Five-time NBA champion. Two-time Finals MVP. Three-time Gold Medalist. 2007-08 NBA MVP. 18-time All-Star. 15-time All-NBA. 12-time All-Defensive Team. Two-time scoring champion. Four-time All-Star Game MVP. 1997 Slam Dunk Champion. 1996-97 All-Rookie Team.
As the late, great Kobe Bryant is set for his enshrinement into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend, we take a look at 10 of the best moments from his illustrious career.
In chronological order...
1997, 2003 - First big game and last game vs. Michael Jordan
Dec. 17, 1997 - Kobe's first big game vs. Jordan
During his rookie season, Kobe Bryant had only scored five points in each of his first two matchups against Michael Jordan. It wasn't until his sophomore season that he finally had a breakthrough performance against Jordan. It came in a loss, but Bryant went off for 33 points shooting 12-for-20 from the field and 3-for-5 from 3. Jordan still outperformed his understudy in the win, going for 36 points, five rebounds and four assists.
March 28, 2003 - Kobe's final meeting with Jordan
In Jordan's final season in the NBA, Bryant did not take it easy on a player he often drew comparisons to. Even at 40 years old, Jordan still had some strong outings in that final season, but Kobe made sure to leave Mike with a performance he'd always remember. Bryant torched the Wizards, going off for 55 points shooting 15-for-29 from the field and 9-for-13 from 3. Jordan still put up a team-high 23 points, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep up with a 24-year-old Kobe.
2000 - Game 4 of the NBA Finals
The Lakers had protected home court against Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers in the 2000 NBA Finals, but Bryant was forced to miss Game 3 with an ankle injury and the Pacers took advantage, winning Game 3 to tighten up the series at 2-1.
Bryant played through the pain in a crucial Game 4, but only had six points at halftime with his team trailing by three points. With Shaquille O'Neal in foul trouble, the Lakers needed their 21-year-old guard to step up and he did. Kobe scored 14 points in the second half to help force overtime and with Shaq fouling out in OT, Bryant scored a team-high eight points to help LA secure a close two-point victory on the road.
The Lakers eventually won the series 4-2, giving Bryant his first of five NBA titles.
2001 - Game 1 of Western Conference Finals
In what was expected to be a battle of a series between Shaq and Kobe and Tim Duncan and David Robinson, Bryant set the tone for the Lakers early in this series.
Kobe exploded for 45 points shooting 19-for-35 from the field in a double-double that included 10 rebounds. To this day, Bryant's 45 points in this Game 1 is still the most any opponent has ever scored against the Spurs in the playoffs and the Lakers would go on to sweep San Antonio 4-0 to reach, and win, the 2001 NBA Finals.
2005 - 62 points in three quarters
Kobe Bryant 62, Dallas Mavericks 61.
That's what the scoreboard could have read after three quarters in this contest.
Bryant didn't have to play in the fourth quarter because his performance was so dominant through three quarters that the Lakers built a large enough lead for him to take the final period off. Kobe's 62 points came on 18-for-31 shooting from the field, going 22-for-25 from the free-throw line.
While fans were probably upset that head coach Phil Jackson didn't allow Bryant to chase history, a few weeks later, he made his mark on the all-time single-game scoring list.
2006 - 81 points
There isn't much explanation needed on this one.
Just as the numbers 8 and 24 are associated with Kobe, the number 81 is right there with him.
The second-most points scored in a single game in NBA history and the most ever scored by a guard. 28-for-46 from the field, 7-for-13 from 3, 18-for-20 from the free-throw line in a win over the Toronto Raptors.
2007 - Fourth-straight 50-point game
Kobe scored 65 points in a win over the Trail Blazers. The next game, he scored 50 points in a win over the Timberwolves. The next game, he scored 60 points in a win over the Grizzlies. There's no way he could score over 50 again, right? Wrong.
Bryant then dropped 50 points in a win over the Hornets, marking his fourth-consecutive 50-point game.
All four of the games resulted in wins for the Lakers. All four games were won by single digits.
Later that season, Bryant would go on to win his second-straight scoring title.
2008 - Gold Medal game vs. Spain
Kobe scored 20 points in this Gold Medal game, including 13 clutch points in the fourth quarter to bring the United States to victory over powerhouse Spain and his teammate Pau Gasol.
2009 - 61 points at Madison Square Garden
At the time, Kobe's 61 points set the all-time scoring record at Madison Square Garden as "MVP" chants reigned over him. He was 19-for-31 from the field, 3-for-6 from 3 and shot a perfect 20-for-20 from the free-throw line to lead the Lakers to a victory over the Knicks.
He passed Michael Jordan's opponent scoring record of 55 points and also passed Bernard King's record of 60 points for the most in MSG history. Five years later, Carmelo Anthony would overtake the record for most points at MSG with 62, but Bryant - along with James Harden, as of last season - still holds the record for most points by an opponent with 61.
2013 - The two free throws
One of the most memorable moments of Kobe's toughness came in a regular-season game against the Golden State Warriors on April 12, 2013.
Bryant was fouled on a drive to the hoop, hitting the ground with an injury that would later be confirmed as a torn Achilles. Despite being one of the most brutal injuries an athlete could possibly face, Kobe powered through the pain, stepping to the line to bury a pair of free throws before exiting the game.
2016 - 60 points in his final game
Kobe's final game is one that basketball fans will remember for the rest of our lives.
With the entire basketball universe watching, Bryant put on one last show by dropping 60 points in his final game. He scored 23 of those 60 points in the final quarter to lead the Lakers to a victory - a suiting way to exit the game.
His 60 points are the most in NBA history by a player in their final game and his post-game speech ending with "Mamba Out" will live in our hearts forever.
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