By now, pretty much everybody who cares about basketball on this earth is aware that this will be Kobe Bryant’s final season in the NBA. After 20 seasons, one of the greatest players to ever play will be hanging it up with the Los Angeles Lakers.
With 20 years, five championships, and so many amazing shots, dunks, and clutch plays, Lakers fans have tons of memories starring Kobe Bryant.
Kobe is one of, if not, the greatest player to ever wear purple and gold and in honor of everything he has given Lakers Nation, we have brought on the entire staff for a special roundtable in which everyone will share their favorite Kobe Bryant moment ever. This is what they had to say:
Andrew Martinez (@AMart49er): For obvious reasons, I cannot point to a “favorite” Kobe Bryant moment. One of the great things about Bean was his ability to do things that left me with my hands atop my head, wondering “What did I just see?” Just when I thought he gave me a moment I can call my ‘favorite,’ he showed me something new.
This is probably why one highlight that sticks out to me came from the February 11, 2003 game with the Denver Nuggets. The one dribble, change direction, behind the back, 360º reverse dunk. This sequence had everything when I think of the Mamba: confidence, creativity, athleticism, and arrogance.
The arrogance to disrespect Vincent Yarbrough in that fashion. The confidence to attack him one-on-one and the athleticism to keep the ball and his balance. Plus, he was still wearing the No. 8 jersey and already a three-time champion. I feel that this one possession encapsulated almost everything Kobe was about. The only thing missing was a clutch shot.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): Heading into the 1996-97 NBA season, I wasn’t a Kobe Bryant fan. In fact, I despised him.
Outside of Shaquille O’Neal, I thought Nick Van Exel was the best player on the squad. Van Exel proved to be a confident and capable point guard with the ability to be a clutch performer. Up-and-comer Eddie Jones was far behind Van Exel in my opinion, and everything appeared to be coming together in Los Angeles with the team building around Shaq.
Bryant was an arrogant teenager that would never live up to the hype in my eyes. It didn’t help matters that the team ultimately traded Van Exel and Jones elsewhere paving the way for Kobe to be the team’s star in the backcourt. Needless to say, I was livid. It seemed as though then-general manager Jerry West had put too much faith in an immature young player that could quickly become a locker room cancer.
I was wrong. Completely wrong on every level. West struck gold with Bryant, and it all came to fruition for me in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals. The Lakers pulled off an incredible comeback against the rival Portland Trail Blazers with Bryant and O’Neal putting the icing on the cake with an unforgettable alley-oop connection.
The pass from Kobe to Shaq in the fourth quarter sealed it for the Lakers and convinced me that this was something special. Los Angeles advanced to the NBA Finals and eventually won the first of five NBA titles in the Kobe era.
Bryant has had a lot of great moments on the basketball floor since then, but none more memorable for me than Game 7 of the West Finals. Kobe made me a believer. A true defining moment in his career and something I’ll cherish forever.
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.
Dan Duangdao (@DanDuangdao): After losing to the Boston Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals, my favorite Kobe Bryant moment is the Gold Medal game at the Beijing Olympics. Following the disappointment from the 2004 Olympics, the “Redeem Team” dominated their opponents throughout the tournament, but struggled against Pau Gasol and Spain when it mattered most.
With eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Team USA only had a 91-89 lead and turned to Kobe. During this stretch, Kobe made play after play, but Spain was resilient and was within striking distance. In one of his greatest moments on the basketball court, the three-time champion made a three over Rudy Fernandez and was fouled. He would convert the four-point play and bring the Gold Medal back home.
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.
Everyone remembers the end result of the 2010 playoffs, but the series before has always stood out to me.
Nathaniel Lastrapes (@NathanielP2): June 17, 2010: Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Lakers were up 83-79 over the Boston Celtics and the team in green was down to their final possession. Kobe Bryant struggled shooting all night, but managed to have an impact on the game scoring 23 points and grabbing 15 boards. The Lakers trailed for the majority of the game, but finally took control in the fourth quarter.
Boston heaved desperation threes with the clock winding down until Lamar Odom finally grabbed the defensive rebound and launched the ball down to the Lakers end of the floor. An exuberant Kobe Bryant chased down the ball and caught it before it went out of bounds with his arms in the air. Kobe never let the ball go as he jumped into the arms of Ron Artest.
This is the happiest I have ever seen number 24, and a strange watery substance began to build in my eyes. Kobe stood on the scorer’s table and extended his arms, taking in the moment. Nothing else mattered in this moment to Kobe Bryant; he was a champion for the fifth time in his career.
Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters): Most people probably think of Kobe’s 81-point game vs. Toronto or his 62 points through three quarters vs. Dallas (outscoring the entire Mavericks team through three periods) when they think of their favorite Kobe Bryant moment. Or, maybe one of his many jaw-dropping dunks or clutch playoff/finals performances.
But for me, it was April 12th, 2013, when Kobe knocked down two free throws with a torn Achilles vs. the Golden State Warriors. I repeat, tore his Achilles, hobbled to the charity stripe, and sunk two free throws, before walking off the court on a torn tendon (*cough* no wheelchair necessary).
Not because it was a game the Lakers had to win (though they did win, and poetically by exactly two points). But because it was a moment that described everything that Kobe stands for. A moment that showcased his give-EVERYTHING-you’ve-got mentality, in it’s truest form.
Maximo Gonzales (@MaximoBGonzales): Of all the countless memorable moments Kobe Bryant has provided over these last 20 years, my favorite has to be when he won Most Valuable Player at the 2011 All-Star Game in Staples Center.
After back-to-back championships in ‘09 and ‘10, many people wondered if Kobe had anything left in the tank. Also with Lebron James coming off his second regular season MVP award, and a young phenomenon in Blake Griffin, Kobe was out to prove that he was not only still the best in the NBA, but to remind people that Staples Center is “The House that Kobe Built”.
In what was most likely his last All-Star game in Los Angeles, Kobe came right out the gate with only one thing in mind, to take home the MVP trophy.
He did just that by coming out on fire with a flurry of shots from nearly everywhere on the court. Backing guys down, as he hit his patented fadeaway jumper leaving the likes of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James helplessly watching. He did what he set out to do by proving he was still the best of the best, as he finished with 37 points and 14 rebounds on his way to MVP honors.
Oh, and not to mention his fast-break dunk on LeBron followed by a three in the third quarter that let everyone watching know that he was still the NBA’s elite.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser):Without a doubt my favorite memory of Kobe is his 81 point game.
Witnessing the game was unreal and even after I re-watched the highlights I still couldn’t fathom how he managed to score 81 points. Some TEAMS don’t even score 81 points in an entire game.
He made 28 field goals out of 46 attempts which is an astounding 60.8 FG percentage. It also helped that he was 18 of 20 from the free throw line. We may never see another single game performance like that ever. It was a once in a generation type of game and my favorite Kobe moment of all time.
Alan Huerta (Alan_Huerta24): June 17, 2010. That’s how I’ll forever remember it as.
Through all of the tribulations Bryant had to overcome in his career – getting out of Shaquille O’Neal’s shadows, fighting his own personal demons and desperately clawing back to the top of the NBA’s pinnacle – my favorite Kobe moment happened on this very day.
This was when Kobe captured his illustrious fifth ring by beating the Boston Celtics in Game 7 in the 2010 NBA Finals. This came two years after being embarrassed in the 2008 Finals, losing by 39 points in the championship-clinching game to their longtime rivals. For someone who wanted to be immortalized (as if he wasn’t already) as the greatest Laker ever, we all knew he had to redeem himself against Boston in the finals.
Of course, the Lakers had just won a title in 2009, but something in the Mamba’s ace showed us he wasn’t satisfied. To see Kobe anchor the team back in the biggest game of his career after being down 13 points in the third, it’s without a doubt the best game I’ve ever experienced (although it almost gave me a heart attack) as a Laker fan.
It immortalized him in Laker history: tying Magic Johnson in rings (5), surpassing Shaq in rings (5 to 4) and finally shutting up the “Kobe can’t win without Shaq” doubters once and for all. It wasn’t pretty, it surely wasn’t easy, but Kobe capturing that final ring is my favorite moment.