It was the end of an era in the NBA. As the buzzer rang out in the Staples Center, it signaled the end of the illustrious career of Kobe Bryant.
The game was the perfect mark for what Kobe accomplished over the years. With the tip-off set at the same time as the Warriors trying to break the single-season wins record, fans still flocked to ESPN2 for Kobe.
It was clear early on what the Lakers were trying to do, almost every possession led to a Kobe shot. In the end, he put up 50 shots, marking a new career high. And Kobe didn’t
He made the game a true show in a way that only Kobe could, scoring 60 points, the most ever for a player in his final game. In the last 3:05 of the game, Kobe scored 19 points, making all five of his field goals and all four of his free throws.
He was perfect on the court and single-handedly took over the game to defeat the Utah Jazz.
His exploits didn’t just occur on the basketball court. He was the first American star to break the borders to China. Millions of his fans in China alone tuned in for the game.
Right now, everyone is talking about their favorite Kobe moments, and there are plenty to pick from. Had anyone asked me two days ago, my favorite Kobe moment easily would have been his legendary 81-point game against the Raptors in January of 2006.
There are plenty of other great Kobe moments, and there is no wrong answer to what was his greatest. Whether it’s any of his five championships, his relationship with Shaquille O’Neal or any other moment of dominance.
This game was almost a reclamation for the short-term memory of Kobe after several seasons of missed shots and injuries. It was the perfect end to a legendary career for one of the greatest players, not only in Lakers history but in the history of the game.
So if I were asked now what my favorite Kobe Bryant moment was, to be honest, it would be this. My favorite Kobe Bryant moment was his last game. In a night when he could have struggled — and nobody would be surprised — he went big one last time.
In the closing moments, he looked to is wife and kids on the sideline, giving them a smile and a wink. With the final buzzer ringing, he walked off the court and into the history books.
In his speech to the fans after the game, Kobe thanked his family, his teammates and his fans before saying goodbye in a way that only Kobe could.