On Sunday, January 26th, 2020 the world was hit with the shocking and tragic news that the great Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter, Gianna, and seven others in Calabasas, California.
The NBA superstar shooting guard and son of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania blazed a brilliant trail of excellence during his twenty-year career as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, who traded for him after he skipped college to go to the draft in 1996. Bryant would spend those years amassing a multitude of honors which included being a five-time NBA champion, an eighteen-time All-Star, league MVP in 2008, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist along with being posthumously named to the league’s 75th Anniversary team and the Basketball Hall of Fame.
While there are many highlights that make up the weight of his career, here are the five most essential moments that prove how unique and legendary Kobe Bryant truly was.
1)NBA All-Star Game, February 8th, 1998
The entry of Kobe into the league took everyone by storm, and by his second year it was apparent that the 19-year old was destined for greatness after winning the Slam Dunk title as a rookie the year before, and his first-ever appearance as the youngest All-Star starter for the Western Conference in the league’s history at Madison Square Garden in New York City set the stage for it. Adding to the drama of the moment was how his presence with Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls on the Eastern Conference squad represented a passing of the torch. Kobe would prove to be unfazed by the moment, becoming the leading scorer for the West with 18 points.
2)Game 4, 2000 NBA Finals
The tandem of Hall-of-Famer center Shaquille O’Neal and Bryant was explosive on and as the public would learn, off the court. But under the stewardship of Phil Jackson as their head coach, Bryant was able to truly seize upon that superstar ability. In their 2000 NBA Finals series against the Indiana Pacers, Shaq’s dominance looked to be the sole storyline. That is, until Game 4. Bryant would score 22 points in the second half after coming back from an ankle injury sustained in Game 2, and when O’Neal fouled out in the overtime period, he stepped up to make the clutch winning basket sealing the victory which led to the Lakers winning their first NBA title since 1988.
3)81 Points, January 22nd, 2006
The second-greatest single-game scoring performance only to Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point game in the history of the NBA, Kobe scored 81 points in a home game at the Staples Center (now Crypto.com Arena) against the Toronto Raptors. Consider these two attributes to this striking feat – Bryant was effectively creating his own shots and scoring while drawing a considerable amount of defense, scoring 55 of those points in the second half alone to get his 81 on 28 for 46 from the field. Also, the Lakers were down 14 points at halftime and would go on to win the game 122-104.
4)2008 Beijing Olympics – The Golden Run
Kobe Bryant’s stint as an Olympian was epic, with the signature moment coming against Spain’s national men’s team in the gold-medal game during the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing, China. With the eyes of the world watching Team USA up by two against the Spaniards with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Kobe hit a classic jumper and would go on to score 13 of his 20 points to go with three assists and two blocked shots to seal the victory and gain redemption for the men’s squad which had suffered an ignominious defeat on the way to earning the bronze in the previous Games in Athens. The iconic run featured Kobe nailing a clutch 3-pointer and getting fouled in the process, resulting in him “shushing” Spain’s fans by raising a finger to his lips afterward.
5)60 Points In His Final game, April 13th, 2016
For someone as legendary as Bryant, his final game ever as an NBA player was a must-see event. Bryant did not disappoint in the slightest, scoring 60 points against the Utah Jazz at home before thousands of his fans and well-wishers. Bryant would outscore the entire Jazz team in the fourth quarter 23-21 to secure the 101-96 victory for his Lakers, and in the process be the oldest player in NBA history to score 60 or more points at the age of 37.
There will never be another Kobe Bryant. May he and Gigi forever rest in peace.
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