Thursday, April 14, 2016

Spotlight: Kobe "Black Mamba" Bryant

"You know, I can't believe how fast 20 years went by. This is crazy... What can I say?" Bryant said with a huge smile. "Mamba out."
In the final game of his storied 20-season career, Bryant scored 60 points and hit the winning shot with 31.6 seconds left. He scored 15 of the Lakers' final 17 points. He outscored the opponent by himself (23-21) in the fourth quarter.

The mark had been reached just 31 times since 1963, per Just eight times in the last 11 seasons. And Kobe had five of those. The oldest player to reach 60 until now was Wilt Chamberlain, who had a 66-point game in 1969, at age 32. Kobe is 37.

And, to round out the storybook ending, Bryant led the Lakers to a 101-96 victory against the Utah Jazz in his 1,346th and final regular-season game, punctuating a season-long farewell tour with a performance that even he couldn't fathom.

"It's hard to believe that it happened this way," he said after notching the sixth game of 60-plus points in his career. "I'm still in shock about it."

Bryant's 20th season ultimately amounted to a living wake, but unlike some aging icons, he never retreated from the spotlight. Instead, he remained the Lakers' sole focus, especially as they clung to him for relevancy during their worst season in franchise history (17-65).

And he was never more the focus than Wednesday, starting with the fact that Bryant attempted a career-high 50 shots, his most since taking 47 in 2002. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Bryant became the first player since Rick Barry in February 1967 to attempt at least 50 shots in a game.

Bryant took 58.8 percent of his team's 85 shots, the highest percentage of his team's shots that he has ever taken in a game, even more than when he scored 81 points. In essence, Kobe's final game was so Kobe. He has always been a gunner, firing away as much as he pleases, even excessively.

In terms of his tomorrow, Bryant said he plans to work out, if only to avoid falling into bad habits. He'll work out of his corporate office, where he is ferociously hell-bent on building Kobe Inc. into an empire that one day overshadows his mythical basketball legacy.

He holds the NBA record for the most seasons (20) playing with one franchise for an entire career. Despite a feud between them, Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002. After the Lakers lost the 2004 NBA Finals, O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat. Bryant became the cornerstone of the Lakers, and he led the NBA in scoring during the 2005–06 and 2006–07 seasons. In 2006, he scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors, the second most points scored in a single game in league history behind Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game in 1962. Bryant was awarded the regular season's Most Valuable Player Award (MVP) in 2008. After losing in the 2008 NBA Finals, he led the Lakers to two consecutive championships in 2009 and 2010, earning the Finals MVP Award on both occasions.

Bryant is an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA Team, and 12-time member of the All-Defensive team. His four All-Star MVP Awards are tied for the most in NBA history (winning in 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2011; he shared the 2009 award with Shaquille O'Neal). He also won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1997. He led the NBA in scoring during two seasons, and ranks third on both the league's all-time regular season scoring and all-time postseason scoring lists. At 34 years and 104 days of age, Bryant became the youngest player in league history to reach 30,000 career points. He is also the all-time leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics, he won gold medals as a member of the U.S. national team.

"Dear Basketball"

"Dear Kobe"

More information:
» Business Insider: Kobe Bryant's Insane Work Ethic
» "The greatest? Kobe's complex legacy"
» The Players Tribune: Kobe's Final Game Photo Gallery

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