Kobe Bryant had many unforgettable moments during his 20-year NBA career. In wake of his tragic death, our NBA.com Staff shares their favourite memory of the legend.
Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles): Kobe Bryant scoring 81 points against the Toronto Raptors.
I didn't actually watch the game live because I was a 14-year-old living in Belgium at the time, so I wasn't waking up at 4:30 a.m. on a school day to watch West Coast games on League Pass. But what I did do was wake up every morning and sit in front of my computer screen for about 15-20 minutes, combing through every box score and watching every highlight from the games the night before. I did it because I was obsessed with the NBA, but it was also my way of catching up with everything that was going on so my basketball coach, who is the person who got me into this sport and has been a huge inspiration to me my entire life, and I could talk about it all whenever we saw each other.
Nothing was off-limits in those conversations - we talked about every team, every player, every game - but our conversations about Kobe always seemed to start the same way: "Did you see what Kobe did last night?"
And those conversations happened a lot. His 81 points against the Raptors will always stand out because it was a historic moment - it also happened on my birthday, so I'll forever be convinced it was Kobe's gift to me - but there always seemed to be something to talk about with Kobe, whether he was setting an NBA record or taking three shots in the second half of a win or go home playoff game to maybe prove a point?
That's how I'll always remember Kobe.
Not only for his on-court greatness, but the conversations and debates he sparked.
8️⃣1️⃣#OTD in 2006, Kobe dropped 81 PTS in an epic performance 🐍 pic.twitter.com/jH1aU7MefP- NBA TV (@NBATV) January 22, 2020
Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13): I can't think of a more perfect or fitting end to a playing career than Kobe dropping 60 points on 50 shots in front of an absolutely raucous STAPLES Center crowd, including 23 (whaddup, Jordan!) in the 4th quarter.
That game had everything you could possibly want from a Bryant performance.
The oohs and aahs as he dropped impossible shots from angles that defied geometry.
The "heat check" jumpers that just kept going in, one after the other.
The looks of astonishment from onlookers - Shaquille O'Neal, Jack Nicholson, Jay-Z, even his own teammates who themselves couldn't believe what was happening.
The enthusiastic chuckles and admiration from both Mike Tirico and Hubie Brown who called the game for ESPN and in the moment became fans of something far greater than anyone saw coming.
The unrelenting tenacity of Bryant himself fighting through exhaustion to deliver his best in the pivotal moments and sink the ultimate game-winner.
The two and a half minute thank you speech to the crowd afterwards, the overwhelming two-way sense of love and appreciation between a player and a fan base, a bond truly unlike any other. "Mamba out."
There is so much I'll think about whenever I reflect upon the name Kobe Bryant, much of which now transcends anything beyond basketball. But whenever I think of his exploits on the floor, this game more than any other will be the one I'll cherish most fondly.
Leandro Fernández (@FernandezLea): As every other NBA fan, there are so many memories to filter through. There's no other way to put it: Kobe was (it's so difficult to not write "is") a basketball god, someone who was far more than a number on a jersey. Even if you were a Boston Celtics fan, you couldn't help but appreciate Kobe for how great he was as an opponent. Even if he was the reason a fan's team lost, you sort of felt honoured to beat by someone like Kobe.
But my memory is fresh in this case. After the stunning news on Sunday, I've spent my hours reading, watching and listening to Kobe. But not the MVP that was dunking and hitting fadeaways all over the court. I was listening to the post-retirement version of Kobe, who is right now my favourite Kobe.
I was and still am learning about the Kobe who many thought would struggle with a post-basketball life, being a human being as we all are, but he embraced it all. Being a husband. Being a father. Being a constant example for his girls, for his family, for every other human being. I'm learning from THAT Kobe, the one who was always reflecting on life, on fatherhood, on his family, on the things that matter the most - instilling wisdom upon those willing to listen. The Kobe who was telling everybody that there is a way to be an MVP, a passionate and hard-working person, even beyond basketball.
It's natural to find the real value of life when something bad happens. In fact, we are probably doing it right now. How many of us went to hug or kiss someone we love right after finding out about this tragedy? I'm guessing a lot. (I sure did).
And yet, Kobe didn't need something like this to live his life the way we are supposed to - at 110% in every aspect, caring about the real important things. He was a devoted father and husband. He was someone that many, myself included, would like to be.
No, not the basketball superstar. I want to be like this last version of Kobe, the human Kobe. Kobe the father we saw.
That will always be my favourite one.
Sergio Rabinal (@S_Rabinal): Choosing a single moment in a career that spanned more than two decades is not easy. However, one moment that jumps out to me is the game-winner Kobe hit against the Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the 2006 playoffs.
I remember seeing the game the next morning - the problems of living in the other part of the world (Spain) - and feeling that this was his moment, the moment in which he would define the course of the game, for better or worse. Kobe took the ball and headed towards the hoop to take a difficult midrange shot with less than one second. And he made it.
After hugging with his teammates, an ecstatic Bryant screamed while hitting his chest.
A picture is worth a thousand words.
I remember myself trying to repeat that sequence after watching the game over and over again, just me, the ball and the basket. It's those kinds of moments that show just how impactful Kobe was.
Juan Estéves (@JuanEstevez90): He had many more memorable games and shots, but there wasn't a Kobe moment I enjoyed more than his last quarter against the Utah Jazz, which included a two-minute stretch in which he scored 13 straight points.
There, we saw both sides of his identity: Kobe's relentlessness as a scorer and his will to boost his team at the most difficult and clutch moments. That night, he was both #8 and #24.
To have scored 60 points in his final game shows how much of an offensive machine he was, and his speech afterwards was the perfect ending for what it felt like a Hollywood movie.
Augustín Aboy (@AboyAgustin): Difficult as it is to pick one moment, I'll never forget Kobe's last game.
It was weird for me to see Kobe during his last season, battling injuries and playing for a Los Angeles Lakers team that was out of the big picture. I'd always admire him because of his skills, but I'd never cheered for him during a game.
As a kid and a teenager, I always wanted the Lakers or Team USA to lose. But on that final night against Jazz, it was the right time to fully enjoy him as a fan. And he made it look like the end of a Hollywood movie, dropping 60 points with an incredible performance in the last quarter.
It was the Mamba Mentality on display, doing everything he could to end his career being a beast and getting a win.
Even with the odds against him, Kobe still came out with one big show. I couldn't imagine him leaving the NBA in another way.
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