Kobe Bryant Ends 20-Year Career with a Lakers Victory Scoring 60 Points in Final Game
After an iconic 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant played his final game on Wednesday night.
The 37-year-old father of two played his final game against the Utah Jazz, leading the Lakers to a 101-96 victory with 60 points on 22-50 shooting in 42 minutes.
Even in his last game, Bryant broke yet another record, becoming the first player to end his career with a 60-point game. The Black Mamba scored 22 points at the half after playing in the entire first-quarter. He took 20 shots – his most of any half this season – making seven of them.
His stamina proved very strong as he pulled off a stellar second half. With under 30 seconds left, Bryant’s basket gave the Lakers a one-point lead 97-96. After making a couple of free throws, he secured a lead that was followed by a Bryant-assisted dunk made by Jordan Clarkson, who is rumored to be dating Kendall Jenner.
Prior to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist and longtime Lakers fan Flea’s performance of the National Anthem, several of the NBA’s greatest players and coaches appeared in video tribute, sharing their memories of Bryant’s illustrious career.
“We are here to celebrate greatness for 20 years, excellence for 20 years. Kobe Bryant has never hated, has never cheated us, the fans,” Earvin "Magic" Johnson said before introducing the video. “He’s played through injuries. He’s played hurt. And we’ve got five championship banners to show for it. When you think about this town for the last 20 years, this man has been the biggest and greatest celebrity in this town. He is not only a great sports icon, he is the greatest to wear the purple and gold.”
The floor of the famed Los Angeles sports venue was adorned with both of Bryant’s numbers, 8 and 24, for his final game.
Shaquille O’Neal, Derek Fisher, Kevin Durant, Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Gregg Popovich, Kevin Garnett, Carmelo Anthony, Steph Curry, LeBron James, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Phil Jackson and actor Jack Nicholson were all featured in the pre-game congratulatory clip.
A slew of Hollywood stars descended upon the Staples Center including Jay-Z, Kanye West, David Beckham, Kendrick Lamar, Jeremy Piven, the Weeknd, Snoop Dogg, Adam Levine and his pregnant wife Behati Prinsloo.
“I can’t believe its come to an end,” Bryant addressed the sold-out crowd at center court following the game. “Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. What can I say? Mamba out”
While the Lakers will end this season with their worst record in franchise history, with 17 wins and 65 losses, Bryant leaves the game with a long list of accomplishments. Bryant is a 5-time NBA champion, 18-time NBA All-Star, NBA MVP, 2-time Finals MVP and holds 19 Lakers records as well as 9 NBA records.
In a cruel twist of fate, Bryant’s last appearance coincided with the Golden State Warriors‘ game against the Memphis Grizzlies. ESPN made the decision to air the Warriors’ game over the Lakers as the Bay Area team fought their way to a record 73 wins this season. The Warriors broke the 72-win record set by Michael Jordan and the 1995-1996 Chicago Bulls. This pushed the Lakers-Jazz game to a less high-profile slot on ESPN2.
This is far from the first letdown in Bryant’s 20-year career. On Tuesday, he posted on Facebook about the disappointment that led him to become a Laker. In 1996, he entered the NBA straight out of high school and was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets. Less than a week later, the team traded him to the Lakers. “They told me they had no use for me,” he wrote. “Rejection and anger fueled me.”
Despite this initial hurdle, Bryant became a loyal Laker, remaining on the team for the entirety of his 20-year career.
“I grew up a die-hard Laker fan,” he explained after his final road game Monday, according to CNN. “It’s like a dream come true, for a kid to grow up, play for his favorite team and play here for 20 years, his entire career. I’ve seen the city grow. I’ve seen the city develop and vice versa. There’s no place I’d rather end my career.”
To commemorate Bryant’s farewell game, Lakers president Jeanie Buss presented the veteran athlete and his wife Vanessa with special retirement rings before the game.