Without a doubt, it is the greatest sendoff game in sports history.
Everyone remembers where they were when Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his career finale, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a win over the Utah Jazz.
Bryant’s final season was not a pretty one, to say the least. The rebuilding Lakers were a terrible team for the most part and due to multiple lower-body injuries over the previous couple of seasons, Bryant was a shell of his former self at this stage. However, on April 13, 2016, nothing else mattered.
It was about Bryant and Bryant only — and it was absolutely unbelievable. He was 22-of-50 from the field and 10-of-12 from the free-throw line, somehow willing his body to play over 42 minutes in front of a star-studded crowd.
Everyone from former teammates like Derek Fisher, Robert Horry, and Shaquille O’Neal to legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, and Jerry West to A-List celebrities like Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and of course Jack Nicholson were at the Staples Center to witness sports history.
It says a lot that on a night where Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors broke Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls record for most wins in an NBA regular season, it was the second-most important game of the night.
Just as important was the fact the Lakers were able to come up with a 101-96 win, erasing a 15-point halftime deficit. Bryant’s young teammates did everything they could all game to get him those shots, consistently passing him the basketball and setting not-so-legal screens to create space.
It truly became an unreal experience as the fourth quarter wound down and Bryant hit clutch shot after clutch shot to pull the Lakers ahead and make Staples Center erupt as if they had just won the NBA Finals. Free throws brought him to the 60-point mark and Jordan Clarkson put the exclamation point on the career finale with a dunk on a full-length Bryant assist.
Bryant himself may have preferred his 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors on Jan. 22, 2006 to this one but regardless of where anyone has it ranked, this game will forever rank at or near the top of his greatest moments.