever.
* Little Known Fact: Kobe's Grandma had flown in from Philadelphia to watch her grandson live for the 1st time in her life. His Grandma had never even seen a high school game of his so you knew Kobe had extra motivation to put on a show for her first NBA experience.
7. Redeem Team Olympic Gold Clutch Performance
The 2008 Olympic Team was coming off an embarrassing 3rd place finish in the previous Olympics and an even more embarrassing 6th place finish at the 2006 World Championships. Kobe Bryant had not played in the previous two Olympics but was determined to make up for those inexplicable losses, hence the name Redeem Team.
Team USA strolled to the finals but in the gold medal game it was anything but straight forward as the talented Spain squad lead by the Gasol Brothers, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro and a young Ricky Rubio gave them all they could handle. It was a 2 point game in the 4th quarter when many of Team USA's stars started to freeze up and get tight.
Enter Kobe who declared it was his time to take over promptly scoring 13 of his 20 points in the 4th including the most clutch 4 point play you will ever see to keep USA ahead. He used a jab step to bait Rudy Fernandez before rising up and swishing the triple while Fernandez, Spain's leading scorer on the night fouled out. He completed the 4 point play and then scored a floater and a technical free throw in the last minute also finishing with a team high 6 assists.
Team USA would eventually pull away 118-107 to reclaim their place on top of the basketball world and just like so many times in the All Star Game, Kobe Bryant's Star shone the brightest, especially in the closing minutes of the 4th.
8. 3 More Memorable 60 Point Games
We have already discussed 3 out of 6 of Kobe's 60 point games - 2 during his 4 game 50 point streak and of course the 81. But there are 3 more 60 point performances, all historical in their own right.
First up, his famous 62 points in 3 quarters against the Mavs in 2005 where he outscored the whole Dallas team by himself 62-61 after 3! Kobe was already cooking in the 1st half with 32 points, but then he went Full Mamba Mode in the 3rd outscoring Dallas 30-13 himself! He finished 19-31 from the field and 22-25 from the free throw line but the Lakers were so dominant that he sat the whole 4th quarter. No doubt if the Mavs could have kept the game competitive, the way Kobe was feeling it he could have easily scored even more than the 81 he would record a few weeks later.
Another legendary 60 point game was at where else but Madison Square Garden where he set the opponent record with 61pts against the Knicks more than a decade ago. This was the last 60 or even 50 point game from Kobe before his fairy tale finale and it was when he was at his absolute Peak in 2009, coming off an MVP season and on his way to his 1st title and 1st Finals MVP without Shaq.
That night Kobe was probably more focused and intense then any other regular season game of his career. Kobe was having a great season coming off a Gold Medal in Beijing and the Lakers were rolling with a 37-9 record. But their young talented 21 year old Center Andrew Bynum had just suffered an injury which threatened to derail the Lakers season.
Kobe saw his teammates were a bit down going into New York and was laser focused on that game to show his team that the Lakers still got this and nothing was going to stop them on their pursuit of a title after the crushing defeat from the Celtics the previous year. Kobe would not talk to anyone before and during the game and was in full Mamba Mode making crazy shots from all over the floor as he destroyed the Knicks shooting 64% (16-25) and a perfect 20-20 from the line. He had the Madison Square Garden crowd absolutely mesmerized with oohs and aahs and even MVP chants as Kobe made twisting, turning, hanging, fading... impossible shot after impossible shot. And the craziest thing is the very next morning he was in a New York Gym at 5:30am working out! NOBODY does that, but that WAS Kobe.
This amazing performance would propel him and the team to a 65-17 record, 11 games clear in the West as he would stomp to his 4th title easily beating the Orlando Magic 4-1 in the Finals.
And of course last but not least the greatest final game played by any athlete in any sport, Kobe's magical 60 points including clutch basket after clutch basket in his final ever game.
On the same night Golden State were going for an NBA record 73 wins while the Lakers had won just 16 games but nobody gave a shit about the Warriors and EVERYONE tuned into to see Kobe and boy did he not disappoint. He gave every ounce of energy he had left for that final game taking a Career High 50 shots and 21 3 pointers as he willed his much less talented team over the Jazz. And of course in the 4th quarter when it mattered most the Mamba delivered, taking over in the clutch turning a 10 point deficit in the final 2 minutes into a 5 point win.
After Kobe made a short 2 and another 2 on a drive to the rim the Jazz would score for the final time for a 10 point lead with 2:36 on the clock but it would be the last score they would make. Kobe would then go nuts scoring 13 straight points including a layup, jumpshot, huge 3 to pull within 1 and another tough pull up from just inside the arc to finally take the lead for the first time since the 1st quarter. He would add 4 free throws including the final 2 to ice it for points 59 and 60 in a game you had to see to believe.
How fitting that his finale would be against the same team that he famously shot 3 airballs against as a teenager almost 20 years ago. His Career had finally come full circle and the world would witness a performance that we will never see again.
Bonus: 81 Amazing Facts
Finally here is a Bonus 81 Amazing Facts about Kobe, one for each number of his legendary game:
1 Regular Season MVP in 2009 on his way to his 4th title.
2 Finals MVPs and 2 Gold Medals.
3 Titles in a row from 2000-2002, joining the legendary Bulls and Celtics.
4 All Star Game MVP's which is an NBA record.
5 Gold Championship Rings.
6 Games to beat the Indiana Pacers for his 1st championship in 2000.
7 Games to best the Boston Celtics for his last championship in 2010.
8 Buzzer Beating Game Winners with no time left.
9 40 point games in a row in 2003, 2nd All Time to Wilt for consecutive 40 pt games.
10 years playing in No. 8 and 10 years playing in No. 24 - Both Hall of Fame Careers on their own.
11 All NBA 1st Team Selections, 2nd most All Time.
12 All Defensive Teams including an NBA record 9 1st Team selections.
13th pick in the 1996 draft at just 17 years old.
14 year prime between 2000-13, Kobe made 15 All NBA Teams and 12 All Defense Teams scoring almost 29,000pts and averaging 28ppg.
15 All NBA Team Selections (11 First, 2 Second, 2 Third Team), tied most All Time.
16 Player of the Month Awards.
17 Assists Career High.
18 All Star Selections, 2nd most All Time and most starting selections (18) All Time.
19 years old, the youngest ever All Star.
20 Seasons in the league, all with the Lakers.
21 Career Triple Doubles.
22.9 Career Player Efficiency Rating (P.E.R).
23 His Idol Michael Jordan.
24 2nd Half points in Game 6 of the 2010 Conference Finals. Kobe made some of the most difficult and clutch shots of his career to close out the Suns.
25.2 Career Scoring Average.
26 50 Point Games including one playoff game.
27 pts in winning his 3rd All Star MVP with Shaq. He would give the trophy to Shaq's son Shareef.
28 Field Goals Made (Career High and most since NBA Merger) in his record 81 Point Game.
29 years old he became the youngest player ever to score 20,000 points beating Wilt by 12 days.
30.2 ppg scoring average in the 2009 playoffs on his way to his 4th title.
31 pts in the Rookie All Star Game at 18 years old. Kobe also won the slam dunk contest and he also scored 31pts in winning 2 of his 4 All Star Game MVPs.
32 ppg average in the 2009 Finals - his highest Finals PPG and his 1st Finals MVP.
33 Player of the week awards and also his number in High School.
34 years old when he tore his Achilles and famously got up and still made his 2 free throws.
35.4 Career High scoring average in 2006 behind only MJ at the time since the merger.
36 min per game for his Career.
37 pts for his 4th and final All Star MVP in 2011. He also added 14 rebounds, both highs for him in the ASG.
38.3% 3P shooting in 2003 (his best 3P% year) where he averaged 30ppg.
39 years old when he won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film 'Dear Basketball'.
40 point games in his career: 122 (3rd most after Wilt and MJ).
41 ppg in Feb 03 (9 straight 40 pt games)
42 pts against OKC in his last ever playoff game in 2012.
43.4 ppg his scoring average for a full month in Jan 2006, better than any month ever from MJ.
44 pts in November 2014, his only 40 point game after his Achilles injury before his 60 point finale.
45 pts in Game 1 of the 2001 WCF on the road against the Spurs on his way to a 4-0 sweep (Still a Spurs opponent scoring playoff record to this day).
46 shot attempts needed in his 81 point game (Wilt needed 63 shots and 32 free throws for 100pts).
47 pts at Portland playing all 48 min (at almost 35 years of age) in the game before he ruptured his Achilles tendon. It was the Lakers 6th win in 7 as Kobe was determined to carry the Lakers to the playoffs.
48 pts vs Kings in '01 playoffs to complete a 1st round sweep. That was the game before he had 45 against the Spurs in a 2nd round sweep.
49 3 Pointers made in the 2010 playoffs, his Career Best Year for 3s.
50 pts vs the Suns in the 2006 playoffs, his playoff Career High.
51 pts in a famous duel with Antawn Jamison and GS in 2000 - Kobe's 1st 50pt game. Jamison would also score 51 in the only game in history where opposing players both scored 50.
52 min played vs Suns in his 50 pt playoff game - the most minutes of his playoff career.
53 pts in both home games vs Houston in the same season in 2007, only player since merger to score 50+ in both home games against the same team.
54 min 3 times in his career, which is his most min played in 1 game. And of course Kobe scored 50+ in all 3 of those games!
55 Double Nickel game in his last game against MJ in 2003 including 42 in the 1st half!
56 wins in 2001 on his way to back to back championships going a dominant 15-1 in the playoffs.
57 wins in 2010 on the way to his 5th and final title.
58 points in a Triple OT game vs Charlotte
59 other players in NBA History have had more than 1 50 point game in the regular season and Kobe has 25 which is 3rd most All Time.
60 pts in the greatest final game performance ever for any sport.
61 pts against the Knicks in 2009 - a Madison Square Garden record for an opponent.
62 pts in 3 quarters against the Mavs in 2005, outscoring the Mavs himself 62-61 - the only player ever to outscore an entire team after 3 quarters!
63 games in a row with 20+ points in 05-06.
64 pts Kobe and Shaq would combine for in the pivotal Game 4 of the 2000 Finals. Shaq fouled out and Kobe on an injured ankle takes over with 4 big shots in OT to give the Lakers a 3-1 lead on their way to a 1st title.
65 wins in 09 without Shaq and also 65pts vs Portland - 2nd most of his Career.
66 games played in his last season where he was honoured in every arena he visited in the biggest farewell tour of All Time.
67 wins in 2000 on his way to his 1st championship, the most regular season wins in his career.
68 pts Kobe scored in just one half of a famous exhibition charity game in China in 2012. Kobe only played the 2nd half and went 29-33 from the field in just 15 minutes!
69 combined points in Game 1 and 2 of the NBA Finals against Orlando including 40 in Game 1 which is his highest scoring Finals game.
70 total assists in all his All Star Games
71 pts Kobe (36pts) and Shaq (35 pts) combined for in Game 3 of the 2002 Finals to bury the Nets on their way to a sweep and 3 Peat. This was their best ever game together along with the 71pts they also put up against the Spurs in Game 3 of a sweep in 2001.
72 Career V.O.R.P - Value over Replacement Player (16th All Time)
73 wins by Golden State on the same night as Kobe's Finale and nobody cared!
74 pts - Kobe's 81 point game if you don't include 3s - still good for the 3rd highest game ever, and almost all on long jump shots (compared to layups and dunks for Wilt).
75 total rebounds in all his All Star Games
76 pts in 2 big road games of the 2009 Western Conference Finals against the Nuggets. Kobe had 41 in Game 3 to gain back home court and then 35 in Game 6 on the road to put the Nuggets away.
77 Total playoff wins in his 5 title runs (Lakers went 77-26 in those 5 titles)
78 The Year of Kobe's Birth
79 Games played in his 2nd season with only 1 start. But Kobe was still voted to start the All Star Game that year at just 19 years old.
80 pts in his last 2 playoff games of his Career against OKC (38+42pts)
81 pts vs the Raptors in 2006, 2nd most points of All Time