Top 5 iconic moments of Kobe Bryant's illustrious 20-year career
13 April 2016 – the end of an era, a legacy. It’s the last time Kobe Bryant will ever don a Los Angeles Lakers jersey. It’s the end of the road for one of the fiercest, ruthless and die-hard competitive players the NBA has ever seen. It’s the last day of a successful and storied 20-year association between Bryant as a player with the game of basketball.
Also read: Top 10 Regular season scorers in NBA History
It’s going to be an emotional day for Kobe Bryant fans. Having said that, this was a long time coming after Bryant announced his retirement on November 30th, shortly before facing the Indiana Pacers at the Staples Center.
Following the announcement, he’s been getting gifts from every team when he faces them on the road for the final time, he’s been having long introductions in the road arenas and at the end of games he’s been giving out a lot more hugs than you would normally associate with Bryant.
So in tribute to the Black Mamba and his career, here is a compilation of his 5 greatest basketball moments:
#5 The 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors
At the bottom of his heart Kobe Bryant is a flat out scorer. In crunch time he prefers to have the ball in his hands, whether it be to make plays for his teammates or himself.
He has always been the to shoulder responsibility in the time of need and would have the rock himself rather than trust somebody else make the call. We saw a lot of that version of Kobe during the transition years from 2004 to 2007, the years where the Lakers were rebuilding and Bryant was in his physical prime at 27 years old.
It was the 22nd of January 2006 when Bryant scored 81 points (second in league history only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points), leading the Lakers to a 122-104 win over the Toronto Raptors.
The points tally was the most by a Laker, breaking the previous best of 71 by Elgin Baylor. In 42 minutes of playing time, Kobe also amassed 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals and 3 turnovers to along with his record breaking points tally. He shot 28 of 46 (60.86%) from the field, 7 of 13 from beyond the arc (53.8%) and 18 of 20 (90%) from the free throw line.
Bryant in his characteristic way, talks about scoring 81 not being such a big deal:
"It sounds crazy to say...but scoring 81 wasn't surprising to me. I hope people don't take that as being arrogant or whatever the case may be, but you have to understand at my age at that time (27) and being in my physical prime, it wasn't surprising.
“Working all summer the way I did with the track work and the conditioning work and making a thousand jumpers a day, it wasn't surprising."
This game along with his four-game streak of scoring 50+ points in the following season really captured the essence and ease with which Bryant could score.