“BREAKING: Kobe Bryant Has Died In A Helicopter Crash”
It’s been a few hours since I saw the TMZ tweet announcing the news that rocked the basketball world.
I am still consumed by disbelief and grief. When I first saw the reports on Sunday, I felt absolutely sick. I mean, it’s Kobe. Kobe. Kobe Bean Bryant. The legend that helped fuel my love for the game of basketball, and he’s gone.
Even as I write this now, it doesn’t feel real. He was less than four years post-retirement. He was enjoying a fruitful and beautiful post-NBA life with his wife and four daughters. And he died far too soon and far too suddenly.
So, in commemoration of the legend Kobe Bryant, this week’s column is dedicated to the Mamba himself.
For the “3” and the “2,” I’m taking a look back at some of the best moments of Bryant’s career. I’ll state now that the “2” probably won’t be too far on the outside of everyone’s knowledge because it’s difficult to find many moments like that in a history like Bryant’s.
Just a little over 14 years ago, Bryant dropped an absurd 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. The 46 shots he took that game gave Bryant the second-highest scoring game in NBA history and the highest of the three-point era.
I could list a hundred examples of Bryant’s scoring ability, but this was the most impressive scoring effort of a career in which the Los Angeles Lakers’ legend scored 33,643 points.
In this one game, Bryant put all of his offensive talents on display. He knocked down seven threes and 18 free throws. He hit countless signature midrange fades and put the entire Lakers team on his back, as he brought them back from being down 18 points in the third.
Kobe Bryant wasn’t just a supreme basketball talent, though. He was an icon. And in our social media driven world, there aren’t too many higher honors than being in one of the most used GIFs on NBA Twitter.
The “Kobe Doesn’t Flinch” GIF shows Bryant unmoved and unbothered as the Orlando Magic’s Matt Barnes pump fakes an inbounds pass just inches away from Bryant’s face.
Not only was this moment purely awesome on Bryant’s part, the popular GIF is also an example of Bryant’s nerves of steel. He was always built for the game’s biggest moments, which was truly on display with his seven NBA Finals trips with the league’s most popular franchise.
An even more iconic “Kobe” moment came with Bryant’s final career game though.
To cap off his 20-year-long career, Bryant dropped 60 points on 50 shots to take down the Utah Jazz. No one else could have had a moment that big or that grand. Kobe Bryant was larger than life, and his final game epitomized just that, as every moment of that day was dedicated to the illustrious career of one of the greatest to ever step on the court.
On April 12, 2013, another unmatched Kobe moment came. Entering game 80 of a disappointing Lakers season, Bryant was coming off of a stretch of particularly heavy minutes. He had averaged 45.5 minutes per game over the last seven games.
Late in the fourth quarter of the game, Bryant crumpled to the ground after he planted his left foot hard when fouled by then-Golden State Warrior Harrison Barnes. Bryant sank two free throws with tears in his eyes, and it was later revealed that he had done so with a torn left achilles.
Not many human beings could do what Bryant did there. He was built for the game’s biggest moments. He was different. He was the ultimate competitor.
On June 17, 2010, the Boston Celtics squared off against Bryant’s Lakers in game seven of the NBA Finals. As a nine-year-old version of me cheered on the Celtics, Bryant and his team dismantled my dreams.
23 points and 15 rebounds later, Bryant was holding a Larry O’Brien Trophy in one hand and a Bill Russell Trophy in the other. That moment marked Bryant’s fifth and final championship, and second and last Finals MVP.
It’s my best and worst memory of Bryant, but now it shows the only thing that matters: Bryant’s status as a legend of life and basketball.
Rest in peace, Kobe.