Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had a plethora of unforgettable moments over the course of his 20-year career but on April 15, 2004, he really outdid himself.
During the summer of 2003, the Lakers added aging stars Gary Payton and Karl Malone, who decided to team up with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal for the pursuit of a championship. While the Lakers had a successful season, they weren’t quite as dominant as some predicted they would be.
L.A. wrapped up the season against the Portland Trailblazers, where they needed a win in order to finish on top of the Pacific Division and secure the second playoff seed in the Western Conference.
The Blazers clung to a narrow lead for much of the game while the Lakers did just enough to stay within striking distance. With the Lakers down three and time running out in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles turned to Bryant to keep them alive.
He caught the ball above the arc and pump-faked, but defender (and self-proclaimed “Kobe stopper”) Ruben Patterson didn’t bite. Desperate, Bryant leaned to his right and flung the ball towards the basket.
Miraculously, the shot found the bottom of the net and the game headed to overtime. After going back and forth, the Lakers and Blazers found themselves knotted at 95 points each, sending them into double overtime.
O’Neal fouled out with three minutes to play but Bryant was there to come to the rescue. He hit a three and then assisted on a dunk by Brian Cook, but the Blazers continued to find ways to score.
With just one second left on the clock and the Lakers down two, Los Angeles inbounded the ball to Bryant, who had cut towards the ball and received the pass just above the 3-point line. In one motion, Bryant turned and fired a high-arcing shot over Blazers center Theo Ratliff.
Nothing but net.
The Lakers escaped Portland with a one-point victory and Bryant got to play the hero twice in one night. He would finish the game with 37 points, eight rebounds and five assists in addition to giving Los Angeles an enormous boost heading into the playoffs.
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