Wednesday, Aug. 23 marks the 39th birthday of one of the best Los Angeles Lakers players of all-time, Kobe Bryant.
Bryant provided Lakers fans with countless memorable moments in his 20-year career wearing the purple and gold, whether it be game-winners, 50-point games, championship performances, or moments that went beyond the game like knocking down a pair of free throws after tearing his Achilles tendon, but which one was the most memorable?
In honor of everything that Bryant has given Lakers Nation, for his 39th birthday we decided to do a special roundtable in which our staff shares their favorite Kobe Bryant moments ever:
Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015):
My favorite Kobe Bryant moment is probably all of them. But, needing to pick one and for the sake of trying to be different, I’ll bypass his final game and shooting free throws on a torn Achilles for a memorable night against the Raptors. … No, not that one.
In March 2013, Bryant scored 41 points on an efficient 11-of-22 shooting, and dished out 12 assists to lead a comeback and 10th straight win for the Lakers. His heroics began on a contested 3-pointer that cut the Raptors’ lead to two points with 1:41 remaining in the game. The degree of difficulty on that shot end up paling in comparison to a fadeaway he wound up making from the corner.
The barrage continued when Bryant beat a double team out of a timeout to free himself for a 3-pointer that eventually sent the game into overtime as the Raptors missed the final shot of regulation. The extra period didn’t see much from Bryant in terms of points, though he punctuated the night with a slam dunk to give the Lakers a decisive lead.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH):
Someone like Kobe Bryant has so many memorable moments that it’s easy for some of them to be forgotten. One of my personal favorites is one that isn’t brought up that often.
The Lakers were the clear favorites to come out of the Western Conference in 2010, but they got a much tougher than expected challenge in the Conference Finals from Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns. The Lakers had a 3-2 series lead, but the Suns were fighting hard to force a Game 7 back at Staples Center.
The Lakers led 105-100 with 45 seconds left and everyone knew where the ball was going. Suns forward Grant Hill played absolutely perfect defense as he forced Kobe to pick up his dribble right at the three-point line and didn’t fall for his pump fake. But it still didn’t matter as Kobe rose above him to hit an absolutely ridiculous fadeaway to silence the crowd.
And just for good measure, Kobe turned around and patted Suns coach Alvin Gentry on the butt.
Everything about it was just so, Kobe. To have the confidence to take a shot that difficult in that situation, the skill to knock it down, and the audacity to basically taunt the coach of the team you just eliminated from the playoffs, no one else could pull something like that off. All I could do was laugh because I knew Kobe just did it again.
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane):
There are so many great Kobe Bryant moments to choose from, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one. However, the one that I remember most was the regular season finale in 2004.
With the Pacific Division title on the line, Kobe had 12 points in the fourth quarter, including an incredible game-tying three over Ruben “The Kobe Stopper” Patterson. Kobe wasn’t done there though.
With 1 second on the clock in double overtime and the Lakers down two, Bryant again drained a three over outstretched hand of Theo Ratliff to get the win. It was an amazing shot, turning into his strong hand, fading away, nothing but net. To this day I have no idea how he was able to get so much arc on that shot and still get it to the rim while falling away.
It was an incredible display of skill and superhuman strength. He was so unbelievably good that Patterson, whose career centered around defending Kobe, went to his nemesis after the game and asked Bryant to autograph the shoes he had worn and give them to him. Classic Mamba.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
So many moments to choose from but I would say my favorite Kobe moment is his last game. After all the injuries that Kobe was forced to deal with towards the end of his career, for him to give us all one last vintage-Kobe performance was truly special.
We hadn’t seen Kobe score more than 40 points in years before that game, so when Shaq challenged him to score 50 in his last game we all laughed it off, saying we just hoped he would get to 30 and not get hurt.
But Kobe, in a fashion that only Kobe can, one-upped us all by dropping 60, knocking down every clutch shot down the stretch, and leading his Lakers to one last comeback victory.
The pre-game tributes, his performance that night in the game and his speech afterward where he coined the phrase “Mamba out” were all absolutely perfect, almost like a movie, and watching it all unfold is something I will remember for a very long time, more than any other moment in his career.