Though the 2010s brought a lot of rough patches, this decade still gave plenty of memories for Los Angeles Lakers fans everywhere.
It started with the high of a 16th championship against the hated Boston Celtics and is ending with the best team in seasons anchored by a pair of All-Star players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis. In between, fans were able to witness the final seasons of arguably the greatest Laker ever in Kobe Bryant.
Even amidst the losing seasons, there were plenty of amazing games and memories that brought joy to Lakers Nation everywhere.
Here are the top-10 regular season games of the 2010s:
10. Alex Caruso Destroys Clippers | April 5, 2019
The legend of Alex Caruso was already building thanks to his highlight-reel dunks, but it was this game that solidified the fact the Lakers had to bring him back on a regular deal.
The season was over for the Lakers, but a Clippers team battling for playoff position went full force in trying to get this win. However, Caruso was the best player on the floor, finishing with 32 points (13 in the fourth quarter), 10 rebounds, five assists, and two steals in leading the Lakers to a 122-117 win.
Caruso was the offense down the stretch as the Lakers improbably treated him as if he were Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, simply giving him the basketball at the top of the key and letting him work. It resulted in a pair of tough layups to ice the game. Also, the last of his five three-pointers forced him to bust out the Lance Stephenson air guitar celebration, forever immortalizing him in GIF form.
9. Kobe Bryant Outduels Damian Lillard | April 10, 2013
The Lakers had little room for error and Kobe Bryant was determined to make good on his promise of his team making the NBA playoffs. And he would not let the Portland Trail Blazers impressive rookie stand in his way.
Bryant did everything, finishing with 47 points, eight rebounds, five assists, four blocks, and three steals to keep the Lakers in playoff position with a 113-106 win over the Blazers. The Lakers needed every bit of it as Lillard notched 38 points and nine assists on his way to the Rookie of the Year award, but Bryant was undeterred.
This was the last truly great run of Bryant’s career before the unfortunate Achilles injury (more on that later) and it showed just how good he still was in Year 17. He was willing to do any and everything to get the Lakers back to the playoffs and on this night he did — literally.
8. Lakers Destroy Warriors On Christmas Day | December 25, 2018
It has been forgotten due to how the season ended but following this game, the basketball world saw exactly how good the Lakers could be. Unfortunately, LeBron James’ injury marred it somewhat, but the young Lakers put the world on notice.
When James went down, things looked bleak. That feeling became worse when the Warriors went on one of their patented third quarter runs. But the Lakers came together and did not just win, but blew out the Warriors 127-101 on the road.
It was a combination of young and old that came through as eight Lakers scored in double-figures. TRajon Rondo (15 points, 10 assists) and Lance Stephenson (11 points off the bench) steadied the ship while Kyle Kuzma (19 points), Ivica Zubac (18 points, 11 rebounds), Brandon Ingram (14 points) and Josh Hart (11 points) all stepped up as well.
Fans all know how injuries — not just to James — ultimately decimated the team and ruined the season, but this marked a moment that would have put the Lakers back on the map had a couple things gone differently.
7. LeBron James Vs. Luka Doncic Overtime Thriller | November 1, 2019
The most recent entry on this list but in terms of pure excitement and level of play, it might be the best.
Los Angeles went into Dallas looking to prove how dominant this new-look team was while the Mavericks were trying to show they could hang with one of the NBA’s elite. What occurred was a battle between an NBA all-time great and the league’s brightest young All-Star player.
LeBron James had 39 points, 12 rebounds, and 16 assists to combat Luka Doncic’s 31 points, 13 rebounds, and 15 assists. The Mavericks seemingly had the game in hand, but James found Danny Green in the corner for a buzzer-beating three to send the game to overtime.
James took over from there as the Lakers escaped Dallas with a 119-110 win. Anthony Davis also did his share with 31 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Doncic and Dallas showed they are a force to be reckoned with, but James and Davis proved there are levels and in the end, it led to the best Lakers game in years.
6. Rajon Rondo Beats His Old Team | February 7, 2019
Of course, there was gonna be a Lakers-Celtics game here and it’s made even better when a former Celtic does his old team in.
Kyrie Irving hit a tough floater to give Boston a one-point lead with 11 seconds remaining. With no timeouts, the Lakers inbounded the ball to Brandon Ingram and with the Celtics denying James, Ingram attempted to take things into his own hands.
Ingram made an impressive drive but Al Horford made a defensive play very few could in blocking the shot. Somehow, the rebound bounced off the hands of seemingly every person on the floor, suddenly dropping in the waiting hands of Rajon Rondo who quickly put a jumper that fell through, giving the Lakers a 129-128 win in Boston and leading to a huge purple and gold celebration on the leprechaun logo.
Not much more needs to be said about this game. A former Celtic now wearing purple and gold rips the hearts out of Boston fans at the buzzer. It just does not get much better than that.
5. Kobe Bryant Passes Michael Jordan On NBA’s All-Time Scoring List | December 14, 2014
There was not much good going on in this season, but one of the best moments was undoubtedly Kobe Bryant continuing to rise in the ranks of greatness and surpass possibly the greatest ever in doing so.
On this night, Bryant moved ahead of Michael Jordan into third on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It was a pair of free throws that moved Bryant past Jordan and the game immediately paused in order to pay respects to him. Probably more important to Bryant is the Lakers left Minnesota with a 100-94 win.
Bryant led the Lakers with 26 points while Carlos Boozer had 22 points and 13 rebounds off the bench, but everything was secondary to him making history. The game itself may not have been the most memorable, but the event itself and the symbolism outweighs everything else.
Dwight Howard has done a great job of winning back the hearts of Lakers fans this season, but he was public enemy No. 1. Lakers fans had more or less resigned themselves to a letdown of a season, especially with Kobe Bryant out with a torn Achilles but if there was one team fans wanted a win over, it was Howard and the Houston Rockets.
Steve Blake had already begun gaining a fan base after his performance down the stretch of the previous season and he forever endeared himself to fans by knocking down a three-pointer over the outstretched arms of Howard with just 1.6 seconds remaining to give the Lakers a 99-98 win. That shot — and the frustration on Howard’s face after it — was everything Lakers fans were hoping for.
It did not matter the Rockets dominated the Lakers the rest of the season. On that night, Blake locked in his spot among Lakers fan favorites and the fans were able to get some form of revenge on Howard.
3. Kobe Bryant Destroys The Raptors… Again | March 8, 2013
When people ask why Kobe Bryant is lauded as one of the greatest clutch players to ever step foot on an NBA floor, there are very few games to better answer that question than this one.
Bryant was in the midst of his ridiculous run in trying to get the Lakers to the NBA playoffs and this may have been the best of the bunch. He finished with 41 points and 12 assists, but it was his unreal heroics that left fans in awe. Bryant hit not one, not two, but three three-pointers in the final 1:40 of the game.
Then with the game tied late in overtime, Bryant would blow by a Raptors double-team for a two-handed jam to give the Lakers the lead for good with 10 seconds remaining. The Lakers would hold on for a 118-116 win, keeping their playoff hopes alive and growing the legend of Bryant to astronomical proportions.
Hitting one great game winner can be legendary, hitting two clutch shots in the same game is something Bryant is all too familiar with as well, but hitting three in regulation and clinching the game in overtime is a level of clutch that is untouched.
2. Kobe Bryant Hits Two Free Throws With Torn Achilles | April 12, 2013
It’s the most bittersweet moment in Lakers history, but possibly the best sign of what makes Kobe Bryant a legend.
Bryant pushed himself to the limit to get the Lakers to the playoffs during a disappointing season and his body finally gave out on him. Locked in an intense back-and-forth game with the Golden State Warriors, he crumbled to the floor on a drive and immediately grabbed his heel. It was apparent very quickly what had happened as a hush came over Staples Center.
But instead of being carried or wheelchaired off, Bryant walked to the bench and convinced head athletic trainer Gary Vitti and the coaching staff to allow him to shoot two free throws. With only three minutes remaining and the Lakers down two, the points were needed and Bryant knew that if he did not shoot, the Warriors could choose anyone from the Lakers bench to take them. As a result, Bryant slowly walked to the free-throw line, calmly knocked down the shots, and walked off the floor to a hero’s reception.
Improbably, the Lakers would hold on for a 118-116 win despite 47 points from Stephen Curry. Pau Gasol poured in a triple-double and Steve Blake hit a pair of free throws to put the Lakers in front with 42 seconds left. However, this game will forever go down as the true sign of the warrior that is Kobe Bryant.
1. Kobe Drops 60 Points In Final Game | April 13, 2016
Come on. What else could it be? Every person remembers where they were when watching the greatest final game performance in sports history.
Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in the last game of his illustrious 20-year career. It did not matter that he took 50 shots to get there. It did not matter the Lakers were taking every opportunity to give him the basketball on every possession. It did not matter there probably was not a single legal screen set during the fourth quarter. It was simply one of the most surreal moments to ever take place on an NBA floor.
Bryant, clearly exhausted, powered his way through with 23 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Lakers back from a 15-point deficit for a 101-96 win. The list of players to score 60 points is not a long one and for Bryant to be able to do so in his 20th season is a testament to the skill and determination he possesses.
Aside from championship wins (and even that is debatable), the Staples Center has never been more electric than on that night and Bryant’s final words following the win were simply poetic, ‘Mamba Out.’