After Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea’s bizarre rendition of the national anthem, the 18,997 fans inside Staples Center were treated to something far more familiar.
At the end of an illustrious 20-year career that included five NBA championships, 18 All-Star selections and 11 All-NBA First Team honors, the late, great Kobe Bryant said farewell to the Los Angeles Lakers with a Hollywood ending five years ago today.
On April 13, 2016, the Black Mamba put together one of the finest moments of his career. It also just happened to be his finale and perhaps the most memorable final appearance ever witnessed.
Bryant racked up 60 points against the Jazz, which was the most scored by a player in a single game in the NBA that season. It’s also easily the most by player in his last game in NBA history. Alec Peters, who coincidentally turns 26 years old today, is currently second on that list after his 36-point effort for the Phoenix Suns on April 10, 2018.
Note that it’s possible Peters could come back and play in the NBA again at some point, much like Jordan Crawford did. At the time of Kobe’s last game, it was reported that he broke Crawford’s record for most points in a player’s final game. Crawford, who hadn’t played in the league since 2014 at that point, had scored a career-high 41 for the Golden State Warriors at Denver in the regular-season finale. But then he later returned to the NBA in 2016-17, so he no longer ranks second on that list.
In his finale, Bryant made 6-of-21 from 3-point range but he piled up 22 points in the paint and put on a show in terms of one-on-one scoring. He finished with 16 unassisted points and his last seven field goals came off his own work.
It was the first time he had gone past 50 since 2009 when he poured in 61 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
It was obvious from the start that Kobe was determined to do something special in his finale. His 50 field goal attempts eclipsed the record of 49 set by Michael Jordan against the Orlando Magic in 1993. The 2008 MVP took 15 more shots than the rest of his teammates combined.
But that wasn’t necessarily unusual for Kobe. Of the single-game performances with the most field-goal attempts during the regular season since 1983-84, he holds six of the top eight spots.
Bryant knocked down 18 of 40 shots with a defender within 3.5 feet against the Jazz and despite his record-breaking number of attempts he still took care of the ball, committing only two turnovers.
It’s easy to forget that it took a while for Kobe to get going on that special night. He missed his first five shots and did not have a make until there was 5:12 left in the first quarter. Dating back to 2002-03, it’s still the most consecutive missed field goals a player has had to begin a 60-point game and the latest a player has scored his first points during such a performance.
But he eventually found his rhythm and was flying by the time the fourth quarter came around, scoring 13 unanswered points after the Jazz moved 96-86 ahead with two minutes and 35 seconds remaining.
His final act was a length-of-the-floor pass to Jordan Clarkson – his fourth assist of the game – for a dunk that sealed a 101-96 victory that put an appropriate cap on his legendary career.
Research support by Sam Hovland. Design by Matt Sisneros.