On this day in 2016, one of the best players to ever don a Lakers uniform — to ever play the sport of basketball — bid the NBA farewell in the only way he knew how: with a bang.
Kobe Bryant saved one last incredible performance for his final game, a 60-point explosion in the Staples Center on April 13, 2016. It was a fitting end for him, considering scoring ability and competitive nature sometimes forced teammates and detractors to plead, “Pass the ball!”
There were no such calls in Bryant’s final game, a 101-96 win over the Jazz in which he played 42 minutes. It wasn’t the most efficient he’d ever been (Bryant completed 22 of a career-high 50 shots), but no one was going to take the ball out of his hands as time dwindled on his NBA career. It was his first 50-point game since February 2009.
That said, it took awhile for Bryant to get on the scoreboard; he missed his first five shots, not scoring his first basket — a 10-foot jumper — until seven minutes into the game. He finished the quarter by scoring the Lakers’ final 15 points — on 5-of-5 shooting from the field — before missing his next shot.
Bryant only scored seven points in the second quarter before scoring 15 again in the third. But it was in the fourth quarter that Bryant cemented the legacy of his final game. He scored 23 points, including 17 straight, to help lead the Lakers to a come-from-behind win and finish a disappointing season on a high note.
“It’s hard to believe it happened this way,” Bryant said. “I’m still shocked about it. … The perfect ending would have been a championship. But tonight was (me) trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time.”