There may be no greater athlete or entertainer in history at creating moments than the greatest Los Angeles Laker of them all: Kobe Bean Bryant. His original nickname was “Showboat” for a reason as there may be no man this century with more days dedicated to them while being celebrated by fans and peers alike than the Black Mamba.
With Aug. 24 (8/24) being known as Mamba Day in honor of the numbers 8 and 24, which Kobe donned for a decade each, here is a countdown the top eight moments in the legendary career of Kobe Bryant with the Lakers.
8. 61 points in the Garden
On February 2, 2009, Kobe shocked the NBA world as he broke the all-time scoring record at the iconic Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks. This was arguably when the Black Mamba was at the peak of his powers in terms of winning games as he had perfect synergy between the mental and physical aspects of his game.
This game will always be remembered in particular for the play in which Kobe pump faked Wilson Chandler out of his shoes with a 360 degree pivot before leaning forward and draining the shot.
7. Four straight 50-plus point games:
The man who averaged 40 points per game for a month on three separate occasions did something even more unthinkable in November of 2006. He had four consecutive games of 50 points or more, scoring 65 vs. the Portland Trail Blazers, 50 vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves, 60 vs. the Memphis Grizzlies and 50 vs. the New Orleans Hornets.
There are a multitude of insane highlights from this stretch, but his second-highest career output of 65 points against the Portland Trail Blazers where he hit a shot to put the Lakers up for good with under a minute remaining. The greatest basketball player of the 2000s decade did a 180 degree spin right, before reversing the move left as he faked out two defender and rose up for the high-arching fadeaway 3-pointer for the win in classic clutch Kobe manner.
6. 62 in Three Quarters:
Not only did Kobe Bryant score 62 points in three quarters against the Dallas Mavericks on December 20, 2005, but he outscored the entire Mavericks team 62-61. What makes this even more wild? Brian Shaw told Kobe he could have scored more to which Kobe responded that he’d have another night like this when the Lakers needed the win when Shaw said he should have played the fourth quarter too instead of sitting.
5. The first without Shaq in 2009:
As soon as Kobe and the Lakers lost the 2008 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics and Shaquille O’Neal performed a rap, which included the line “Kobe couldn’t do without me,” to jokingly diss Kobe, it was all but written in stone that he would win the next year. Brynt was more motivated than ever to prove Shaq and everyone wrong that he could win as the clear cut leader of the team.
We were seeing a different Kobe as he showed out in Game 1 with 40 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, literally doing it all for his team. He’s often stated that the biggest difference between No. 8 and No. 24 was how he learned to make his teammates better and this championship was proof of that.
4. Kobe announces he’s here in 2000 Finals:
Kobe was forced to start his career riding the bench by coach Del Harris, but fans knew he was special as he still became the youngest all-star starter in history in 1998. Kobe was less established than Shaq, but when Shaq was out and the Lakers needed it most a 21-year-old, Kobe score 28 points before tipping in a shot to secure the lead for the Lakers with less than six seconds to go in Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
This prompted Bob Costas to utter the iconic line, “How Good is this kid?”
Kobe would spend his entire career showing us all just how good he was.
#3: 2010 Title:
Kobe made it clear on multiple occasions that there was nothing more important to him than winning championships during the prime of his career. On many occasions, he reiterated his championship in seven games against the Boston Celtics in 2010 was the sweetest because it was against the franchise’s and Kobe’s personal greatest rivals.
The image of Kobe standing on the scorer’s table with his arms stretched like an eagle as confetti rains down around him in the Staples Centre will live on forever in Laker lore.
#2: 81-point game:
While Kobe valued championships above all else during his prime, he was also a lifelong Disney fan and loved magic. Kobe created a magical moment that will live on for generations when he had arguably the greatest individual performance of all time on January 22, 2006.
The Mamba scored 81 points, creating the most memorable moment of many people’s lives on a casual Sunday afternoon against the Tonronto Raptors. While Wilt Chamberlain holds the record for the most points scored in a single game with 100 in 1962 ,that game wasn’t even televised and Chamberlain scored nearly all his baskets inside.
Kobe scored his points in every way imaginable for the Lakers as he recorded the highest scoring output in modern NBA history.
#1: The Black Mamba’s Last Stand:
If there’s anything that defined Kobe, it was evolution from 8 to 24. No. 8 was all about proving he was the best, while No. 24 was all about inspiring the next generation to be great in whatever they do.
As the seemingly indestructible Laker legend’s body broke down on him over the last few years, he gave it everything he had to create the most memorable Mamba Moment of all time as he scored 60 points and a game-winner on the final night of his career. Legends live forever and so will this memory as the last three minutes of this game perfectly sum up why Kobe will always inspire the masses.
When Lakers play-by-play commentator Bill Macdonald referred to Kobe as the “Magical Mamba” on this night he couldn’t have been more on the nose with his description.
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